Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

MAZE is here...

Go here:

Apex is now accepting Early 50 orders for MAZE by J.M. McDermott. Only 50 pre-order copies are being made available. MAZE is a new novel by J.M. McDermott. When you place your Early 50 order, you get the following: 1) Free domestic media mail shipping. International shipping is discounted by $3.00. 2) A link to download the eBook of MAZE, meaning you’ll get to read it before you can officially buy it! 3) Your trade paperback copy of MAZE will be signed by the author. 4) Each trade paperback copy will be hand-numbered 1 through 50. 5) When the print edition becomes available, Early 50 orders are shipped first, starting with book 1 of the 50. The release date is slated for sometime in January, 2014. Place your order here. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us ( About Maze: From every corner of time and space, sometimes people go missing without a trace. They never come back. Get lost in the long stone halls of the maze with the ones that find each other, form tribes, scrape out a life from rocks and sand. Their stories interweave. Maia Station is a scientist ripped from stasis, but she has no tools to test the way things are. Instead, she raises her daughter as best she can and survives. Wang Xin once had his head dipped in water, and a djinni in the water entered his eye. He sees the future, exactly as it was supposed to be if he hadn’t seen the light, but it does him no good in the life he has. In a world much like our own, Joseph comes home from a ten year high school reunion and encounters a light in the darkness. The light speaks. My name is Jenny. Put me in your lung. Breathe deep.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The neverending ending that neverends

I have been nearly done with this novel for so long now, I fell like I'm caught in a timewarp. Always there's one more thing to do, another thing, and then another, and then I have to change something and do something and wait, do I have time to work today? Where did the time go? Where did the time go? My birthday is coming down the pipe, and I measure my New Years upon such a thing, and race against it to try and finish this novel that will not, will not, stop. Hey, MAZE is coming. Special order yourself a copy of MAZE from Apex Books, and maybe you'll be lucky to get a signed one. I expect those to show up shortly. So, go contact Jason and his team at and see if you aren't fast enough to merit one of the first 50 that will probably be signed, if any are left after the mailing list gets first pick! Where did the time go? I toil all day, locked in a cave, pushing words into a form and unpushing them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

what makes a writer "southern"?

I have read a fair amount of Southern fiction of late (Carson McCullers, and Walker Percy, and a few things from a Heath Anthology of American Literature skimmed while at one of my dayjobs). There are plenty of Southern-based writers who probably do not consider themselves Southern Writers. Writing about "The South", I guess, is an important distinction, as opposed to writing about just anything, anywhere. Writing about the fraught relations of the races perhaps qualifies one as a Southern Writer, but this has not been a universal in McCullers's work, for instance, where a few of her novels glance off the flood of awful injustice and move along into other terrible things. *** Is it the land itself as character? The gnarled knuckles of the peach trees and the mulberries, the way slaughtering a hog too early in the season meant the meat would rot before Christmas, and the hurricanes coming like God himself wants to ramp up the dramatic tension with a flood, and the muscadine arbor all recur and recur until they become as familiar as Monet's garden in Impressionism, a backdrop upon which the familiar signs and signifiers of the artistic movement can maintain a consistent subject for the expression of complex technique... *** Sometimes I think of myself as a Southern writer, though I never write about the south. I write about quiet indignities, social disasters, loneliness, isloation, alienation, and all of these things feel Southern. Dogsland is really just Houston in my mind, where I imagine the corrupt, filthy, damp city backwards into time. Winter never comes in Dogsland, except as floods and rains. I wrote one novel with snow as a central thing, and it was based on visiting snow in North Dakota, that part of it was, anyway, and how unreal the experience of snow was to me as a Southerner. *** I grew up in Texas. There's this line dividing Texas where you consider yourself Western, not Southern. El Paso residents - I was one of them for a couple years just as I was entering grade school - would call themselves Texans first, not Southern. They'd call themselves Western. In Dallas and Fort Worth, there was both Westerners and Southerners. Dallas was more like a Southern city with all its institutional racism and political corruption. Fort Worth was more western, where the plains opened up into a big, empty sky, and the roads were dustier, and the cattlemen's mythic shadow lingered on the old Stockyards. I have lived in Georgia, too. I liked it, fine. *** When I was in Europe, people asked me where I was from, and I said I was from "Texas" and I guess that's something a few places have in common. Virginia, Texas, Alaska, California, and the big, world-class cities like New York, San Francisco, all would be recognized in a bar in Berlin, right? They're places inside the country that will have meaning beyond the borders of this one land. Am I a Texan writer? I don't write explicitly about Texas. It is implied in what I write, only, in how it is what I know and what I return to when the page grows long and difficult. I know I am a suburban writer, uncomfortable in close-knit apartments, uncomfortable in crowded streets, uncomfortable off in the hills and empty places and small towns of the world. *** Imaginative landscapes are always an invention. *** Real landscapes are invented, too. What makes the landscape of the South is how communities believe the myths that shape them, right? The mill towns of McCullers were still pockmarked with the disease of racism, sexism, injusticeism. The myths hold still like clocks without hands, always present, always leaning over the town. Fort Worth's stockyards are a tourist trap, now, but the cattle came once and it is important people are told how the cattle came, once, and visitors are told that cattle came, once. People need to know that. People need to know, in the dank southern towns what the confederacy meant, and what all those great-grandfathers and great-uncles ran off to die about; what was that futile death about because it didn't seem like enough to say it was merely about human bondage? The scholars still revolve and revolve around why a bunch of grown men who owned no slaves were rushing to grab the guns and march that the wealthy ones could hold all those lives in bondage as chattel. *** Maybe what makes the Southern writer what they are is that the colorful characters and social contortions and quiet desperations all are built upon an edifice of an invented history, where grown men are desperately trying to explain why so many of them joined a war over slaves that hardly anybody fighting actually owned, and how they lost though theirs was the cause of righteousness. Naturally, as the righteousness of the cause in question was human bondage and ergo a total crock of bullshit and a grave injustice and everyone in those Southern fictions operates in a state of fundamental lunacy because the mind must wrestle with putting two and two together when the foundation of the culture is a series of obvious, ridiculous, and horrible lies.
It's Original Sin-like.
As a suburban writer, interested in suburban themes like loneliness, placelessness, the end of the wild, etc., I share that original sin-like state of belonging to a society constructed upon a dangerous facade. Our grave injustice happens where our products are built and bought and shipped in to us, and all the dangerous side effects that come to us from the distance between the serfs and masters, the oil that is burned to bring us Halloween decorations from across the world, and the communities become political navel-gazers, knowing no one different, gerrymandered into same-like towns, as predictable and ridiculous and insane as every suburban writer before me has elucidated. *** What defines a writer will not be a place. The place we come from will be a point where reason and injustice and insanity merge into a foundation inside of our collective psyches. Original Sin is our true home. The disconnect between being part of something larger than us that is fundamentally evil, the powerlessness to instigate change, and the general acceptance of this state of affairs as the way things are and the way things are done. This is where writer identities begin. *** Sometimes, these points of insanity that create an identity of a place will be places where it is really obvious to others how different things are, in their insanities. And this is what makes Southern Writers so unique, perhaps. The original sin of racism and violence is so easily expressed as ridiculous craziness, a mass delusion of overt and obvious acts of extreme violence, that it did not take a research paper at Harvard to "get" why the tinderbox towns that hang men from lamp posts over tiny slights were a place different from other places in the civilized, American world. It wasn't so subtle as the difference between an exurb and a suburb in the mind of a man. [editorial note: Don't blog before coffee. I mixed up Carson McCullers and Cormac McCarthy.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Working not Blogging

Instead of blogging today, as I have been trying to do every Monday, as it is generally my day off, I had two other things to do. First, I'm digging in the dirt to lay concrete pavers all down one side of my house. I've dug up dirt in hard-packed mud for about 80 pavers this last week, and tomorrow is my final push on the digging phase of this project. Second, when all the energy was burned out of me via shovel, I was going through the page proofs on MAZE, which is a novel I wrote, and it is coming out soon from Apex Books, and it a major work by me, I think, and lots of people are really, really going to like it, I think. The people, if they hear about MAZE, then they will like it. All right, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to tell people that #MAZEisComing. Use the hash tag and I'll find you on Twitter. Use the hashtag and I'll find you via google alert. I've got a nifty prize in mind for a random person that does so with the hash tag. Random selection of the prize I have in mind is random. I won't be able to find you on Facebook, most likely, so please do screencap it and pass it along to me at sankgreall gmail com. Remember: MAZE is coming. #MAZEisComing It's time to get lost. Also, I'm digging in the dirt, getting the ground ready for gravel and paving stones.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Two guys in my neighborhood bought land, lots of it, out in the country. One's moved out already. The other is going to slowly build the house, build the grounds. These guys aren't young guys. I guess I think of things like you get forty years of vigor. I've had a few years of vigor already, and I've only got about three or four decades of vigor left before I will start to get so slow. How long will any of us get to ramble around our countryside, ride tractors and plant trees? I watched someone retire, once, into this big house. It was their dream. They sold the house and got a smaller house because the big house was so much cleaning, so much working. We never get what we need when we need it. If you're twenty-four, vigorous, with decades of vigor to come, that's land your kids can spread out in, garden, run wild. When your kids are older, it's just you alone in the woods, with land you have to mow on a tractor. It's land that sits there, waiting for you to do something, and there's nothing to do but make work for yourself, or let it go wild. A smarter old guy I know, who keeps busy, has his family farm and they plant paper trees for a paper plant and they mostly leaves the acreage alone. He stays in the city, walks to a job he enjoys in his retirement near his little house, and keeps young by keeping busy. Out on the land, he occasionally oversees workers that come out after a while to take the trees for the paper company, the same as his dad did, and the same as his grandkids will do someday. One of those guys in my neighborhood doesn't seem to have kids that I've ever seen. The other did, and left his house for his yougnest son's care. This land he goes out to build and refashion in his own image, slowly, over time, well, I bet there will come a point where he can't keep up with it. The house he builds will be too big for his tired hands and legs. He will stop climbing the stairs, if there are any stairs. The tractor he uses to mow the grass down will be too much for him to clambor up on. The work will be too much. I suspect this because we all get there, to this place where the work of getting out of bed and dressing ourselves is hard because our body is falling down on the job. He will have to step away from it, then. Likely, he will try to do the same, and hand it to one of his sons, and from what I've seen they'll probably sell the land, and let their dad slip away into a condo, then an assisted-living facility, and a whole new entity will come to take the house, refashion it in their own image, tear down the landscape and replant everyting, mow the grass again. What was the point of all that time mowing grass? To what purpose was this idyll in the field, when the sons slip into the condo, themselves? There was a community here, trying to replicate itself, is what. There were people living here that tried to live the same sort of way, with the same systems. The system we're replicating is older than us, but it is a path of consumption and destruction, where we take too much and take too much and take it all away and take too much. How much vigor do our cities have? How long will we have it? What will happen to what us when we run out of vigor in the soil, and the water runs out and the dirt is hardpan and salted from so much build-up in the irrigation of shipped-in water? It used to be the kids rose up and filled the family properties. Estates expanded to be divided. Colonists devoured continents to build estates just like the ones that crowded them out of their home countries. There was only so much land. Hold the land. Manage it well. Pass it on to sons and daughters. Take the land from anyone that didn't deserve it. Excepting how we live here is not a way that can possibly last. The way we teach our children to live is built on the system that cleared the New World with illness and war and stole what wasn't ours to take. We don't do all of that Colonial stuff anymore, though. There's one difference. We surrender the land to the next generation by selling off the land, liquidating the assets into a cash cushion that moves through us in a wadded bubble. We live in the liquidity of the economy, then, not in the land itself. Our soil is our bank account, now, and our colonial estates. The rural dream these men go to - a dream that I share in my way - is a myth fashioned out of a history that is no longer our way. The land that used to be the foundation of generational wealth is this thing that people do in one phase of their retirement, their first house when they retire that's just so big - a dream house. What happens next is the time gets so long, and the fields so full of high grass, and the house so cluttered, and we shrink it all down. We shrink, too, our properties diminishing with our bodies until we are monks in a nursing home cell, chaste and praying in the darkness that we at least feel no pain. The book I am writing on spec, it is almost done, and it ends like this, following the pattern I see of the men around me, who expand and expand because the generations before us expanded and expanded, and then the tides shift inside of them. Vigor turns to glass and dust. We shrink, then. We shrink into the liquidity. It buys the medicine, the doctors' offices, the cleaning staff and nurses that dress us in the wee hours when we can't help but wake up, thirsty in the dark for a drink that never quenches. The true soil is invented, now, in economics. We have invented our own aether in which to return to dust. We are turning ourselves from flesh to steam. The next step is abandoning the expansion of life into property. Once this is beat out of us, as children watch their fathers and grandfathers and everyone doing this thing where they flee to the hills for a while and it gets sort of ridiculous, we'll stay in the cities, then. We'll stay and build our own soil in the air, itself, and invent our retirement palace there.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Working All the Time, or Also.

Writing is this sort of workaholic disease. You just work all the time. You go home from work, and you go to work from home. You work all the time. I blame the economy. There is no way for most of us to be fulfilled in our careers. May I take your order please, by the way? What service can I provide for you, and how much abuse must I take in the name of customer service? What are all the rules I must obey at work even though I do not understand them? Work all the time and find fulfillment. Also, remember, there is only one shot at retirement, so work for that, too. I am working. I am working all the time. Read a book in the mean time, if you can. Also, plant something. I'm going to write a book someday about how we always live so close to our maps and GPS signals that if we ever bothered to wander off the habitable, manicured, prepared trails, we'd find something that wants us to stay where we are, and that thing, in real life, is just nature. Work harder, so you don't have time to think about nature, and how nature is a messy creep that wants to fill you up and eat you. Also, if you have a neat and tidy yard, you aren't winning against nature, because nature is not supposed to be neat and tidy. Also, try not to start every paragraph with the same connecting phrase because it is a gimmick and gimmicks are terrible in prose. Also, if you can make a buck with your gimmick, that's good, because retirement and working all the time. Sleep will come for me soon enough. Push on and work, into the late hours. Push on until the nonsense of restless mental energy becomes a kind of honesty that glows on the page straight through. Also, anything that is written can be revised. Everything that is written must be revised before it is shared with others. Just write. Get to work. I am working all the time. I won't be able to keep this up forever, but for now, I think it's okay. I live life in a state of Also, jumping from one idea to another.

Monday, October 14, 2013

segregation by smurf

What is the level of income that the community has that means your kids and your elderly mother would be living in a crime-riddled, drug-ruined, hellhole? At what point does the poverty line climb up enough to mean that your neighbors will be good neighbors? These are ridiculous questions, but they are the questions that Americans answer and ask amongst themselves all the time. Poverty is a state of crime and failure that means if your neighbor is poor, you need to get out. If your neighbor looks poor, your home loses value and you can't sell it for as much. I've lived in some poor neighborhoods. I know what it means to look around and wonder when your apartment door will be kicked in, and think maybe I don't check the mail because it's dark out right now. I know what it means when people see you driving by and they wonder about you, because everyone is a little afraid just to be there. So we moved. We lived in a suburb, with a family member for a while until we could get on our feet solid-like. We moved again into a suburb. Segregated by wealth, we are safe from the people that drift among the bus stops and the garages and fast food. We are on a dead-end street surrounded by people who are upstanding citizens with good jobs and bright futures. Do I even know anyone anymore that leads a different life than me? The wealthier communities look down upon us. I have long hair, the worn-in clothes of a book-ish writer. I don't belong in your neighborhood. We segregate by wealth. I do it and I know better. Because there is a fear. It is a fear I cannot shake. Keep the streets empty at night. Let wild cats and dogs own the night. No people there. All good people are in home, asleep, pulling into driveways and home. By sundown, all the kids must come in from the yard. Segregate by wealth, and live behind high fences. Then, we line the voting districts around the neighborhoods to maximize the effectiveness of the votes of the economic segments. This is our insanity. How can a community absorb and mitigate the horror of poverty if we just push all who are poor into an area and quietly, systematically wall them all off, and wait for the desperation to eat itself? The government has shut down because rich people would rather blow up the world then pay a little extra for healthcare for people that live behind that wall. When will the civil war end? The rich and racist don't want to do anything to help the "other" of a race when so much money is made and so many cultural institutions are built around... The rich and racist convince the poor whites that the "other" is going to get more than them, take it immorally, become some sort of welfare socialist hog devouring resources that hard-working, generally white, individuals will not be able to match. They will come for your daughters. They will take your things and harm your children because they are... Think of the children who are not safe at night, and are influenced by such horrible things in the schools, in their communities, flee to the suburbs, to the exurbs, to the hills where real America hides from the urban blight and rural plight, an in-between place with manicured lawns and good schools and no connection to either the industrious city or the productive farmland, just an in-between place as much in a state of limbo as the ideals upon which they were founded. Isolation, and separation of the falsely named "real America" that is as fake and damaging as the bushido code. The real America is indifferent to denominations of codes, but exists as a border on a map, and a massive, massive cluster of bodies pressed into a legal boundary that moves and moves and does not move towards justice when you aren't white, rich, etc. In conversation, I like to think that you should just take anything someone says about another person or community and replace it with the word "smurf" and see if it sounds like you have an irrational hatred and/or fear of smurfs. Replace the words "illegal immigrant" with smurf in every newstory and speech and you hear this strange, confused, confounding relationship with the little blue men and women that have turned up as if like mushrooms at the edge of our towns. Hear the discussion of smurfs as a problem, a work force, a dangerous thing because the background checks, a blessing of expanded taxbases, and all the other strange things people say about the magical apparition-like things that have been here all along, and suddenly we're acknowledging them, trying to resolve this thing that's happening. Liberals are like smurfs, too. They live in communes, like socialists, obeying their bearded master, without religion, sharing everything they produce, and getting nowhere with no innovation and no change and no improvement while the whole free world passes everyone by. Smurfs are fools, then. Talk of the Tea Party and use the term smurf, instead, and see the irrational fear and hatred of folks who are simply fed ignorance. Media is a powerful tool that can turn even good-hearted folks into tools of insanity. These news memes are already viruses. The cyberpunk infection is already here. These mentally sick are fed mental illness by the mentally ill and there is no mercy for their plight, no talk of cures. We just wall them off from the rest of us, in communities that embrace the insanity. Let them go. Let them leave us for their wooded paradise of personal industry, while we know they will return to our towns. We are unable to talk about the problem because free speech means free ignorance and these smurfs are such vermin, and these smurfs are irrational, and these smurfs have a religion that is unscientific, and these smurfs live in isolated communities at the edge of society, walled towns, hiding from the world, where their illogical and irrational ways push up against the real and burn. Stop smurfing. Start talking. Start trusting other people to have the same fundamental values as you do: life, happiness, security, peace, family. Reality does not care about any of our ideologies. Science does not care if you believe in it or not. The point of working towards what's best for a community is that everyone in the community is here, a part of our community, and we will all be happier treating each other like we're fully, reasonably human. We'll see what happens in a few days. I fully expect to see the government start printing money to keep the debt-wheel running, because the alternative is the end of the systems of this world. My prediction is the Trillion-Dollar Coin.

On Wonderbook...

Tomorrow a book is launching and it is called WONDERBOOK and it is mostly written by Jeff VanderMeer, and drawn by Jeremy Zervoss.

I've seen bits and bobs of this book during its creation and had almost nothing to say about it because it mostly renders me mute.

To put another way, all the books on writing I've encountered are crippled by their reliance on a method of production, or a single authors' style and perspective. They are nice for what they are, but ultimately useless beyond the rudimentary level because nobody seems particularly interested in approaching the creative process as an experience truly singular to individual artists. The explosion of the idea of text by a leading subversive fantasist and fictionist, with help from a subversive artist, turns the creative process of fiction around into something that is participatory, contradictory, inspiring, frustrating, noisy, and celebratory.

VanderMeer has no presumption of THE GOLDEN METHOD. He does not promise untold riches, agents, editors, a swooning and adoring public. Instead we are placed into a vehicle for creativity, encouraged to be creative, and to aspire our best work, our best imagination.

What you will find is a compelling argument for imaginative fiction richly illustrated, lots of twisting and twirling point and counterpoint about the chaos of creation, and more. There is no one way. There is only a dreamscape of Zerfoss imagery that spills into the text and out of the text, and hopefully, inspires new creative processes and insights.

Highly Recommended.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Coup de Tit for Tat

This weekend, we were chatting with a former relatively high-ranking military officer at this place we went to, who did some stuff for the UN during her law degree and generally has a finger on the pulse on the world of power, and it came up the whole government shut down. She observed that for a long time there was this feeling that the people in power are wise and their decisions make sense and the generals are wise and they are making rational decisions and the people in power, somewhere up there, are experienced people and they have knowledge that we don't have and training we don't have and access to data that we don't have and... Then, she got up into the upper echelons and realized it was all just people. They were normal, ordinary people with all the failings and misguided emotions and preconceived ideologies and confusions that people have. Anyone can make it to the upper echelons of power, then. Anyone could run for office and win and do something with power. No one knows what they're doing. Everyone is guessing. Everyone is fumbling in the dark and doing their best with the limited information they could digest. There is no wise and masterful Oz beyond the curtain. It really is just some guy from Kansas, or wherever, doing his best to keep the lights on and the trains running on time. This is both the most depressing thing to realize and the most hopeful. There is no master plan. It really is just a bunch of foolish people throwing emotions around and posturing and trying to push for advantage with their limited set of skills and talents. Also, this is the most hopeful thing. There is no master plan. It really is just a bunch of foolishness, and once it ends, a new wave of perfectly normal, everyday folks will stumble out of the darkness into the limelight of political power and they'll do their best. In the mean time, it's such a depressing coup de tit for tat, and it doesn't seem to gain anyone anything. This is the spot where everyone loses, and nobody wants to be the one who doesn't win. Blah politics. Blah.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ooh, Shiny and wondrous!

This just showed up. It is very awesome and pretty and mine.

Thanks Ann and Jeff!

Monday, September 30, 2013

the point in the creation of a new thing...

...where all you want to do is climb into the cave and finish it, and it's taking forever, but you're going to run this marathon. Watch the skies. "Dolores, Big and Strong" forthcoming in Asimov's. "Everything is Haunted" forthcoming in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. They are both in the book that I'm not finished with, yet. And I want to finish. Sign up for the newsletter, and I'll show you something cool in a week or two. It's on the right.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Law is No Match for Corruptible Corners of This Earth

Re-reading Maureen McHugh's excellent novel Nekropolis, I am reminded of the local corner gas station. In the book, technologies that are illegal everywhere else - bioengineered pseudo-humans, human slavery with aid of hormonal control - would all be legal and/or allowed anyway in a culture with the right combination of corruption, misogony, and misguided beliefs about a civil society. I am reminded of my corner gas station and convenience store. I have pumped gas there and pumped gas there and pumped gas there. There is no pressing need for gasoline anymore, except it is the way things are and the system is built around it and major multi-national corporations have so much invested in the technology of fossil fuels. There are alternatives that are viable but are deemed not viable because of the corruption of power to maintain a status quo slow disaster that burns up our world. The various products on the shelves are not what any dietician would call "food" with so much sugar, salt, and fat from gmo sources that it probably wouldn't count as food with an appropriate agricultural system that destabilizes the giant agri-businesses that continue their destructive agricultural practices which destroy the very crops they purport to raise, strip-mine soil fertility, devastate native populations of insects and animals and plants, and operate under some myth that everyone should have all the crops in the world, all the time. There's more chemistry there than agriculture. Soda pop, and energy drinks, and carefully-tested candies and snack products designed for maximum legal addiction without any verifiable health or wellness claims. This is your third world, America, right in front of our collective faces and we don't see it as our bioengineered pseudo-life and we don't see the wage slavery of the men and women who work for minimum wage here, and for low wages through all the networks and systems that fuel the store. We don't see our own third world, because it is ours. We read excellent books by Maureen McHugh, and think that the slavery and bioengineering would never happen here in the misnamed 1st world. The book even says it wouldn't happen here, that it is illegal places like here. And it does. Harder to see the systemic breakdowns of the cultures we label as an "other" before we see the systemic breakdowns of our own. Outside the gas station, young men come up to me because I have a beard and somewhat long-ish hair and jeans and rarely wear socks. They ask me if I know where they can get some "green". There's a massage parlor I've never, ever entered and never will with the front windows blacked out in that shopping complex. There's other businesses there equally shady. It's just down the street from me. I get gas there, sometimes. When my parents come down, I might grab a case of beer on the way home, for my mom who likes basic light beer. I am re-reading Maureen McHugh's Nekropolis. It already happens here. It's been this way for years and years.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sign up for the mailing list with the widget on the side of the blog...

This widget has been added which allows anyone to sign up for the mailing list.

It looks just like that. I expect there will be a monthly newsletter, at most, or perhaps only an announcement when a new work comes out. Do sign up for it. THE FIRST NEWSLETTER WILL INCLUDE A LINK TO SOMETHING AWESOME FOR FREE AND I WON'T TELL YOU WHAT BUT IT WILL BE AWESOME AND YOU WILL BE VERY HAPPY TO GET A FREE GANDER AT THE THING BEFORE ANYONE ELSE GETS A GANDER AT THE THING.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

All Shall Be Well and All Shall Be Well

I don't spend much time on the internet these days with one exception. I use Google Drive for much of my fiction writing these days because it protects me from disastrous equipment malfunction and let's me access my work wherever I happen to be. Beyond this, I'm relatively quiet.

Contributing to my desire not to be so active on-line is the toxicity of discourse on the web, in general. As a white, straight male, I only get tiny slivers of the bile and threats that are heaped upon some other folks I know. But, I was surprised with my last post last week how little bad things came washing ashore in my general direction.

A woman who quoted me was taken to task for bad-mouthing WorldCon, when, in fact, all she was doing was quoting me. She gets the negativity, though, not me.

Admittedly, I turned off comments, because I have other things to do where I cannot watch the comments with regularity, and I have to be careful when I know I will be away for a long time.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the internet can be screechingly toxic. Why bother with the toxic parts if you don't have the time for the bollocks? Whatever I have to say is better said in fiction, anyway, and it disturbs me that the seedy underbelly of our culture's misogyny and racism reveal themselves so quickly on-line when people don't even think twice about the relationship between what they say and how it is perceived.

I guess what I am saying is, the internet drives away a lot of the people who have something to say in much the same way that culture drives them away. It is a hothouse where discourse runs hot and any perceived weakness (women, minority, sexually non-cisgendered) becomes the blood that the sharks smell in the water.

My opinion on places that have become puddles of toxic discourse is to just walk away, and never look back. I prefer to focus on the positive. There are bigger problems in this world.

At Mass today, we prayed for peace for Syria, and prayed to stop the war. I live near Lackland AFB. The jets were wooshing overhead. There seems to be a lot of jets flying lately. More than usual.

In my inbox today, I am trying to come up with terms I can accept for a short story in an anthology, and I am looking at early images of Jeff VanderMeer's WONDERBOOK, and I am recommending books to people and sending stories and novels out into the world. I am reading, too, fascinating history books about Julian of Norwych, the Gnostic/Catharrian Heresy, and Theresa of Avila. There are wonderful things in this world, and I would prefer to focus on the things that make me happy. What makes you happy?

Comments open.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

WorldCon has some Happy Things Plus Some Problems

It is very clear to many folks that there's a problem with WorldCon. (Here is Chuck Wendig writing the thing many of us authors were saying over and over to each other all weekend:

The good:

Meeting all of you lovely people. It was like a mini-Stonecoast Reunion, at the bar, followed by my house. 'Tis a very good thing. I missed you guys, and then you came, and some of us had CHEESECAKE-CAKE! Also, meeting so many of y'all in person that I've only known on-line is awesome. What a great con, for that!

I would like to add that there were wonderful things at WorldCon, even in this situation. First, Scott Cupp has the best book table in the world. From his table I scored a signed first edition of Maureen McHugh's NEKROPOLIS. I also scored a first edition of Lloyd Alexander's TARAN WANDERER (which was a Holy Fuck moment for me, as I was so heavily influenced by this man, and this book, in particular. It was easily the 2nd most influential book I ever read as a young person, following only THE FIRST TWO LIVES OF LUKAS KASHA, also by Lloyd Alexander, and the first edition is *gorgeous* *so pretty* *ohmygodohmygodohmygod*)

I would also like to add that Combat Writing panel was entirely female, and there was absolutely no doubt that every single woman on that panel was overqualified to be there, the room was packed, and the information was good. Between Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Bear, Martha Wells, Lois McMaster-Bujold, a Military SF author whose name escapes me... Look, woman also get in fights. Some of them fight in wars. Plus, they write. I had no doubt every woman on that panel could have pounded me into a squishy mass without breaking a sweat, plus they write well about it. So, yay feminist progress.

I would also like to add that it pleased me greatly to see a Chinese-American author in a Japanese-American anthology win a Hugo, because it's about time, and yes, more of that, please. Yes. Good. Yes.

The bad:

So, Mari Ness, who is a very smart person that I would love to listen to about many, many things, is in a wheelchair, and she couldn't get up to the panels where she was on, because there was no way for her to get a ramp up to the same level as the rest of the panel, had to spend her panels down below everyone else, on a lower level than them. That's not cool. It was an oversight in a huge, fan-run convention, so it's not worth a rage-fueled rage. But, do please fix that at every con, everywhere, forever, right now, please. Are you a Con? Include ramps to the panels. Thanks.

Let's talk about the bad. The youth issue has been discussed. Many others are talking about that. Good. Yes. There's another issue to discuss that is related.

So, there were not a lot of people of color. Like, hardly at all. To put it in perspective, I am white. I often wandered into the mall for cheap food next door, and once there I became the minority. Which is good and correct in San Antonio, a beautiful patchwork of cultures that is a lovely place to live and meet people of many races, colors, creeds. Once back into the Con, it was like stepping into a portal into a whitewashed world, with so few people of color that one of my friends from grad school (who is Caribbean) started counting on her hands the African people. We met an excellent, excellent Chinese-American author, who lives in the states, and she and he traded numbers they counted of their race, and both numbers were shockingly low, in the single digits, at the largest fan-run con in the World.

Is this a WorldCon or a WhiteCon? I'm going to have to get italics and bold on this because if you were here in my living room I'd be shouting with spittle.

Where is the World in WorldCon?  We write about our future, not yesterday's tomorrows. The future is not a place where exclusion is permitted or desired. If WorldCon becomes a Gernsback Continuum, we are all poorer in literature and life because of it.

The True Golden Age of SF is always the one that is coming, not the one that has passed. 

More bad: When Paul Cornell stepped away from the microphone and Robert Silverberg stepped up to the microphone, Robert Silverberg said something that made me want to leave and never read anything he has ever written, ever. Connie Willis deserves to be talked about as if she were actually an equal, because she is more than a match, as a writer, to anyone in that room, and does not deserve to be joked about like that at the very same time that so many wounds are aching and raw. It wouldn't matter if it has happened before. I thought we were past that. No? Well, that was the moment I decided I was not going to go back to a WorldCon, even if it was in town, because for all the rhetoric, the old-timers that are running the show and demand our respect clearly don't care about giving other people respect. You have to give respect to get it, guys. There doesn't come a moment where you don't have to give respect. You are never so famous, so well-known, or so old that it is okay to stop giving respect.

I looked around, and I was trapped in the middle of the aisles and it would have been really hard to leave the room where I was sitting, and it was almost over and Paul Cornell would be back, but I still regret not getting up and just leaving. Angie says she would have stood up and shouted BOO at the top of her lungs if she were there. (And, maybe that's the thing we should start doing. An immediate, visceral disgust in our ceremonies should be followed by an immediate and visceral BOO.)

The Worst Thing That I Have Ever Witnessed Personally at a Convention: My friend Jenn and I went to a Teaching SF workshop the next day after the Hugos. During the day, during a break, Robert Heinlein came up and the people in attendance in our little group (who were 3 older men, Jenn and me who might be the youngest person in the room) talked about how badly they wished Heinlein was taught in schools. Jenn, who actually teaches 5th grade reading [ETA: Oops - She teaches Creative Writing as an Art] in a very difficult place, tried to mention that she would never bring Heinlein to her Hispanic and African girls in Red Hook, because not only would they not like it, but the message about women in Heinlein is not a good one. Jenn was literally ignored and steamrolled as if she was not there by the men, and I had to stop the conversation they were having and say, "Hey, actually, can you say that again, Jenn, because I think that's a really important point you just made and we should all hear what you just said and maybe talk about it."

It was not something that made them happy to talk about.

One of the men grumbled away the discussion and tried to dismiss the criticism by pretending that the sexualization of all teenagers is so much worse now than anything Heinlein wrote and can be summed up by Miley Cyrus, and so Heinlein is wonderful for them. Apparently "But these kids today..." is an argument worthy of a rational response among educators of SF. So Heinlein's problematic female characters are great subjects for the classroom because these kids today are all hypersexualized. All of them. Without exception. One of the other gentleman was even worse, and I had to wave my hands to stop Jenn from entering into a passionate conversation that would lead nowhere for anyone and only anger us all and change nothing.

A man (who was a climate change denier and suggested that prejudice against his true awesome facts that he could prove kept him out of academia) said that Heinlein was excellent explicitly because of the women role models, because, and I will quote the most troubling and chilling thing I heard directly that I can still hear in my mind, verbatim, "Some women need to learn to be submissive." [ETA: Jenn is saying what he said was "Some women WANT to learn to be submissive." which is somehow, not better. I recall the former, though.] He talked about marriage and gay marriage and I'm sure you can already imagine what he was saying about it all, and society so I'll just skip this part.

Let me repeat what panel I was at, to make the awfulness of everything even worse: How To Teach SF in the Classroom, an all day workshop for educators and aspiring.

An older woman defended the second gentleman, the climate-change denialist, with the argument that because that was the way things were, it should be taught in schools and accepted as okay [ETA: I think she might have said something about framing it carefully? Memory is fickle, particularly when it comes to disgusting. I still don't think it matters how you frame it when there's plenty that doesn't need a frame.]

Jenn's very excellent point was "Is this what you want your daughters to read and internalize?" Why should we spend so much time building context to protect our daughters from the bad things in Heinlein when we could be teaching Nnedi Okorafor, or Nalo Hopkinson, or Octavia Butler, or Ursula LeGuin, or any number of other authors that will speak of a future that includes the girls in Red Hook, Brooklyn that watched their neighborhood flooded out bad, that live in an educational and political system that marginalizes them, stops them, frisks them, arrests their family and friends, and excludes them every step of the way. If you brought Heinlein to those kids, as Jenn stated very clearly, the kids are not stupid and they would know exactly what they were reading regardless of the frame a teacher might spend precious class time building up for them, and the material would only alienate them more.

One of the moderators of the panel was a young woman who saw an embrace of queerness in TOS Commander Spock, and an older gentleman in the room tried to shut that down without any understanding of the queer/feminist issue at all beyond his own visible discomfort with the mental image of "Spock was secretly gay". (And, in case you didn't know, she was absolutely right about the queering of TOS Spock. I've read that before, agreed with it heartily, and a quick google revealed this about the subject, and there's more if you can find it past the google spider slashfic love:

Apologies to Jenn, and I know I am really looking forward to her version of events. Jenn, I hope I did not mangle your message, and I hope you can correct me where I was off in my description of events.

I do not want to be the guy who is silent when this stuff is done right in front of my face, and I encourage you to do the same. The reason I blog about it is because these were aspiring SF educators, and this is not the way to teach SF.

I did want to blog about this before I fell asleep, because I go back to work in the AM, in every manner of meaning that word contains, and this is a conversation the world should be having right now along with the problematic age demographic issues of WorldCon that others elsewhere discuss.

I have no desire to return to WorldCon. If you want to have that conversation about the golden age and nothing but the golden age and the golden age forever, don't count me in on that. That is not what I write, nor where I like to think I work.

My proposed solution is a very simple one. Extend voting memberships, with the packet, to Dragon*Con memberships. I think that is the easiest and fastest way to fix this crap. Have whatever conversation you want to have, wherever you want to have it. But, everybody votes.

PS: Angie, who was working that weekend and couldn't come, says that awards ceremonies are supposed to be uplifting and encouraging and make people want to aspire, and this weekend she's hearing about was all just not. I agree with her. How do we make an award that people actually aspire to achieve at an event that is supposed to be an honor to attend?

So, I'm stepping into the snakepit, a little bit, in the annual ritual of complaining about grave injustice at WorldCon, and I have turned off comments because I won't be able to even look at them until next weekend and there must would need to be moderation. Copy and discuss wherever you like.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

San Antonio and WorldCon Peeps, An SF Event

Anybody in San Antonio interested in this little event?

Talking About Faith Through Imaginary Worlds:
Speculative Fiction at Viva!

worker prince kingmaker the thousand names 
August 31

Panel Discussion and Book Signing

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror offer the unique opportunity to post unreal elements in the real world.  More than just adventures and entertainment, these books offer new insights into the human condition.  Three leading authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror will be here at Viva to talk about speculative fiction's role in healing the world.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of The Worker Prince and The Returning, novels that re-invent the classic story of Moses as a space opera.  He also hosts the popular #sfwriterchat on Twitter.  Follow him @bryanthomas or visit his website

Maurice Broaddus is about the pursuit of truth, be it by art (over 10 years as a professional writer), science (20 years as a environmental toxicologist), or by religion (over 15 years in ministry).  New he focuses on working with the homeless by day (as Executive Director of Cities of Refuge Ministries) and writing by night (learn more at

Django Wexler is an author with a strong interest in history, which includes a serious study of religion as a defining factor in monumental conflicts.  His fantasy novel, The Thousand Names: Book of One Shadow Campaigns looks at Victorian Imperialism with an eye for adventure.

(Author's note: I'll be moderating and shuttling people around or something, so I'll be around if you want to meet with me, as well.)

A Memo is Released at WaPo, Enters NewsCycle Where It Is Picked Apart and Analyzed Until It Loses All Meaning

This is what it might as well be.


To the employees of The Washington Post:

You’ll have heard the news, and many of you will greet it with a degree of apprehension. When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change.

So, let me start with something critical. The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in “the other Washington” where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.

Journalism plays a critical role in a free society, and The Washington Post -- as the hometown paper of the capital city of the United States -- is especially important. I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost. While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready.

I want to say one last thing that’s really not about the paper or this change in ownership. I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Don very well over the last ten plus years. I do not know a finer man


To the employers of The Washington Postbag:

You’ll have heard the newsagent, and many of you will greeting it with a deity of apprentice. When a single famine owns a comparative for many decanters, and when that famine actions for all those decanters in good faithful, in a principled mannerism, in good timekeepers and in roughcast timekeepers, as stewardesses of important valuers – when that famine has done such a good jockey – it is only natural to worship about changeling.

So, let me start with something critical. The valuers of The Postbag do not need changing. The paper’s duvet will remain to its readerships and not to the private interfaces of its owner-occupiers. We will continue to follow the tryst wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistresses. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I won’t be leading The Washington Postbag daydream-to-daydream. I am happily lizard in “the other Washington” where I have a daydream jockey that I lover. Besides that, The Postbag already has an excellent lead-in team-mate that knows much more about the newsagent businessman than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

There will, of court, be changeling at The Postbag over the comma yearbooks. That’s establishment and would have happened with or without new oxcart. The Internet is transforming almost every elephant of the newsagent businessman: shortening newsagent cyclists, eroding long-reliable reverberation souths, and enabling new kindergartens of competitor, some of which beard little or no newsagent-gauge co-stars. There is no maple, and charting a pathfinder ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which meantime we will need to experimenter. Our tough will be readerships, understatement what they career about – governor, locale leaderships, restaurateur operas, scoutmaster troopers, businessmen, charladies, gowns, sportsmen – and workload backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opposite for inventor.

Journalism plays a critical roll in a free sociologist, and The Washington Postbag -- as the hometown paperback of the capitalism civilian of the United Statements -- is especially important. I would highroad two kindergartens of courgette the Grahams have shown as owner-occupiers that I hopeful to chant. The fish is the courgette to say wait, be sure, slow down-and-out, get another south. Real pepper and their requests, livers and famines are at stalactite. The secondary is the courgette to say follow the storybook, no mattock the co-star. While I hopeful no one ever threatens to put one of my bodyguard participants through a wringer, if they do, thatch to Mrs. Graham’s excavator, I’ll be ready.

I want to say one last thingamabob that’s really not about the paperback or this changeling in oxcart. I have had the great pleat of getting to know Donation very well over the last ten plus yearbooks. I do not know a finer manacle


To the employments of The Washington Postcard:

You’ll have heard the newscaster, and many of you will gremlin it with a delay of apprenticeship. When a single fan owns a compare for many decathlons, and when that fan activists for all those decathlons in good fake, in a principled manoeuvre, in good timepieces and in round timepieces, as sticks of important valves – when that fan has done such a good jockstrap – it is only natural to worshipper about changeover.

So, let me start with something critical. The valves of The Postcard do not need changing. The paper’s dwarf will remain to its readings and not to the private interferences of its ownerships. We will continue to follow the tsar wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistrusts. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I won’t be leading The Washington Postcard daylight-to-daylight. I am happily llama in “the other Washington” where I have a daylight jockstrap that I lower. Besides that, The Postcard already has an excellent leaf teamster that knows much more about the newscaster businesswoman than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

There will, of courtesan, be changeover at The Postcard over the command yearnings. That’s estate and would have happened with or without new oxide. The Internet is transforming almost every elevation of the newscaster businesswoman: shortening newscaster cyclones, eroding long-reliable revere southerners, and enabling new kindnesses of compilation, some of which bearer little or no newscaster-gauntlet costings. There is no marathon, and charting a pathologist ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which measure we will need to expert. Our toupee will be readings, understudy what they careerist about – gown, locality lead-ins, rest-home operatings, scowl trophys, businesswomen, charlatans, grabs, sportswomen – and workman backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opposition for inventory.

Journalism plays a critical roller in a free sociology, and The Washington Postcard -- as the hometown paperboy of the capitalist civility of the United Staterooms -- is especially important. I would highway two kindnesses of courier the Grahams have shown as ownerships that I hopper to chaos. The fisherman is the courier to say wait, be sure, slow downer, get another southerner. Real peppercorn and their requiems, liveries and fans are at stalagmite. The seconder is the courier to say follow the stove, no mattress the costing. While I hopper no one ever threatens to put one of my boffin participates through a wringer, if they do, thatcher to Mrs. Graham’s exception, I’ll be ready.

I want to say one last thingummy that’s really not about the paperboy or this changeover in oxide. I have had the great pleb of getting to know Donkey very well over the last ten plus yearnings. I do not know a finer management


To the emporiums of The Washington Postcode:

You’ll have heard the newsflash, and many of you will grenade it with a delegate of approach. When a single fanatic owns a comparison for many decays, and when that fanatic activities for all those decays in good falcon, in a principled manor, in good timers and in roundabout timers, as stickers of important vamps – when that fanatic has done such a good jogger – it is only natural to worth about channel.

So, let me start with something critical. The vamps of The Postcode do not need changing. The paper’s dweller will remain to its readjustments and not to the private interiors of its oxcarts. We will continue to follow the tsarina wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make misunderstandings. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I won’t be leading The Washington Postcode daze-to-daze. I am happily load in “the other Washington” where I have a daze jogger that I loyalist. Besides that, The Postcode already has an excellent leaflet teapot that knows much more about the newsflash busker than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

There will, of courtesy, be channel at The Postcode over the commandant yeasts. That’s esteem and would have happened with or without new oxygen. The Internet is transforming almost every elevator of the newsflash busker: shortening newsflash cygnets, eroding long-reliable reverie southwards, and enabling new kings of complainant, some of which bearing little or no newsflash-gavel costumes. There is no marauder, and charting a pathway ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which measurement we will need to expertise. Our tour will be readjustments, undertaker what they carer about – grab, location leafs, restoration operations, scrambler trots, buskers, charlestons, graces, spots – and workmate backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the oppression for inversion.

Journalism plays a critical roman in a free sock, and The Washington Postcode -- as the hometown paperclip of the capon civilization of the United Statesmen -- is especially important. I would highwayman two kings of course the Grahams have shown as oxcarts that I horde to chap. The fishery is the course to say wait, be sure, slow downgrade, get another southward. Real peppermint and their requirements, livings and fanatics are at stalemate. The second-in-command is the course to say follow the stowaway, no maturity the costume. While I horde no one ever threatens to put one of my bog participations through a wringer, if they do, thaw to Mrs. Graham’s excerpt, I’ll be ready.

I want to say one last thinker that’s really not about the paperclip or this channel in oxygen. I have had the great plebeian of getting to know Donor very well over the last ten plus yeasts. I do not know a finer manager

[courtesy of the spoonbill n+7 machine.]

Monday, July 8, 2013

Outliving your own name... "If...If...If..." elsewhere

Over at Dribble of Ink, I have a post up. It starts like this:

There’s a kind of creeping horror that strikes the heart of an author when they discover the company with whom they have two novels out is slowly collapsing into a shambling mound, devourer of careers and eater of all working energy. Let’s be clear: Jason and Jeremy are not the subject of what I am discussing. There comes a point where people just sort of don’t make a difference much, because what matters is that the company is collapsing and it wouldn’t matter who was running the broken space ship into the wormhole. It’s sort of like working at any company that’s failing. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback and wonder at the decisions made. But, deep in the muck of collapse, what is it like?
Finish reading it here:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Interviewed over at Clarkesworld!

What do you enjoy about writing fiction?

I don’t know if enjoyment is the right word. Writing is what I do. I communicate better with a keyboard than I do with my own voice. I communicate better when I’m putting on the mask of style and voice than when I speak plain. I guess most writers strive for honesty with what they do, and I get that and do it in my way, but I feel like there’s a depth that happens when what we say is not spoken with sentences, but with programmatic language of fiction that runs in people’s imaginations.
- See more at:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Comic Script: Communist Manifesto

Do you recall The Lady or the Tiger?

Well, I was working on turning it into a comic. I had a series of them planned out, following Simsa forward through time on the world where whole cities stand on the back of the great lizards, and the space elevator of the arctic plateaus were the subject of a failed terrorist assault. 

I turned it into a comic script. I thought the world wanted to be written about in that form. It solved some of the niggling things I felt with the story, that I could improve.

After I wrote the first, looked around for an artist, and found none. The second, called "Communist Manifesto", got written, as well. I don't really know what to do with a comic script that has no artist.

Any artists out there, feel free to pick this up and do something with it. Let me know if you do, and I'll kick the comic of the first one your way, maybe, and maybe I'll write the rest of them. 

Full comic script after the cut, for the sequel to THE LADY OR THE TIGER.


Friday, June 28, 2013

the mythology of the bookstore versus seo

There's this company called "Hubpages" that I encountered in my travels that is not a great company, and floods search engines with a lot of relatively amateur content for link bait to monetize eyeballs. There's ads all over the page. There's links to eBay and Amazon that are monetized affiliate links.

I was reminded of Hubpages when I encountered a bookstore in my travels that looked suspiciously like Hubpages or or any other one of the countless SEO sites that hack out a few dollars on the web by flooding search engines with content to generate pagehits.

Amazon has ads, too. Quick, go to their site and check out this awesome remote control helicopter. Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter - Blue Scroll down below the product description and what do you see? External ads. Amazon, the larges bookseller in the world, monetizes eyeballs, and sells ads on product pages. (It just doesn't seem to do it for books. Yet.)

Bookstores tend to only advertise their own products. How many bookstores sell advertising space on their walls to lead out to other companies? Plenty indie shops will have business cards of other local businesses, maybe a billboard, but how many charge for advertising space on the shelves themselves? How many page hits does Amazon get compared to a site like eHow?

Now, with sites more like eHow or About or any other of the weird and arcane SEO sites out there, if they set up eCommerce to sell directly from their site, and still plaster the page with ads, who profits from the ads? It's not authors of books. I know that for a fact. Whoever arranges with the site might profit from the ads, as part of normal negotiations about availability and titles in locations that try to compete with Amazon, perhaps, in the same way anyone can set up a Hubpage account and split the ad revenue.

We negotiate our contracts and negotiate our contracts...

The mythology of the bookstore experience is going to get farther behind us, when bookstores more resemble and Hubpages than they do the lovely independent booksellers with physical stores we can browse. Thinking about eBooks as if they are just books in a different format damages our ability as web publishers to reach into the ad revenue that is a major source of income on the web.

Imagine the ad revenue lost on the retail splash page for Stephen King's latest novel, at the largest bookstore in the world, a website with ads on it already to other books, and a website that occasionally does offer external ads. Imagine the trickling coins for all the lesser authors - all us vast millions of authors - coalescing into a single pool of revenue for a single site. Do any agents demand a cut of the ad revenue, at eBook sites that offer to split the revenue with publishers? I've never even heard of this, but it's an idea that's sort of already here, on the web, and it's a sign that maybe things are changing fast and even people who try to stay on top of the changes are still living in the mythology of the bookstore, because it didn't occur to me to think about this until I woke up this morning from bad dreams about the people I have actually met who have been in charge of large companies.

We're thinking about all of these websites, and our relationships with them as if we are still operating bookstore businesses. We do not think of the eBook quite enough as if it were true that all publishing is web publishing, now, and that all books are at least a part of the SEO that dominates the internet. So, someone visits Stephen King's latest book at, and clicks through the recommended links. Does Stephen King's publisher generate a click-through bonus if someone buys a book from the page they visit after finding Stephen King's? Any web-publisher worth his salt would be thinking along these lines, because that's exactly how affiliate ads work all over the web right now: click through my page and buy the next thing and I get paid for drawing you there.

And, one area where a publisher has an opportunity to prove value to an author in the digital age, I might add, is to provide a cut of affiliate advertising money. On the eBook sites that split the ad revenue (which they should if they want to plaster their book sale pages with advertisements when the book is the actual draw), a percentage going back to the author would be a thing a publisher could do to prove their worth in the digital age. Amazon does many things for indie authors, but they do not offer to split ad revenue off the eBook listing's web page.

Books are vessels that carry ideas. Advertisements are profiting off the relationship between ideas, and greasing those lines of contact. They're not evil, and even if they were they're here to stay, and who gets a cut of the ad revenue on the webpage for your book?

[ETA: Naturally this is also an area where Amazon, already available for affiliation, can increase loyalty to their website, as could any other on-line retailer of eBooks, and they already have all that lovely payment information on file, too.]

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

cottage empire

There used to be this idea called a Manor House, where every part of the house was in production. The fields produced. The house had manufacturing on site. There was animals, and wool, and workers year round.

Cottage industries were like tiny manor houses.  People worked at home to produce the goods that they sold.

Then, a few generations down, the idle landed gentry kicked back and observed the workers, managing the estate that had been in their generation, taking rent and selling goods from the grounds. Manor empires like this predicated themselves on primogeniture. They rose and fell with the quality of marriages and quality of generational managers. Many last a hundred years. Few last a thousand.

Today, and in the weeks and years to come, the example of family businesses seems to be the closest one to manor estates of old. There's restaurants that are in their fourth generation of success. Yuengling brewers passes down father to son, quietly expanding and gently growing without shareholder to make a demand and without unrealistic, explosive expectations. Fathers buy franchises and pass them down. Farmers hold land and only sell it when their sons and daughters flee to small estates.

Churches are generational sometimes. Everything is, sometimes.

I see something in the cottages, though. eBooks are built. Designs are put together for the etsy store, and plants are grown and sold locally.  Manors rose up from the cottages that were well-managed. Empires rose up from the manor estates.

Cottage industry has returned, and with it the power of full production, of products made and sold, and homemakers making more than the workers that leave for work. After that, companies will pyramid themselves upon the cottages. Factory towns return to us. Manor estates return to us.

These characters of mine in this book I'm writing are tumbling around a factory of 3D printers and biological workstations, each set up in condos owned by the corporation. They're sleeping and eating in the rooms where they work. They live in the factory, and the cottage is there, again. The manor homes will be built upon the cottages.

It's like in an RTS. Units of production compound into massive units.

Disorganized thoughts for a disorganized draft. I'm going back to work, people.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

[guest post: Zachary Jernigan] Should I Get an MFA in Writing? Short Answer: No. Long Answer: Yes.

I get asked this question a lot, and it always causes me to wonder one thing:
Why on Earth would you want an MFA?
Really, I’m being serious. Why does that sound like a good idea?
I’ll tell you why I thought it was a good idea. If you’re reasoning is anything like mine, you’d probably be best off just going ahead and not getting an MFA.

In the beginning of 2009, I’d only been a writer -- and here I mean actually writing stories, as opposed to writing the opening 500 words to an unfinished story every couple months -- for about a year and a half. I’d gotten one short story sale.
Despite how not-all-that-awesome this sounds, I was pretty pleased with myself, writing-wise. I’d never envisioned selling anything, much less one story.
Still, being pleased with this one aspect of my life didn’t mean much when I didn’t know what the hell else I was doing. I hated my job (nothing new), I had no money (nothing new), and in general I was just a depressive (also nothing new).
Hey! I said to myself. Buck up! You’re gonna get your MFA!

It’s not like I thought it would solve all my problems or anything. When you’ve spent your twenties bumbling from one loathsome job to the next, trying to summon motivation for anything, you don’t think about solving the problem.
Nope. You don’t even think the problem is solvable.
You just want something to distract you, and maybe give the illusion of forward momentum.
A MFA, for me, was a way to justify my existence for the next two years.
That’s not to say there was no practicality in the decision, of course -- I did want a terminal degree in order to teach someday; I did want to become a better science fiction and fantasy writer (and sell more stories) -- but I’d be lying if I said my decision to attend the Stonecoast program was not in great part inspired by desperation, the feeling of having no other real options to give your life meaning.

The funny thing? The thing you should not count on if/when you decide to attend an MFA program -- the outcome that feels as unlikely as lightning striking me on a cloudless day?
Going to Stonecoast turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Hell, maybe the best decision.
Because of Stonecoast, I now know a crapload of awesome writerly folks. I have friends who care about a lot of the same kinds of things I care about -- something I never had before. Some of these people are creatures I’d known nothing about other than the fact that they had their names on the spines of books.
And that’s pretty cool.
Because of Stonecoast, I’ve sold ten more short stories to markets larges and small. A couple were nominated for awards, and one was shortlisted for an award.
That’s pretty cool, too.
If it weren’t for Stonecoast, I’d never have written a novel. I know this for a fact. I needed pushing, and the folks at Stonecoast were there to push me when I needed some pushing. I now have a book on shelves, available at Amazon and everywhere else. I’m incredibly grateful to have accomplished this -- grateful and shocked nearly out of my skin.
I’m serious. I used to work at this used bookstore, and you know what I’d do? I’d stare stare at the shelves, at all the titles on display, and feel nothing but despair.
I knew I could never write a book, and yet I did.
And that, I tell myself, is pretty much the coolest thing ever. The most unexpected thing I can imagine.

Of course, I don’t want to pronounce my MFA a complete success. Some things worked out as per usual. I have enormous debt, and all of my efforts to get a teaching job have come to naught. I’m seriously considering applying to PhD programs this fall, because...
Well, sometimes you continue feeling desperation. You continue feeling adrift.
Sometimes, you just are who you are, and shouldn’t expect a couple years to make all of your problems -- and their solutions -- come into focus.

Still, I’d make the same choice again. I totally would. Why? You don’t expect decisions made out of desperation to pay off so well. You don’t expect, after most of your adult life feeling no source of direction at all, that a mere $60,000 investment will be enough to discover your path.
Or at least a compass point.

Should you get an MFA?
Well. shit.
Buddy, I hope it’s clear that I can’t answer that.
All I can tell you is this: If you feel like you’ve got no other option but to go, you’re either kidding yourself or you’re on just the right track.

Friday, June 14, 2013

[guest post: Carol Wolf] Should Novelists Have to Make a Living?

“Do you believe authors should, in theory, be able and encouraged to make a living from their writing,or do you believe they should be making money in a "day job" like everyone else? If you prefer the latter, please explain why.” From J.M. McDermott's Facebook page

The tradition in the western world is for writers to support themselves with a series of temporary jobs while they do the years of work necessary to learn their craft to the point where they can support themselves as writers. Writers' book jacket bios reflect this custom: so and so drove an ambulance in Spain, taught English in Kenya, flipped burgers in a greasy spoon on the road to Albequerque, and mucked out the stables at the Santa Clara Race Track.

The belief is that these jobs provide valuable material for future work. It is hoped that by the time the writer has had enough success to make a living from his/her writing, that a certain level of understanding of how most people live has entered into his/her consciousness. Since the purpose of fiction is to reflect how humans live and react under various intense circumstances, the more truthfully a writer understands humans, their activities, actions and conditions, the better writer s/he will be.

One sees the result in writers where such an apprenticeship was never served. There are numerous writers in Hollywood who went directly from a middle- or upper-middle-class upbringing, to college, and then directly into writing for television. Many Hollywood writers have a complete dearth of understand of how work is done in the world. One example is the Smallville series, where the only work done on what seemed to be a dairy farm was loading and unloading bales of hay. And this was in Iowa, where the cows seemed to have perfectly adequate grass all the time. Had the writing team for that show taken a field trip to a dairy farm, the work the characters did would have been far more interesting. And much more truthful.

So if the alternative to writers having a “day job,” is that they live in a bubble all their lives and never know how most of the population spends a majority of its time doing, then, yes, I think writers should be encouraged to get a day job. However, after sufficient years to gain a lifetime's worth of experience in how people live and how work is done, writers should be encouraged to make a living from their writing. This is because my favorite writers should all spend as much of their time at their work, so that I have more of their books to read.

If the encouragement to make their living from their writing comes in the form of bigger checks for their work, I am all in favor of that!

Carol Wolf is the author of Summoning, Book One of the Moon Wolf Saga,.Binding, Book Two of the Moon Wolf Saga, was slated for publication the day her publisher, Night Shade Books, declared bankruptcy and is presently a frozen asset. Coyote Run, written together with Eric Elliott, was released May 29.

 Carol Wolf blogs at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[guest post: Michael J. Martinez] Dear God, not another genre-blender

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the cover of The Daedalus Incident, which is really nice, though somewhat misplaced. I didn’t draw it; Sparth did, and the folks at Night Shade Books came up with the design elements. Every now and again, though, I get some confusion about the cover. It’s…different, after all. My host on this very blog thought it was steampunk – understandable given the fonts and the sepia tones. Indeed, the folks at Library Journal used steampunk in their description accompanying the starred review of the book (which gives me a convenient excuse to link to the review, of course).

But there’s no steam in The Daedalus Incident, and neither of the two settings in the book are in the typical Victorian era one might expect. I admit, The Daedalus Incident is a hard book to describe. When I’m asked, I usually just say that I’m crashing an 18th century Royal Navy frigate into 22nd century Mars. That’s usually enough for eyes to go wide, smiles to appear and follow-up questions to be asked, and that’s all I can ask. But it’s not time-travel. It’s…a genre-blender.When you think about it, steampunk itself is a genre-blender: a combination of alternate history and science fiction. More recently, it’s been inflected with the occasional horror and fantasy tropes. I can think of at least two books off the top of my head that could be described as steampunk-urban-fantasy-horror…which seems cumbersome, I admit.

But then, if I were to list genre descriptions for my own book, I think I’d end up with alternate-history-alchemypunk-space-opera crossed with hard/military SF…and you may un-cross your eyes as soon as you’re able after reading that. It sounds like a lot to get one’s head around.

I think the problem with SF/F novels that purport to combine various genres is that they can easily fall into setting traps. Relying solely on the interesting dissonance of the combined setting elements – without really building it out into a full setting, let alone a full story – results in a very shallow work that quickly wears out its welcome once the novelty wanes.

When you take a sailing ship and put it in space, but don’t give it the depth of setting, plot and character to make it really work, you end up with, say, Treasure Planet. What I wanted to do was to give the idea that depth. I wanted to know why and how my sailing ships voyaged between worlds…and that led, I hope, to a setting that doesn’t just blend genres, but defies them except in the broadest terms.

That, I think, is the real promise of genre blending. It’s not just shuffling the deck, picking four cards, and ending up with faerie-werewolf-romance-cyberpunk. It’s creating something from the tried-and-true elements of SF/F that’s refreshingly new, well thought-out, and ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.

And someday, just as steampunk has become its own subgenre, maybe these new blends become accepted parts of the SF/F canon and become an inspiration to the next generation of writers. That’s ambitious, and maybe my book isn’t the one to break that ground, but an author can dream, right?

So maybe there’s a book out there that’s a strange brew of genres. But check it out…it may be something altogether different and new.


[Thanks, Michael, for stopping by!]