Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rather Tenuous Name-dropping

So here's my very slight connection to the former President Ford. Well, first I grew up in West Michigan, so there was a highway named for him and a museum. I remember going on a school field trip to the museum. It was not the most exciting museum for whatever age I was--far too young to appreciate it.

But then a slightly different connection. As my profile says, some years ago I was hired to write a history of Camp Roger. The current organization began in 1941 when a group of business men bought it to create a summer children's camp, but prior to that it was a choir camp of the episcopal church in Grand Rapids. It originally had only a director, who was also the choir director, but in the Depression the director felt overwhelmed with the work, and the church appointed a board of governors to assist him. And who was on this first board? Gerald R. Ford. Senior (the president's adopted father). So that was one of the little tidbits I uncovered in my research. I really wanted to discover that the president himself had been a camper, and we didn't have complete lists of every camper...but I'm afraid it was unlikely. The choir director kept clippings about and correspondance with his former campers and would surely have had that on Gerald Ford if that had been the case. But the archives at St. Mark's church had no such clippings.

Nevertheless, just based on the bit we'd learned about Ford Sr.'s connection with the camp, the directors contacted the former president a few years ago, and he agreed to be an honorary member of the capital campaign board (which the book had been a part of the groundwork for the capital campaign). So potential donors received letters from a group of people that included President Gerald R. Ford. I always thought that was fun :)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A couple memorable stories from Strange Horizons

I've been a pretty faithful reader of Strange Horizons this past year. Every Monday I check out the new content--a new story, often a poem, an article or essay, and the first of the week's reviews. Then each of the next few days I go back to read the next review that's posted (and often to finish the story, which I seldom take the time to read all the way through on Monday). I don't always like their stories--some I don't even finish--but when I like them...wow. While there's more prestige in getting published in one of the established print magazines like F&SF, I'd be equally proud to have a story appear in Strange Horizons.

Since this week there's no new issue, I decided to put links to what I consider the most memorable stories of the past year. I'm not saying they're the best (I'd have to reread them all to make such a claim), but these are the ones I remember best and would definitely be in the running for best of the year if I was creating an anthology. If I remember right, both stories received good-but-not-great reviews from Tangent, but recommended or highly recommended from Lois Tilton of Internet Review of Science Fiction (speaking of which, I should I add a link to them over on my sidebar--I'll do that soon).

So here they are: Draco Campestris by Sarah Monette. If you demand a straight-forward plot, this may not be for you, but I found the museum world with all its politics and interactions wonderfully evocative.

And The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons by David J. Schwartz. Hauntingly beautiful prose without turning purple. It's what some of my stories dream of becoming when they grow up. It's the story of a poet who creates the weather of each of the seasons by crafting different types of poetry.

So, if you get a chance this week (if you, like I, will be going through Strange Horizons withdrawal), check them out, and feel free to mention any other stories from there that really stand out for you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Which Science Fiction Writer are you?
(Courtesy of Vanderworld)

I am:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Perhaps the most admired writing talent in the science fiction field.


Which science fiction writer are you?

I'm pleased with that result. It definitely fits where I'd like to be considered within the field. More or less--obviously not all my views and interests will be identical to hers. I think the main thing that put me in her camp was the answer to which branch of science interests me most. I put sociology and anthropology. Biology and genetics also interests me, and when I retook the test with that selected (and a couple others that I'd been debating between switched), I got Samuel Delany, and switching that answer to psychology and neurology brought back James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow storm

Well, we'd planned to go up into the mountains today and spend a couple nights in a cabin, but with the large snow storm moving through, we're stuck here in our house. I love snow, and every last bit we get in the winter will help us next summer when it's so dry...but the timing really isn't ideal. We're not able to get a refund for our cabin, though they are sending us a gift certificate if we can find a chance to get out there sometime before May. I think we've had 6 inches of snow so far, and they predict up to a couple feet--in Estes where the cabin is, they might be getting up to 3 feet. Hmmm, I wonder if it'll actually stay long enough for me to go find a good place to cross country ski...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Training my son early...

...to like fantasy. My son is 2 (and a couple months), but he already enjoys books that are much longer than you'd expect for his age. Not surprising when you consider how much both his parents like to read. So I'm getting him hooked on fantasy et al as well as I can. For a while, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was one of his favorite books--it also remains one of my favorite children's books, so that was good. I haven't read that to him in a while, but he does enjoy The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book, both of which I'd consider speculative fiction of a sort (and also among my favorites). But with his last selection from the library, he's gone fully into the genre. He found a Narnia book. OK, he's not quite to the point I can read him the actual Narnia books, but there was a picture book of Prince Caspian that really does go through the entire plot of the book (what does that say about the book?) in a standard picture book length. So now he can say "Narnia" and has even been saying "To battle!" at random times. Hmmm, is that a good thing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Resurrecting a dead language

I just read this article on MSN about resurrecting a lost language from Virginian Indians. Pretty cool stuff, and I'm sure the story could have been expanded into a even more engaging and in-depth feature. I'm always fascinated with language in general. Probably me biggest regret of my current life is that I have little chance to use my Spanish, and I'd love to add some lesser known languages to those I speak or understand. In college I taught myself a bit of Catalan, and got to use that in Spain, though valenciano in Denia is a bit different from official Catalan. I briefly tried teaching myself Welsh, I think it was--I don't even remember, so clearly I didn't get far. Old English would be fun too, and I've memorized bits at times (Faeder ure, thu the aert on heofonum as well as lines of Beowulf that I forget now), but not much. And though I'd love to understand Tolkien's languages and have toyed around with books and websites, I never reached that level of fanaticism.

Some time ago I was interested in an organization that promoted endangered languages, and one of the interesting ideas they promoted was comparing linguistic diversity to biological diversity. It's a topic well worth a far more detailed exploration than I'm ready to give this morning on my blog...but as it combines my interest in language with my interest in preserving the environment, it's easy to how it would appeal to me. It always saddens me to see the people of a distinct ethnic group that no longer know the language their grandparents spoke...but by that token I guess I ought to go out and learn Frisian.

Ah, here's the organization, after following links from other sites: Terralingua. Check it out!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas tree and all that jive

I just wanted to use the word jive. I don't know when I've used that last. According to my dictionary, it comes from jibe, which comes from the Dutch gijben to shift over (a sail), to gasp for air. What do I take from this? Nothing right now (except that like me it comes from a Dutch background). But I'll store it away, and someday it might bubble up in a story and surprise me.

Anyway, I'd been meaning to write a bit about the tree we put up last week. We bought an artificial one. A younger me would have been appalled. We always bought real trees when I was growing up, and I loved the smell of a fresh tree in the house. I also worked for a couple summers as well as occasional after-school and weekend shifts trimming and loading and selling Christmas trees. Even now, while looking at my artificial tree, my hand longs to grab a machete--I can't say I enjoyed the job as a whole, but there was something enjoyable about it in small doses. Maybe I should plant a pine tree (or Colorado spruce, since I'm in Colorado!) and get myself a machete and trim it through the years ahead.

So why'd we get an artificial tree? Partly convenience--we're not surrounded by tree farms here like I was in Michigan. Partly the feeling that cutting down a tree to put it in my house for a few weeks seems like a bad environmental idead. Is it ultimately? I'm not sure. If I'm not buying as many trees, what happens to those acres of tree farms? Are the trees left to keep growing? And are new trees planted in the same numbers? If not, what happens to that land, and is the new use ultimately worse for the environment? I don't know. I'm sure it's an interesting thing to explore, and probably someone already has.

But regardless, we have an artificial tree, and it's a nice one. Our son likes it--we didn't have a tree at all last year because we'd moved 6 months earlier, so all our decorations and such were in a storage unit, and we were already preparing to move a few weeks after Christmas. So this year we get to actually make our house look a bit Christmas-y, though nothing like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

So I hope you enjoy the holiday season--both those you celebrate and those you don't. Peace out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Steam Magnate

Well, I've been researching a variety of publishers, partly because I haven't heard back from the one that has Darkness (not even responding to my follow-up queries) and partly for future things. So one I've been intrigued by ever since I learned that they're publishing Zoran Zivkovic, is Aio. A few weeks ago, one of their authors, Dana Copithorne, recently guest blogged for a week on Jeff VanderMeer's blog, so I decided to check out her book The Steam Magnate.

I finished it last night, and I thought I'd jot down a couple reactions. Does the fact that I'm interested in submitting to the publisher make me more charitable to it than I otherwise would be? It's possible, but I think I can be fair.

First, the book itself as a physical object. It's wonderful. On their webiste, Aio talks of producing books that will be treasured for more than just the story they tell, and they succeed. Before I picked this up, I wasn't sure exactly how much that would affect me--a book is a book, right? But the quality of the paper and just the feel of the book...it's like it has weight that your typical paperbacks don't. I liked to just carry it around even when I wasn't going to have the chance to read it. The book also contains illustrations painted by the author, which adds a nice touch.

So what about the story? Two things jump out at me. First, it's beautifully told. The author clearly cares about language, isn't just throwing the words at the reader to get a meaning across. And the words themselves are working to evoke an entire, strange world that's unlike any other fantasy I've read. There's a poetic quality to the way we see Broken Glass City especially. The northern territories and the coast also rise from the page, but it's the city itself that stands out.

Which really gets into the second thing that drew me in--the setting and society. It's completely unlike typical speculative fiction--neither pseudo-medieval nor futuristic high-tech. Not steam punk, though steam power is important to the world. Certainly not ancient. In many ways it feels like a modern world, with telephones and trains (though no guns or planes), a high awareness of museums and works of art and nightclubs. But in other ways there's an archaic, mythic quality to it. This will unsettle some readers wanting to understand the world better, but it ends up being fun*. That's probably the strongest part of it--its uniqueness. The setting itself and also the story told--of a strange magic or contracts and electrical power, of a member of an insulated community within the Broken Glass City and his desire to step beyond expectations but not beyond his people--it's all unlike anything I've read. There's no hint of cliched storylines or characters or anything.

It's not perfect. I was a bit disappointed in the ending--some of it felt rushed with how it all came to a head (though since I just finished it last night, I may decide eventually that I liked how it worked). And I would have liked to see more of Jado and his ethnically insular community. There's also a hint of the characters re-enacting an ancient myth of another ethnic group, but this doesn't seem fully played out...though I believe a sequel is coming, which could develop that more.

In all, it's a very good book for those looking for something different.

And now I've read it, what are my thoughts about whether Aio will be interested in my novel? I am definitely still interested in submitting it. It's not a big press, but I'd be very proud to have my book produced so beautifully. Mine is--superficially at least--much closer to standard fantasy. It's still a ways off from that, but closer. When I started it (5 years ago now!), I consciously told myself I'd accept many of the trappings of fantasy, but anytime something felt like it was nearing a cliche, I'd veer away, sometimes actively subverting them. Still, the story does involve swords and battles, even if that's not the primary focus. So we shall see what happens. I'm currently tweaking the manuscript a bit, but I hope to send it out to them (or someone else, if I become convinced it'd do better elsewhere) fairly soon.

So wish me luck! And while you're at it, go check out The Steam Magnate.

*(and I'd love to see a map--but I just love maps in general, whether of the real world or any other)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tangent Online and Shantytown Anomaly

A few weeks ago, I had a story, "Treasure from the God," appear in The Sword Review. It's now been reviewed by Tangent Online. I was quite nervous how it would be received there, since it's the first story of mine they've reviewed, and they're quite willing to tell when they didn't like a story. So it was a relief to see that the review is really quite positive. (I'm actually looking into doing some reviewing for Tangent myself in the future, though of course I won't be able to review anything that has accepted my work, even for a different issue.)

I'm also able today to announce a new acceptance. My extremely short (100 words exactly) flash fiction, "The Bomb of Eden" will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Shantytown Anomaly. It's a print magazine of mostly poetry, though they accept flash fiction, and the issue this will appear in will apparently focus on fiction. The story is a playful twisting of the Adam and Eve story involving an atomic bomb.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Long time away

Not that I've really been away, just haven't felt the strong push to blog, I guess. I was sick for part of this time, and my son has been quite sick (and isn't completely better), so that could be part of it. We'll see if I get back into it now that December's here.

So what's been going on? Some things I'll probably save for future blog entries. But I recently had an editorial, Arnie's Eyes, published in The Sword Review. I wrote about a special needs camper I helped care for a number of years ago at Camp Roger and how he influences the way I see speculative fiction. And I see now, looking at Camp Roger's website, that they have a full-time, year-round position opening that would include teambuilding and ropes. How tempting that would be if my life was completely different! No, I don't really want a full-time job--it'd make it so much more difficult to find writing time, and I'd miss out on so many things with my son. But if I was to go for a non-writing job, it would be something like that. The nearest camps here are an hour away in good roads, which doesn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility, but it's mountain driving, so when the roads are bad...let's just say I wouldn't want to do it. CSU here does have a very good ropes program that I may do work for at some point, but for now it just makes most sense for me to stay home with my son.

I didn't mean to blog about that stuff at all (except the editorial). But there you go. I guess I'll save other news for another time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More about scifaiku
A couple months ago, I had a couple blog entries about scifaiku (Part 1 and Part 2). I just received my copy of the November Scifaikuest, so I just thought I'd mention that briefly. Like the CD, this one has two of my poems. Reading it in print is very different, in some ways better but in some ways not. I think ideal would be to have a CD with the poems printed in a little booklet accompanying the CD, but I don't know how feasible that is.

The magazine has four sections, the first being a smattering of individual haiku, much like the first track on Kuanta. There are some excellent poems and some that on a first read anyway seemed more cute. The next section is a bunch of haiku by the featured poet--or rather scifaijin--Charles Lucien. It's a strong section showing a variety of approaches to haiku, many of them with a Halloween-type horror tone to them. The third section is a review of a collection of haiku by John J. Dunphy called Stellar Possibilities. The collection is published by the same publisher as the magazine, which might raise some questions, but as there really aren't many publishers out there publishing collections of minimalist speculative fiction poetry, it's hard to fault them. The collection sounds interesting--the background of most of the poems is that aliens have come to Earth on vacation, all explored through haiku and haibun. It's a concept that could end up cheesy, but if it avoids that (and the review indicates it does) then it could be really cool.

The final section is a series of other forms of minimalist poetry, including two of the haibun from Dunphy's collection. It's an intriguing form that I'd like to explore more. Overall, it's an enjoyable issue in what for me is an under-explored sub-sub-genre.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New story at The Sword Review

My story "Treasure from the God" is now up at The Sword Review. It's a fun story (of course--I find something fun in all my stories, otherwise I never would have written it) that started from a discussion with other writers where we all decided to write a story with a deity who is far from all-powerful. The result was this story about a beggar who receives a stunning gift from the city's patron god...only to learn that the gift comes at a price, a price paid by his friends. The picture at the left is the cover for the entire issue, not just my story.

I should have an essay coming out soon at the same magazine--I just this morning received the proofs to check, and with the story there was about a week between checking the proofs and the story going up. I'll post when that's up.

Also, The Sword Review has a contest going on right now and so far low numbers of contributors. It does have a reading fee (which I usually avoid), but I like this magazine and what it does, so I'm willing to support it by adding a story (if I can just get it polished in time--I finished the rough draft this weekend, but it will need some tweaking to get rid of inconsistencies).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Special deal on books

All right, most of you who read this already know that I'm a big fan of Jeff VanderMeer's writing, ever since I discovered the original Prime edition of his City of Saints and Madmen in my local library. And maybe some of you still haven't taken the time to go read some of his writing, and that's OK (though of course I think if you're writing fantasy, you owe it to yourself to at least be a bit familiar with the kinds of things he does in and around the edges of the genre). Anyway, right now he has a special deal for a book translated from Finnish that he really likes along with his collection of short fiction, Secret Life. $25 for two books, one signed and personalized by the author. Celina, I'll let you tell us how much that affects the value of a book. And then some other paraphrenalia to go with it. Here's the link to his blog entry.

So if you haven't been convinced yet by all my talk about his writing, give this collection a shot--the title story alone is incredibly memorable, and there are other excellent stories too. Including two stories that weren't in the edition I had read from the library, so it looks like I'll be getting a copy myself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Imagery

This came up a bit at one of the crit groups I'm part of--how do you handle scenery, and where's the line between a well realized scene and over-description? A couple other things play into my thinking on this. First, I'm reading a book for a review site I do occasional reviews for. It's a good book overall. The characters are mostly well-drawn, their interactions believeable, but it might as well take place on a blank stage, perhaps with a couple token trees or a token desk littered with papers. There have been a few scenes that were better visualized, but most of the book has been this way. And on the other end of the spectrum, in the forums at Trabuco Road Magazine, the editor keeps talking about wanting a strong sense of place in the stories, and that many of the stories he's receiving don't have that.

So, I'm not saying that everything must be minutely described, but I'd be much more in the Trabuco Road camp than the camp of this book I'm reading. I commonly get comments from those who critique my work about the setting seeming to be a character itself, about the well-imagined scenes. Rarely have I ever had someone tell me the description was too much (and the only person I can think who made such a comment...well, I know we have very different tastes in what we read). I guess for me the key is to make note of a few defining objects that the character notes. I'm almost always deeply into a 3rd person POV, so the character isn't going to measure the distance from a tree trunk to a fallen leaf (as one writer complained about overly descriptive writers), but s/he might notice the shadows where a limb twists off the main trunk and the dark stain on the ground where the grass looks poisoned. Another character might see the same place but notice the way the leaves shiver in the sunlight, reflecting light all around and the rich red of the soil at her feet. While another notices the moss and lichen and shelves of fungus eating into the tree trunk, the vines twisting up to the highest branches as if to pull them down.

This way, you get a few defining objects to both create the scene in readers' minds and also say something about the characters themselves (even if it only operates on a subconscious level for the readers). I'm not saying those are perfect examples, by the way, just what jumped to mind.

Of course, this is all coming from the person who decided to challenge himself and write a novel narrated by a blind man (in a society founded by the deaf). Given what I've said about liking well realized settings, you can see how difficult that must have been for me. But it taught me well not to ignore the other senses as ways of creating a scene (and saying something about a character).

Anyway, go out and write some fiercely imagined stories--lushly described but without the description slowing the story down. That's the challenge.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Obligatory Go-Vote-Now post

Well, I voted this morning, even though I had to take care of my son at the same time. He didn't much like sitting in the stroller while I was in the booth, but he liked the 'I Voted!' sticker they gave him afterward. So if you haven't voted yet and you're a US citizen, go do so. (Mark, that includes you--I don't imagine there are a lot of polling places in Kiev, but find one!)

OK, civic duty dispensed with. How to turn this around and tie it in with writing? Well, I've already written one deeply cynical story where an election is chosen by a violent game in the streets. Originally that was going to be something where the elected leaders actually made decisions by going out and playing a game, but the extra step of remove lets it comment a bit more on elected democracy itself (plus I'd half forgotten the original idea when I sat down and began writing). I'm sure there are many ways to take elections in general and some of the heated debates of this election in particular and use them as springboards for writing.

Speaking of which, I need to get some writing done this afternoon, so that's all. Happy election day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nemo 7 now open

I've been fascinated by the concept of this series of anthologies ever since I first heard of it. Nemonymous aims to make both the submission process and the reading process blind, so submissions are sent anonymously (from email addresses that give no clue as to who's actually submitting) and within the anthology itself, the stories aren't bylined, until the following issue, when it's revealed who wrote which stories. Volume 7 won't be quite as blind--the editor will learn this time who the authors are after the initial blind read narrows it down to 50 stories, and then half of the stories will be bylined within the issue. So it will interesting to see if (and how) that affects both the stories accepted and how people read the resulting mix.

The earlier issues are available for only the cost of postage, I believe--at least they were when I got the first five issues a couple months ago. I haven't read as many of the stories as I'd hoped to have read by now, but what I've read is good. Wait, you say, five? Then how's this new one number 7? Well, Nemo 6 you make yourself--go out and buy a blank notebook, preferably the same size as the issues, put Nemo 6 on the cover, and then either enjoy the blank stories or write your own in it...but if you write your own, at some level you need to be unaware of who's writing them. Make your head spin? Good. I love it!

Just one note if you do wish to submit, D F Lewis, the editor, has said a couple places online that he seriously doubts anyone who hasn't read a copy will make it to the final 50...so much so that he considered putting that as a requirement right in the guidelines. So I'd recommend getting a copy ($2 postage per issue if you live in the US, and even less I'm sure in the UK--no idea what it'd be for Canada or Australia or elsewhere, but surely not much). Or at the very least, poke around the website to get a feel for Nemonymous's history and D F Lewis's preferences, then go out and buy yourself Nemo 6.

And like I said, I think it's a fascinating concept, this blind submission and reading, something well worth supporting once the new issue is out.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Two more stories accepted!

One of these is already about a week old, but Blogger has been ridiculously slow every time I've tried to come here and post a new entry or even view other people's blogs (so if I'm behind reading your blog, I apologize).

So, I guess it was 5 days ago I learned that a flash piece called "Poisoned Brush," which I'd written last spring, is accepted for publication from Fictitious Force. It's a print magazine, which is always exciting. The story had been tied up for months at a different publication, so I was pleased with a much quicker response on my second submission attempt. It began with a writing prompt to write something around the idea of flower magic. Flower magic? That doesn't sound like anything I'd write. But I twisted the idea a bit and came out with a fun

And moments ago I received an email that "The Underground School of Lower Education" has been accepted by OG"s Speculative Fiction. This was the story that had originally been written for Jupiter World Press's Higher Education Themed Anthology and was scheduled to be released the week JWP decided to shut down. So I'm very pleased to have found a new home for it. They've just released their second issue, and I'll post it here when I know what issue this story will be in.

One last thing--poking around the website for All Possible Worlds the other day, I noticed my name listed on their website as one of the authors appearing in their premier issue--pretty cool to see that. Right at the top of the list too! (since it's alphebetical...) That should be coming out next March.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Story up at Mytholog


I don't think I ever even got a chance to mention that this story had been accepted here, and it's already up in their autumn issue. It had been tentatively accepted just over a month ago. I reworked it slightly and had just received word a week or so ago that it was definitely going to be appearing in this issue. And I had no idea it would be illustrated until I opened up the new issue. I like the picture. The story is called "Turtle Car in the Mountains." It's quite short, so check it out!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Micro-loans and the Nobel Peace Prize

I just read this article about the Nobel Peace Prize winner. I find that inspiring. My wife's minor was in third world development, so it's something that I like to pay attention to. Just to think that a $200 loan (on the honor system!) is enough to benefit people so drastically...it's pretty incredible. It seems like so much of the opportunities we have to help people in other countries turn out to be good for a few individuals but not for the society at large or otherwise have drawbacks to how they're implemented. And maybe this does too, but it seems to be a good program.

In related stuff, I just learned that the Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado spent time in Africa doing development work (as in 'third world development', not as in 'realty developers'--it involved HIV prevention and treatment). I think that speaks very well for him. I'd already been put off by the racist-tinged ads of his opponent, so I probably would have voted for him anyway, but it's a nice thing to learn.

And if you're on the ball and already trying to plan Christmas presents (which I've seen a couple people mention that they are), find one of the organizations that allow you to buy a water buffalo or a goat or drought resistant seeds to be used where they're most needed. Then give the certificate as a gift instead. We did that last year instead of buying stuff that people don't really need anyway. It's definitely a worthwhile program.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Go Tigers!

Who'd have thought last spring that I'd be saying that this time of year? We've taught our (not quite 2-year-old) son to sing "Take me out to the ballgame." Here's how it goes, with what I sing in black and what he sings in red:

Take me out to the ballgame,
Take me out to the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and [some] cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
For it's root, root, root for the Tiiii-gerrrrs,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, free strikes you're out,
At the old bald-game!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Scifaiku part 2


So here's the cover shown on the web for the special edition CD ("Kuanta"). It doesn't strike me as all the haiku-ish. And it's also not the cover that's on the one I received, which is of a more clothed woman in a sci-fi looking outfit with a sci-fi-ish, transparent shield in one hand and a typically fantasy-looking sword in the other. No castle either, more of a desert landscape, or perhaps rocky, barren hills. Not terribly haiku-ish either, but oh well.

The important thing is the poems inside.

Track 1 is the scifaiku, including the two I wrote. Ethereal, atmospheric music swells and fades in the background as Jeffrey Breslauer reads them. I enjoy the very different experience compared to reading poetry...but my initial reaction was that I wished I had them printed out as well. At times the music overpowers his voice just enough to make it challenging to catch the words. But then I think about the idea behind haiku in general, to push you beyond the words and images themselves, to trip into a sort of meditative state. And then perhaps the music, the voice, the lack of words to read supports that. And now that I've listened a handful of times, I'm catching more of the words, and there are beautiful haiku in there--I think the more you listen, the more the different pieces all work together.

I haven't listened to the other tracks as often as the first so far. The second is a series of joined haiku by a single poet. It's backed by similarly atmospheric music, and at one point the voice goes too quiet even for multiple listens, but in all I enjoy it. It'll definitely be worth some more listens.

The third is horrorku with eerie, Halloween-ish music. This is the one I've seen especially praised elsewhere, though it doesn't do a lot me. Horror's never been my favorite though. There seems to be a range from cheesy to intriguing.

Four is the tanka (a 5-line poem similar to haiku). The music is a little less ambient than on the first two tracks with some wind sounds added. It's a nice shift. By this time I find I'm paying less attention to the individual words and simply letting the general sense and flow affect me.

Five is haibun, which is a combination of a haiku with a bit of prose in juxtaposition. This seems a fascinating form, ripe for a lot of interesting connections. The background music is more understated here, which works well. Two of the three haibun struck me as a good use of the form.

And that's it. It's an enjoyable experiment. I look forward to getting my November print issue with a couple more of my poems to see how that experience compares. Until then, I will continue listening to this occasionally--not as background while I write, but perhaps for other things. Reading. Excercise. Bopping around online.
Scifaiku part 1

Last week I received my copy of the special edition CD of Scifaikuest with a couple of my poems in it. I know haiku don't have the highest esteem among some people, probably largely because they seem so easy and elementary school teachers have their students write them. How hard can they be if eight-year-olds get them plastered on the schoolroom wall?

But a haiku that's well written is much more than the 5-7-5 syllable format they teach to kids. The syllable count is really only a rough guide, not set in stone. What's essential, though, is the spirit of the haiku. (In the same way, a sonnet is more than just the the 14 lines of iambic pentameter in one of several rhyme schemes--there's a certain movement within the poem that makes it a sonnet) In poetry classes in college we would sometimes talk about tripping points, those phrases or lines that send you, not into the poem or out of the poem, but beyond it. Some poems will have multiple tripping points. I remember some of Annie Dillard's early poems seemed to at least try for a tripping point every line. Arnold's "Dover Beach" and Eliot's "The Hollow Men" each have several to go with the different sections. Others have one, but it sends readers sailing, and all the lines and words work together to keep them tripping along that same line. Coleridge's "Kublai Khan" does this.

So what's this have to do with haiku? I'd say that a haiku is that tripping point condensed. It sets a scene at the beginning full of resonant images, and the final line trips the reader beyond the poem, beyond the images into contemplating something deeper, something that can't quite be grasped in words. It's like a koan, those cryptic Zen statements meant to be outside analysis, on the edges of reason.

OK, I hadn't meant to spend all that time defining and defending haiku. Different types of tripping points work for different people, and I have no problem with someone not particularly caring for the haiku form. But it's important to recognize that that's purely a personal preference, nothing more. A lot of the dismissal of haiku seems to respond only the elementary school form, not the work of accomplished poets, and it fails to realize what's going on. So before getting into the CD itself, I felt I had to establish that there's more going on in these poems than some people might think. And they're worth examining.

So I guess I'll have to make this a 2-part post and get to the CD next.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jupiter World Press closing

Well, I guess this one won't be a brag like I'd hoped. I still intend to get to those things soon though.

I just learned last night that JWP is closing down at the end of the month. So my story that was scheduled to be released tomorrow won't come out (and of course neither will the one in October). At least it didn't come out last week and lose its original rights just before the website closes down. I've been brainstorming what good markets might be for those two stories. The one was written specifically for JWP's higher education themed anthology, but I hope to find a good fit for it anyway. I'd also been working on a story set in the same world as the one that was supposed to come out in October, but again, I should be able to find someplace else for it.

But what this means for "Canyon of Babel" is that if you want to download and read it (and of course I'd love for many people to do so, and not just because of the royalties--I write so that people can read my stories!), you have to download it by September 30. After that, it will be gone permanently.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Story accepted at All Possible Worlds

I've had a fun flash fiction piece accepted now by All Possible Worlds. The story is called "Sleep Magic" and it's about a sleep shaman and the war to end the world. The best part is, it's in print! The magazine is a new one, with their first issue appearing in March. I don't know yet if this story will be in the premier issue or later. The contract says it could appear anytime within a year after its acceptance.

I have another "provisional acceptance" (which seems to mean a rewrite request, but my emails with the editor seem to indicate that the rewrite will be accepted) that I'll announce soon.

I also received my copy of the special edition Scifaikuest CD that includes two of my scifaiku. So I'll blog on that shortly. The CD is an interesting experiment.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Biking

So I live in one of most bike-friendly cities in the US. Easy-to-access trails go all across our city, including a new one that just went in this summer that goes within a couple blocks of our house. I've used the trails a lot for running (pushing the jogging stroller), but I hadn't biked during the whole time we've lived here. In fact, I don't think I'd biked since my son was born, back when we lived in Michigan (and Dearborn is not a bike-friendly city).

But I love biking. So this past week I finally pulled my bike from the little space where I keep the lawnmower and other yard tools to see what kind of work it might need. Pumped up the tires, WD-40ed the chain and gears. It's an old bike. I bought it used when I was about 10. But my cousin owned a bike shop, and he sold me a very high-quality touring bike. So it's served me well. In college it was stolen (because of a faulty bike chain) and recovered months later in the basement of a different dorm, minus a seat.

And yesterday morning, before anyone else was up, I took it for a ride. It still needs some work. I can shift between most gears, but if I go down into gears 1-5, I can't shift back up to 6-10 without getting off the bike and manually moving the chain over. But I seldom use those lower gears anyway, and wow, it was so good to be able to bike again. And with the new trail, I could easily get to the opposite side of the city and back. Now we just need a trailer for my son, and we can explore much farther than we can running.

Oh, and this is what I discovered for myself right now. I'm in pretty good shape from running. The running I do is somewhat of a muscular workout, but mostly it's a cardiovascular workout. Biking is the opposite. I could have gone much farther and faster without bothering my heart or lungs much...but my legs were dead.

So, go biking!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shadow People

Check out this article on MSNBC. By stimulating a certain part of the brain, scientists can induce someone to believe there's a shadow person just behind them. It's really just a projection of their own body slightly dislocated by their minds. But it leads to interesting new questions and things to explore about schizophrenics (not multiple personality disorder, which is what many people seem to think schizophrenia is), and stories of alien abduction or control and even simple (or not so simple) paranoia.

I think it could also be an interesting premise for a story. Many ways to take that--that there really are these shadow people following all of us around, but most of us don't recognize it could be one fun direction to take. It could be a guardian angel, or something more malevolent. Yeah, I just wanted to use the word 'malevolent.'

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another Strange Horizon Review

Since I wrote a few entries about these reviews before, I just wanted to mention yesterday's review. Ouch. But very fun. In case you're too lazy to follow the link and read the review, it's for a book called Skinks: A Pet Store Odyssey. The review, though, is not a typical review at all but a story itself (about a reviewer who couldn't come up with anything good to say about a book). Part of me feels bad for the author...but another part of me thinks I might actually look for the book now just because of how oddball it sounds. I wouldn't buy it, but if I found it in the library, I'd probably give it a quick read.

Anyway, the review itself is worth a good laugh. And apparently the silliness of it all was intentional to celebrate their one-year anniversay of reviews. Today's review was back to normal style.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Delay

I just learned that my next story with Jupiter World Press has been delayed to Sept 27 instead of the 19th as originally scheduled. I know, it's hard to be patient and wait, and so many of you have been eagerly awaiting this...but you'll just have to wait a bit. I've placed pictures of the cover for both "Canyon of Babel" and the new story, "The Underground School of Lower Education," to the right. I now have a release date for "The Bridge of Lok-Altor"--October 25--but I'm still waiting for the cover. Until then, if you haven't purchased "Canyon of Babel," feel free to check it out!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Force them to re-examine..."

At various times I've posted links here to articles on MSNBC or NY Times, especially scientific articles. I never enjoyed science classes much, but I love learning about new discoveries, especially related to stars, animals and plants, and history. For example, there was recently an article (at both those sites) about a new discovery that Neanderthals may have survived much later than previously thought. Evidence in Gibraltar seems to point to a small surviving group of Neanderthals thousands of years after they'd apparently gone extinct elsewhere. Things like that are fascinating to me.

But...

To all those writing these articles, please retire the phrase "...force them to re-examine..." Astronomy articles seem especially guilty of this, probably because we're constantly learning new things. But please, you're writers--find a new way to say it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Speculative--what's that mean?

Different people seem to be using this word in different ways. For some, it's essentially a way to encompass the entire field of fantastic (or non-mimetic as I've seen some call it) literature. Any story that posits a world that is not compatible with today's world, whether that's fantasy or sci-fi, horror or surreal, slipstream, interstitial or cross-genre. I'd say that most often this is how I use it.

Other times, I see it used for the more literary stories within the genre, and I do admit that one reason I choose the word is because of this association. It's not limited to the cross-genre (etc.) stories that push against genre boundaries, though that's included, but also those that reside firmly within genre conventions...and yet don't settle for poor writing or stereotypical characters or plotlines. Deep genre, I've seen one group of writers try to call this--I'm not convinced that the phrase is entirely useful, but I check their blog now and then, and I like at least that they're examining this.

But other times, it seems like people mean something more explicit, something where the speculation is foregrounded in some way. My initial feeling is that many of those using it this way are the Hard SF fans who want another way to separate their favorite types of stories from others in the field, but that may not explain them all. I had a (clearly fantasy though not stereotypical by any means) story rejected from one magazine because the editor felt it wasn't speculative enough. He liked the story, had some nice praise for the characters, but the ending didn't seem speculative to him. This baffled me. I found the story as a whole very speculative, not just a story that could happen in our world transplanted, but genuinely a part of the speculative setting. And the speculation was woven throughout, but always subtly, never foregrounded to take away from the story itself.

The first issue of that magazine is now out (it wasn't at the time I submitted), and the two stories are more sci-fi than fantasy, so maybe that's his preference. I think it is more common in some SF to foreground the speculation more, and in fantasy it tends to be more metaphorical and incorporated at a deeper level. So maybe that's this editor's preference. But that's not the direction I want the use of the word to go, because that will just build up the walls within the genre once again.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Alternate History

For those of you who like alternate histories, like if the south had won the Civil War (War of Northern Agression ;) ) or if Hitler had won WWII...check out this alternate history at Newsweek: An Alternate 9/11 History. Is some of it a bit far-fetched, wishful thinking? Yeah. But even so, I can't help wish the US leadership had followed this road instead. Now, the most blindly loyal supporters could counter with a much darker alternate history with Saddam and Bin Laden joining forces and in possession of WMDs...but we know in hindsight that such a thing was always unlikely whereas in hindsight this one looks at least possible.

If only...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Worldbuilding

The other day a conversation among some fantasy writers centered on the question of world building. It can be fascinating to develop things for your invented worlds. But it can be dangerous too.

I was skimming a site I'd bookmarked a while ago, Great Science Fiction & Fantasy Works. It has reviews of various authors whom the site creator considers worthy of reading and studying. The more literary examples within the genre. He has a pretty extended introduction to the site, and I just wanted to mention what he has to say about world building:

There is in this worldmaking business a clear example of the oft-cited observation that circumstances generate their opposites. In years not yet beyond living memory, it was a commonplace of science-fiction and fantasy criticism to assail writers for careless and thus inept worldmaking: suns of impossible color for their size in the sky, cities off in the middle of mountain ranges with no conceivable economic basis for existence, that sort of thing. It was, and apparently remains, an article of faith with science-fiction and fantasy authors that readers care very much about such matters and will recoil in horror from any such inconsistencies. (To me, barring comically gross ineptitude, such flaws are invisible, but I must--as with the joy of drinking tea--take it on faith by report that the phenomenon exists; I suspect, however, that few of the carpers, if such there truly be, are of voting age.) In consequence, a new generation of science-fiction and fantasy writers undertook never, ever to tell a tale set in a world for which they had not worked out exactly the exchange rates of seventeen various currencies, the tidal height at the equator and both tropics, the number and names of all spices added to stews (by season), the geomorphology of five separate continents (if Doctor Watson wishes to distinguish between separate continents and whatever the alternative kind may be, let us not differ), and the sexual habits of uncountably many species of domestic animal. That, in itself, was harmless: idle hands do the devil's work and it kept such folk off the streets at night.
And then a bit later:
What a successful world-maker must accomplish is to fully imagine the world of the tale, then simply tell that tale in that world. Really, that's it: tell that tale in that world. Where the tale, of its own accord, intersects some aspect of that world that differs from our own, there are two basic possibilities: the difference matters to the tale, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, pass on: leave it that the heroine heard the haunting notes of a traditional kabba played mournfully on a drall. Does it matter a rat's ass what a kabba or a drall is? No? Then don't kill trees telling me about them. If it does, then--and then only--in the fullness of time reveal to me these things. Do you suppose Zane Grey devotes pages to explaining how an exploding compound of niter propels a blob of lead out of a short metal tube at so many and so many yards a second? OK, you spent a lot of time thinking through your private Brave New World: get over it.
I love it. I almost want to post the paragraph between these two as well, since it's well worth reading (and is far enough into the essay that I can't just link directly to it), but instead I'll just recommend you go read the essay as well. And then after you finish his introduction, check out some of the authors he recommends. I can't say I agree with all of it, but it definitely includes many of the writers I most respect. (The one problem with the site is that many of the authors don't have the discussion about them posted yet, just their name, a star rating, and the recommended books by them--I'm not even sure if the site is still being updated or if it's simply a relic itself.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The world as knowable

In these reviews on Strange Horizons that I mentioned yesterday, it's come up a few days and most explicitly in today's review that a basic tenet of SF is that the world is knowable :
the aesthetic of science fiction, which maintains that the world can (and should) be figured out.
I had never seen this as central to SF. An aspect of some SF writings, certainly, but basic to the entire idea? This has me thinking, and I probably won't finish pondering it for some time. So what I say here is by no means final. Certainly this idea can't be applied to Gene Wolfe's writing...and maybe that's why he's achieved such critical success without as much popular success. And maybe it's why he's more likely to be associated with Borges than Asimov.

So I'm wondering about my own writing. Signs and Wonders of the Genies and the Deaf is SF (though as I wrote it, it never felt like typical SF). I'm going through final edits of the manuscript now, so it's pretty fresh in my mind. Does it posit a knowable universe? There are many unexplained mysteries that aren't even answered by the end of the book (some of that was laziness on my part in the initial writing--I put in clues for where I thought the book would go and then changed directions without removing that clue). But some of it is certainly intentional. And the book essentially ends with 'I don't know.' He's made contact, but he doesn't know what that will mean. Despite the contact, the aliens remain, ultimately, unknowable.

My first reaction was that maybe that explains why I tend to prefer works on the more fantastic side of speculative fiction. But then the review goes on to identify a basic part of fantasy as the need of the characters to understand, not the world but the story, their role within the world. I'll have to think about this. But I think that does apply to the fantasy novel I've finished as well as the one I'm working on now. Does it apply to Genies though? And if this is also opposed to the unknowability of slipstream, what does that say about what I write?

Hmmm. Interesting things to ponder.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reviews at Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons this week is running a series of reviews on various collections of speculative fiction that don't quite lie within the genre. Slipstream, interstitial, fabulist, whatever you want to call it. I'm very interested in this type of story, since they do what I like of pushing against the walls that others try to put up around speculative fiction, especially the completely false one between literary and spec fic. [Side note, in case you haven't seen other things I've written about this--I don't consider 'literary' to be its own separate category of fiction, but something that any genre can enter, including the mainstream genre. It's just that people seem to assume that it resides solely within mainstream, which is rather limiting, both for the term literary and for the various other genres.]

Anyway, today's review was of Paraspheres, which I've heard good things about. And this review agrees that the stories within it are excellent. But the commentary of the editors sounds completely idiotic. Granted, I'm saying that at a remove, based only on what this reviewer is reporting (and clearly the reviewer disliked it as much as I do, so the way she reports it affects my reactions). But this is something I've seen before, so I'm reacting more to the general idea than to the specific commentary I haven't read. Basically, the editors of this book are trying so hard to get 'literary' readers to accept these stories as worthy of their notice, that they denigrate the entire fields of speculative fiction. Rather than telling people to look again at the speculative fields because here are some of the exciting things happening within, they tell people how awful speculative fiction is and how these speculative works aren't really part of the genre, but are Literary.

It's ridiculous, small-minded and regressive.

Anyway, the reviews of the other collections make them sound worth picking up as well, and I'll proabably try to find a copy of this one too--I'll just ignore the commentary (except to see if this reviewer was fair to it).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New story accepted!

I've just learned this morning that Noneuclidan Café has accepted my story "The Sports Fable Press." 'Noneuclidean Café?' you say. What in the world is that? Well, according to the website, the idea came from the strange, twisting streets of Greenwich Village where the perfectly rectangular grid of streets in the rest of Manhattan become jumbled. One intersection is of West 4th and West 12th Streets, which by rights ought to be parallel (and elsewhere are). So, parallel lines, intersecting--we need noneuclidean geometry for that. Euclidean geometry does a good job of explaining the things we see, but when we explore the world closely, we realize that it's not a perfect explanation--we have to reexamine the premises of it to understand some ways the universe works. By metaphor, the journal is a place to go back and question our premises.

Anyway, the story is a sports story set in Metro Detroit. I started writing it years ago when I was living in West Michigan, knowing that I might be moving to Detroit in a few months but not sure (depending on where my wife was accepted for medical school). I abandoned the story, not sure where to take it and only recently returned to it with a new idea (after I'd once again moved away from Detroit). It's gone through a couple more revisions since then, and it should be available next spring. The story comes from my dislike of corporate advertising on everything--clothing, sports stadiums, sporting events...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

One link and some updates

One writer I admire is David James Duncan. I hope to reread The Brothers K soon to see how well I like a second time (sometimes books that I loved once don't quite stand up to a second reading), and I'd also recommend his other books. A few months ago I found an article he'd written about writing. I shared it with a few writer friends, but I decided to post it here now as well. Essentially, he spends the first part of the essay telling you why you shouldn't commit yourself to writing--or even enjoying--literature. It's a dangerous habit. Here's just one quote to show his humorous writing style:
"My very best, most financially useful writing advice to those who show extra spirit, the way you're doing, is this: If you want a sane work life, economic viability, happy family, home, flat abs, nice ass, reliable car, health insurance, and teeth, DON'T TRY TO WRITE BOOKS AT ALL! STOP NOW!"

That often ends the conversation, or at least moves it on to happier topics, such as viruses or STDs.
For those who ignore that advice, he goes on to explain the overarching guiding principle for his own writing. Fun. That sounds sort of shallow at first...but if you read the essay, you'll see that he's using a deeper, more mystical sense of the word fun. He's a very funny writer, but not a Dave Barry type (I love Dave Barry's writing too, but there's much greater depther to Duncan's).

Anyway, here's the link: Duncan's essay.

Just a couple quick updates on earlier posts. I've read Justina Robson's Living Next Door to the God of Love and was very disappointed. I finished it, thinking that maybe the ending would justify everything else, but no. After how much I'd loved Natural History, this was a big disappointment.

Our book group is reading Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees. It's good...but a bit disappointing as well. I'm not sure why VanderMeer considers it his best, better than If on a winter's night a traveler or Invisible Cities (which I have to place as two of my favorite books by any author). I'm looking forward to hearing what the others in the group have to say about the book, since none of them have read any of Calvino's other books.

And I did write a poem the other day. I should keep trying to write a new poem fairly often to get used to poetic style again. I checked out some other ezines with poetry afterward, and I'm not sure it really fits the types of things they've published in the past, so we'll see if anything becomes of it. I basically took the central image of the story "Canyon of Babel" that's at Jupiter World Press right now and condensed it into a poem.

That's all for now. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poetry

I've always loved poetry. Maybe always is too strong a word, but for years now at least I've enjoyed poetry, both reading and writing it. Some of the most powerful things I've ever read were poems. Poems that lament war, that challenge us to look at ourselves more carefully, that celebrate spring or an ugly river in England. My first publication was a poem, about the small mountain that stood over the city in Spain where I spent a semester in college.

But I've written very little poetry recently. I have a few out on submission now, but they're mostly older poems. I wrote one speculative poem a couple weeks ago, and I'm pleased with that. And I wrote a handful of scifaiku last winter, 4 of which will appear in Scifaikuest. But I want to get a better feel for speculative poetry in general. I tried recently to get a hold of Alchemy of Stars through our library. It's a collection of all the Rhysling winners for the past 25 years. But no library in the state of Colorado had a copy. I might have to go out and buy one. I also read Jeff VanderMeer's collection--the only thing of his that I haven't been completely thrilled by, though it wasn't bad by any means...just not great. And I read the poems that appear on Strange Horizons and other ezines. But I guess even all those things hasn't been enough to inspire reams of poetry from me.

If you have any recommendations of poetry, I'd love to hear them. And otherwise, here's hoping my muse drinks a bit of poetic ink. In fact, I've just had an idea--we'll see what happens.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Out of practice

I've been back now for a couple days from Yuma, but I haven't added any new entries here. I think I've just gotten out of practice of the concept of blogging. It really is a weird creature. I've written a fair amount over the past few weeks, and done a bunch of careful editing, being rather blunt and cruel with myself. So it's been a productive writing time, but it's just been so far removed from blogging. Now that I'm back home, I find myself easily distracted from writing. Things need to be done around the house, for one thing, things I didn't have to worry about in the house apartment they provided us in Yuma. Also, I suddenly have good internet access again, so I want to catch up on all different discussion boards and blogs of others that I've missed for the past month. And one click leads to another, a mention of an other or a story sends me to Amazon and to my library's website, and pretty soon I've written nothing in an hour. Even as I wrote those last couple sentences, I remembered another forum I hadn't checked for a little while and had to see if anyone had posted things in answer to my posts. In general, I'm pretty good about not getting addicted to this type of thing, not wasting too much time posting meaningless messages or reading those of others, but every once in a while, I think my brain just needs to do something different.

Goal now--finish the chapter I'm working on.

Procrastination. That should have been the personality trait I shared on the questionaire I filled out for a JWP promotional chat session last night.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Back in town for a few days here

Well, this last stretch out in Yuma was a bit longer, and my son was definitely getting antsy to be back home. But now we've been home for a few days, and it's been really nice. We go back out tomorrow for one last week out there. I've been thinking a bit more about what's so strange about being there. Some of it is definitely the lack of trees. There are plenty of trees in town, but so little in the surrounding areas. The fields where I grew up were almost always lined with trees, and there'd often be a little area that was too wet or too something else and so it was just left wooded. Nothing like that in Yuma. Check out the google maps satellite/map hybrid of it: Yuma, CO . All those circles of irrigated fields are so striking from the satellite.

Anyway, I'm getting good writing done--more of some things than I'd expected, less of others than I'd hoped. Here's to getting a lot done this coming week. Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Heading back out to eastern Colorado

We're leaving this evening for another stretch out in eastern Colorado. I said I'd mention a few things that had intrigued me when we were out there this last time. I grew up in a very small town--fewer than a thousand people, surrounded by orchards, corn- and wheat-farmland, cow pastures and muck, which is very rich soil that had once been marshland--good for growing carrots and onions and such. But rural eastern Colorado is very different. Growing up we had other small towns nearby and a large city within about a 30-minute drive. That part of Colorado has scattered small towns like the one we're in (which has about 3000 inhabitants), but they feel farther apart, and there's no decent-sized city within probably an hour and a half. The farming is all grains and cows, not the variety I remember. It's just a very different feel to what I grew up with.

The other thing that struck me were the side roads crossing the two-lane highway we were on. There's something so evocative of these little dirt roads with names like County Road YY or CR 32 that would struggle to accept a car going in each direction, heading off over the horizon with no buildings in sight. Now in some places, the horizon is so far off, that would be really impressive, but as flat as the country is, often there are long, gentle hills that make the roads disappear sooner than you'd expect. Still, I get curious as we drive by, something I've always felt with out-of-the-way roads I've never gone down: Who drives on them? Surely there are people who know those roads as well as I know the roads I grew up on. Who are they? What is life like for them? The writer in me--both the fiction writer and the journalist--gets intrigued, imagining these people. I want to explore the roads, find the houses and people, see what's over the next hill and the one beyond that.

Of course, I'd want that anywhere. We drove up into the foothills yesterday to a state park and went hiking, and I wonder what life is like for those who live there in the small community near the park entrance. It's not as far from Fort Collins, and many of the houses are likely only vacation homes, but for those who live there year round it must also be a source of wonderful and wild stories.

Have fun chasing your own stories while I'm gone!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Canyon of Babel now live!
I wasn't able to update this out in eastern Colorado, but now we're back for a couple days. While we were gone, Canyon of Babel went live. So check it out!

Jupiter World Press also had a contest announced on its website for naming the Higher Education themed anthology that will be released next month. So if you want a free copy of the anthology (which includes another of my stories) come up with a good name and submit it!

I've read some stories by Lindsey Duncan, who has the other story just released, so I'd certainly recommend checking that one out as well (after you buy and read mine, of course).

Like every place, eastern Colorado has its weird and fascinating things, and I'll make an entry on some of that next time.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gone for August

I'm leaving tomorrow for four weeks. My wife has a four-week rotation at a rural hospital and clinic in eastern Colorado, so we'll be staying out there. It should be a very relaxing time for her--I just hope my son will handle the change well and that I can get a lot of writing done. I'm taking hard copies of a couple big projects that I hope to do a final revision of.

I'll have internet access, but it'll be dial-up, and I won't want to tie up the phone line all day. So I'll certainly check in on the forums I'm part of everyday and check my blog and update it occasionally. Otherwise, I'm hoping that the lack of internet will allow me to write without distraction (rather than simply turning to the games on my wife's laptop for those distractions). Hoping to get a few stories finished and polished and hopefully the next 3 chapters or so of my new novel, tentatively called The Silk Betrayal. I'm not sure I really like that title, but I'll stick with it for now, and when everything's done, I'll see if anything else comes to mind.

"Canyon of Babel" is being released this Wednesday, so I hope to update my blog then with the picture of the cover.

This year, my wife's second year of residency, this rural month is her big away rotation. Next year, it's a winter month at one of the ski resorts in the mountains, setting broken bones. Hmmm, I think I'll like that.

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Story Accepted!

OK, most people reading this will already know this from one of the forums I'm a member of, but I have a story accepted by The Sword Review to appear in their bonus section. I don't know any more about when it'll appear. Being in the bonus section means that people will have to join their forum to read it, but anyone who's ever submitted to them is already part of their forum, and it's free to join. It means it won't be in the print version of the magazine, which is too bad--my mom really wants something she can hold in her hands instead of just reading on a screen (or better yet, something she can order for the library where she works). She'll get her chance sometime.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Meeting a famous author

Sorry, I'm going to seem a bit, ummm, starstruck I guess with this entry. I have met authors before back in college, but I wasn't actually getting anywhere with my own writing at the time, so this just feels different. And very cool. I belong to this book club--a group of us guys get together about once a month or so at a local microbrewery and discuss the book we chose over beers. We take turns with who selects the next book, though we bring a variety for people to choose from. One of the guys mentions often that his high school teacher was Connie Willis, and every time it's his turn he brings one of her books. The others in the group never go for it. This last time he said that if we chose her book (Dooms Day Book) he'd try to get her to come join us. It was a close one, and I think those of us pulling for her fudged the voting a little bit so that we chose her book.

And now she's coming to join us tonight. Just a casual, hang out with the author and talk about her book time, nothing formal. It'll probably be a little strange discussing it with her there--I get the impression that some of the others in the group weren't terribly impressed with the book--they were the ones voting for some nonfiction book instead (and it didn't even look like a good nonfiction book to me). But I think it'll be fun. And I'll get to mention that my first story is coming out from JWP on August 2. I just saw that on our authors forum.

It's also my turn to bring suggestions for our next book...but given the reaction they have to the SF, I'm choosing mostly mainstream books this time: Cloud Atlas by Callanan (not to be confused with Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, which I just finished reading), Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon, Hollow Ground, Codex, Baron in the Trees and True Notebooks. If anyone has any major plugs for any of these (or warnings that they're not good), let me know soon and I'll leave it behind. My backpack will be plenty heavy even with one fewer book. True Notebooks is probably the one I least want chosen, but I feel obligated to bring one non-fiction. Codex strikes me as possibly over-hyped, trying to cash in on Da Vinci Code's popularity. Oh, and Hollow Ground takes place in Tennessee--why would anyone be interested in Tennesee (Celina)? Curious Incident and Codex are probably the fastest reads, which is a strong selling point for some people in the group.

Well, all of them have been on my list of books to read for a while. I only wish I might have time to read them all before they're due at the library (the only one I own is Baron in the Trees). Next time it's my turn, I'll bring all speculative fiction and see what happens.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Things to learn from a 21-month-old

Today my son was asking for "More peace." It's a wish/prayer/desire I share with him. OK, he was actually saying, "More piece, more cheese, more piece, more cheese," but close enough. I just thought it was an apt phrase today. Hearing the awful news from the Mideast just makes me feel so helpless. And rather than quoting William Carlos Williams' "These" again (though it's one of my favorite poems--achingly beautiful), I thought I'd just quote my son. More peace. Please.

He also discovered the word sitar today. But it was because I'd brought my guitar down to the living room and was playing it for him and he discovered that he could sit on the guitar case. Since 'tar is how he says guitar, he was actually saying "Sit 'tar."

PS While "These" applies thematically whenever there's some kind of violence that approaches war, it really only fits in the winter time. Just didn't want some WCW expert to come along and think I was unaware of that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Justina Robson

A little over a year ago, I saw Justina Robson's book Natural History in the new books section of my local library. The cover looked cool:
so I grabbed it...and it was a great book. I think what I really liked about it was the presentation of humans and post-humans. It's not uncommon, of course, for an SF story to wonder what we as humans will do to ourselves as technology allows us to do all kinds of things. What Robson does, though, is present them so believably, not so much with what they've done as with how that affects the many different micro-societies that develop. What tensions would arise if human consciousnesses that grew up in a virtual world are then implanted in machines once the human identity has come of age? What interactions would there be between these [humans? machines?] and those with more human-like bodies but still enhanced in different ways? And what about those who've refused to evolve in these ways? It leads to a complex society that despite the utterly weird, advanced scientific things going on is completely believable.

It should satisfy hard SF fans (though the snobbish tendencies of some make it hard to predict) but it should also appeal to fantasy fans and definitely to those who cross back and forth, sneaking from ghetto to ghetto and beyond. That's a big accomplishment. I do remember being a bit disappointed with the ending, but really the plot itself wasn't so much the joy of the book as the society she explored as the plot progressed, so it took little away from the book.

I started her first book, Silver Screen, but didn't actually finish it. It seemed to address some similar questions of technology and what it means to be human...but I just couldn't get into it. She has a new one out in the US, just reviewed at Strange Horizons. Sounds interesting, though quite different. I'll probably check it out when I get a chance.

Why bring this up? Between Natural History and the new one, she had a sequel, Living Next Door to the God of Love. Cool cover again:

So far it's quite good, though very different from the earlier one. It has pretty bad reviews on Amazon, but that of course doesn't mean I won't like it. Though everything appears to have a scientific underpinning, this one seems a bit more fantastic, which doesn't bother me, but might influence some of the negative reviews. We shall see if it lives up to the first, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend Natural History, even to those who don't usually like SF.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A little story time

Inspired by me thinking about that avant gaming, but also tied in with one of my stories.

Back in the hippy days of the early 70s there was the New Games movement where people would organize these events of new games that were meant to convey 3 ideas: Play Hard, Play Fair, Nobody Hurt. The idea was to move away from the culture that builds up around traditional sports and let people play (both competitively and not) without all that baggage. To just play and enjoy it. It's the origin of Ultimate Frisbee, a great game, but admittedly in some circles it has taken on all the similar baggage to traditional sports such that people lose that sense of free play. I think I mentioned this before, but I'll repeat if so--I think traditional sports have the potential for free play too, it's just that it can be more difficult with certain groups because people have preconceived notions about it.

Anyway, one of the central pieces of these New Games events was the Earth ball, a giant cage ball that by itself tends to bring out the child in people. They'd stop at a gas station to fill up the ball and then roll it to the park and collect a couple dozen people on the way, just from curiosity. At the first event, for the final game of the day, the legend goes, the organizers put the ball in the middle of a marked-off field and told the players/participants, "There are two types of people. Those who want the earth to go this way [pointing to the right] and those who want the earth to go that way [left]."

And that was it. No choosing up teams. No elaborate offsides rules. Not even individual roles for different team members. The people jumped in and started pushing. The ball went this way and that, but when the ball would near an end line, people would suddenly switch sides. They were having so much fun, they didn't want the game to end. It didn't matter who would win, only that the game continued.

It's a pretty cool image. Competition that isn't overblown. Fun that doesn't require a lot of rules (or laws). But...some of you will recognize that image from a very different context. I wrote a story called "The Game" that uses the idea...but twisted into a much darker tale where the movement of the ball actually dictates the politics of a strange city.

I had no grand plan for why I'm bringing this up. Just the whole avant gaming thing got me thinking about it. The story, by the way, is in limbo. A mag has had it for several months--about 4, which is beyond their stated response time. I'd love to have them accept it, but I'd rather they just reject it now than string me along for another few months. I think it'd be a great fit for the new GUD magazine. But if I don't hear from...the magazine (I won't mention it's name here), then I'll just submit something else that should fit. I've yet to hear a story of someone querying to get the response, "Oh yeah, we've decided to accept it." It's always, "Oh, we're a bit behind, but since you asked, here's a rejection." So I'll wait a bit to query. But not too much longer.

Oh, and speaking of magazines going beyond their stated response time, I finally got my form rejection from Cicada in the mail over the weekend. I already had planned where I'd send it next, so I just wanted them to get with it and send it back. Though I do feel that if a magazine goes beyond their stated response time, they owe the writer more than just a form rejection, especially if they're a snail mail only mag.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Writing

I had a really good writing day. I just finished the rough draft for my shared world story. At 5,800 words, it's longer than I expected it would be. Longer than I tend to write. And more importantly, I'm quite pleased with it. A week ago I had basically no idea what I'd be writing. Oh, I had a very basic idea for the character, and I think I'd decided on the locale. But beyond that, nothing. I started writing with the first scene in my head and nothing else. Then on Monday, with less than 1k words written, I was out running and the rest of the story came to me. I didn't really get to working more on it until Tuesday, and even then it was going slowly. I was also working on rewrites for my Jupiter story on higher education. And yesterday I had my dentist appointment, so writing didn't go so well either. But I probably did more than 3k words of it today. That's huge in my typical writing schedule.

So I'll probably reread it tomorrow to catch any glaring errors, and then post it for the other writers to read and give me feedback. It'd be sort of ironic if I was the first to post my story, since just last week I posted something about how every time a new post appeared in that thread I was afraid someone had posted their story.

And what else to work on? My to do list has a couple revisions on it, working on my website, and chapter 5 of my current novel in progress. I should add, "Naming my current novel in progress," to that list. Everything I've tried sounds cheesy so far. I really ought to get my website up and running before my first story comes out at JWP, but that seems to end up even below revising on my priorities. Maybe I'll try to work a bit on that tonight.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Avant Gaming

I think I discovered this site through a link on Miss Snark's blog. Avant Game. The basic idea is to turn public spaces into places to play games, not your established traditional games so much as games that can include everyone. I love the idea. Go down to the Cruel 2 B Kind game they played in New York. That sounds awesome. It certainly shares something with a lot of the games we used in camp and in adventure education and even that I tried to incorporate in my PE classes. Now I'm not opposed to traditional games--I love most any for playing (less so for watching). The advantage of a non-traditional game, like the games in the New Games book I have, is that it's easier to just sink into the experience of the game itself without all the pressures that have built up around traditional games with some people having more experience and fierce competition that overcomes the fun. I'm also not opposed to competition itself. I love a good competition. It's when the competitiveness turns the game into something ugly, when people forget that they're playing a game.

I don't know how much of these games really tie in with this avant gaming, but I can see how they'd be related at least. In ways it reminds me of geocaching, something I'd love to do. I think the problem with geocaching, the thing that makes it not quite fit into the same category is the expense--you have to be able to afford a GPS, and I haven't been able to justify the expense. The best gaming should require as little special equipment as possible (one of many reasons I have no interest in golf).

The first link I found, by the way, was to a post about reshelving 1984 in bookstores as history instead of fiction. And then the idea was to leave behind a official-looking placard from the Ministry of Reshelving in the fiction section to direct people to where it should be, or alternately to simply put a placard in the history section saying that that section was out of stock of 1984, but additional copies could be found in fiction. I could see the actual reshelving as annoying workers quite a bit, but the second option is innocent fun, and the potential for a nation-wide game with no losers or victims.

Definitely something I'll be paying attention to in the future. Happy gaming, all!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The racist streak in immigration debates

I've avoided most of the immigration debating. So much of it seems just a lot of posturing and saying the right words to satisfy their own supporters or play on emotions and knee-jerk reactions to influence others to support them. It isn't really a debate so much as a shouting match. People aren't trying to understand the other side in order to show them they're wrong--they want to bully their own views on others. OK, same can be said for most political discussion.

Anyway, I got this link from my father-in-law that brings up some good points, and really reveals the ridiculous racist arguments that are dragged up by those proposing a tough (aka heartless, cruel, mean-spirited) stance on immigration:

Immigration and the Curse of the Black Legend

Now, that doesn't completely address the question of the illegality of people sneaking over the border. I'm sympathetic with the idea that we shouldn't be rewarding law-breaking. Clearly something needs to be done with the system. I just don't believe that turning ourselves into a police state, surrounded by iron walls and all that is really the answer. Is the guest worker program? It might be part of it. Combining that with tightening the security...maybe. Welcoming people from all over, including those whose ancestors, language and culture existed here before our own did? Yeah. Definitely. And recognizing the truth of the history of our country, the immigrant experience of even the earliest colonizers, the people who were here before the English settlers.

And most importantly, absolutely not allowing any of this racist rhetoric to have any influence on our country, our government, our world.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup is over...

...which should mean more time to pay attention to writing. I have at least one short story I want to write in the next couple weeks, and maybe a few as well as continuing work on my new novel. I need a name for it yet...hmmm. Also, I have a bunch of revising work coming up, so it's probably good that the World Cup has ended.

But before it does, one last blog on World Cup.

You gotta blame Zidane. France was the better team. I didn't see all of the first half--I turned it on just in time to see Italy celebrating their goal. It sounds like, and from what I saw of the first half, Italy was better then. But in the second half France was clearly better, dominating far more than Italy had in the first half. And into overtime as well, Italy just looked tired. And then Zidane lets the Italian player goad him into a ridiculous attack, getting himself kicked out of the game, his last international game. It's just sad right now to watch the French go up to collect their second-place medals without Zidane among them. What difference would it have made? Who knows. Even into overtime, they were getting good chances--they even had a great chance with only 10 players out there. With 11 might they have scored then? Maybe. He's great at PKs, but would he have changed that outcome? France only missed one, so who knows which kicker he would have replaced. But it was just a disappointing end to his career. Classless, the anouncers were saying, and whatever the failings of the US announcers, I have to agree with that. I'm curious to learn what the Italian player must have been saying, but no matter how tasteless or classless it might have been, it shouldn't get a top-level player to react that way.

It's just a sad end to the Cup. OK, time to replay in my mind all the great soccer I've seen in the past month. Hopefully that will wash this bad taste from my mouth.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I haven't been online much the past couple days. My older brother came out to visit. I'd known he was coming in early July, but I hadn't looked at exactly when for a little while, and was surprised on Monday to realize I had to go pick him up on Wednesday. We had a lot of fun though, even if our house didn't have a lot of the snacks and other food it would have been nice to have here. We had gone hiking on the fourth up in the Poudre Canyon with my sister- and brother-in-law. And then yesterday my brother and I went with my son again on another trail up the canyon. So now my son can say various combinations of fun, hiking, up, mountain, dada, and uncle John. Very cute, if I'm allowed to speak unbiasedly.

Now I just have to get back into writing mode, including the shared world story, which is only a vague idea right now, or even a mish mash of contradictory ideas. I just wanted to use the word mish mash.