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March 31, 2005

Riding The Range Once More

There's not much more depressing than what happened last night: spending an hour taking a 600 word short-short (that was already pretty tight) and cutting it down to a 500 word short-short because the target market has an absolute ceiling of 500 words for flash fiction, and then, then accidentally overwriting it with the original 600 word version. Sigh.

But aside from that little setback, I finally have everything back out to market. Fifteen short stories and five poems, all looking for homes. Ah. A moment of satisfaction.

Now, you know what to do now, don't you? That's right. Have a drink. Take a walk. Then go write something else.

Update: Ah, dammit. ASIM sent me a one day rejection. Guess the moment's over.

The Yolen Report

So yesterday I met Jane Yolen. She's one of the keynote speakers at the Children's Literature Conference on campus. Our library director is a big supporter of the conference, and reportedly the only thing he wanted was to have a little reception for the speakers in the rare book room (unfortunately, in a cruel twist he missed it due to impending back surgery). So yesterday she and Gary Soto, the other speaker, came by and drank tea, ate cookies, signed books, and chatted with us for about an hour. She easily held her claim to "nicest person in SF". Just lovely.

March 30, 2005

Three In Three

Of course, not all instant reinforcement is so positive. Got three (three! oh, my heart!) rejections in one, a trio of flash stories shot down by Lone Star Stories about three hours after I sent them in. More or less.

March 29, 2005

The Quick Dead

Emailed two poems to Star*line when I got home from work. All part of my intent to get things back out there, make 'em earn their keep and all that.

Went to dinner with Lisa, then swung by Belk's (Lisa needs a new purse) and the music place, where her guitars were being restrung.

Came home, opened up email to see a reply. Passed on one, bought the other. So, "Eleven Answers to Smart-Alec Tourists in Zombietown" will appear in their "Death, Destruction & Exploitation" issue. That's September/October, the traditional time of year for such activities.

I guess it does pay to keep stuff out there. And frankly, it's not all that often the universe gives you such clear, immediate reinforcement. Was there a recent change in management that hadn't been publicized?

March 28, 2005

Pictures, Blurbs, Nominees

Something that just made me smile: Tom Gauld's Hunter and Painter. Also, Noisy Alphabet. From "1000 Things to Like About Comics," spotted over at Neil Gaiman's place, natch.

Also, I've blurbed the Slush God, although he has not yet raised me on high. I don't hold that against him, of course.

Finally, I've been spared having to buy a ticket to Glasgow. Phew (no, seriously, phew. farking expensive, that). But congratulations to those who did make the Hugo and Campbell ballots!

March 27, 2005

Happy Easter

"Remember, kids, Jesus died for your sins." "Yeah, I know, it's great!” “No, no no, it's bad, it's bad!” “No, it's bad! It's very bad! It's terrible!...look, whatever you want. Just keep giving me these chocolate eggs."
--Eddie Izzard, Dress to Kill

March 26, 2005

The Next Robot Chicken

Through the miracle of the Intarweb, I learn, according to Disinformation, that:

. . . .Jon Hansen is in discussions with Cartoon Network to bring ‘Tales of Plush Cthulhu’ to your digital television screen. This may include a Santa Cthulhu special. . . .
To which I say, I am? I mean, I am! Yes, it's all true, every word. Well, it could be. I talk to my television all the time. Always figured one of these days it would start talking back.

March 25, 2005

At Last, A Place To Use That Head In A Jar

71 day blue form from Realms and withdrew a story from a minor online market, where it has languished for well over a year. Hm. Got a few stories that I need to decide new fates for. Something to think about over the weekend, I s'pose. Plus, of course, write something new.

I have started a story for John Scalzi's SF clichés issue of the new magazine Subterranean*, with the simple tactic of packing in as many clichés as possible. just to see what happens. Interestingly enuf, it appears to be writing itself. I seem to be approaching some sort of Golden Age critical mass, what with these old clichés bouncing off each other. Whether it'll be worth reading is another problem, but I've several months to figure that out. Besides, I'm having fun.

* - A new pro market! Wonder if it'll ever open up to general submissions, or stay invite only? I also wonder if this is a new trend on the part of publishers, starting a magazine to provide advertising for their books. Wildside did that, after all, with H. P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror and many others. Now if we can only get other book publishers to do that, short fiction might be saved**.

** - And while I'm asking, I'd also like a pony. Preferably a unicorn.

Memelicious

It's a silly idea, so I'll use a silly band. Whee!

Choose a band/artist and answer in song TITLES by that band: They Might Be Giants

Are you female or male: "Particle Man"

Describe yourself: "Hypnotist of Ladies"

How do some people feel about you: "Subliminal"

How do you feel about yourself: "I Should Be Allowed To Think"

Describe an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend: "She Thinks She's Edith Head"

Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend: "She's an Angel"

Describe where you want to be: "Destination Moon"

Describe what you want to be: "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die"

Describe how you live: "I'm Def"

Describe how you love: "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love"

Share a few words of wisdom: "Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head"

And So The Mysterious Condition Recedes

I seem to have recovered, more or less. At any rate, I'm movin', groovin', and (best of all) not fallin' over. It is a good Friday. My sincere thanks to everyone who sent their best, wished me a speedy recovery, or even just thought, "boy, I'm glad that's not me."

And just to cut down on any future surprises, it might be time to get a physical.

Reading: Just finished Outside the Dog Museum. While it came too late to change my life, it most certainly did not disappoint. I think I even liked it better than Land of Laughs. However: does the Vienna Board of Tourism have Jonathan Carroll on their payroll? That city seems to come up in every single one of his books.

March 23, 2005

Still A No

244 day email response from Tales of the Unanticipated. Very apologetic, seems that several subs had been misfiled resulting in unexpected delays, etc. A very nice rejection letter and I am most appreciative, but it is still a no. Which is all I expect, after all: yes or no.

Reading..of the Future!: A little different this time, as it's what's on my pile to be read next. What's so special about these books? Well, I saw them mentioned in passing on folks' journals, and thought they looked interesting enough to get hold of. So I did, using my librarily powers. And they all showed up, uh, today. So I'm going to have to prioritize 'em by due date.

  1. Outside the Dog Museum, by Jonathan Carroll. Advocated by Tim in his recent interview at Lenox Avenue. Due back April 13th.

  2. Hanging Out with the Dream King: Conversations with Neil Gaiman and his Collaborators, by Joseph McCabe. Jason mentioned this after his thesis defense and made it sound interesting. Due back April 19th.

  3. Science Fiction in the Real World, by Norman Spinrad. Actually, no one particularly mentioned this title. But Norman's been under discussion at both Matt's & David's journals, and from the discussions there I found a reference to his essay, "Emperor of Everything." A little library research revealed I could find it here, and there you go. Due April 20th.

  4. Which Lie Did I Tell?, by William Goldman. Bit of cheat on my part, as I was the one who mentioned it. But only because Jenn mentioned she was reading his previous book. Due back April 23rd.
So, good thing I came back today, I guess.

Updates

I spent much of Monday and parts of Tuesday in a coma. Lisa suggested it was like I had gone to an opium den for a couple days, only without the hookahs and oriental carpets and Johnny Depp lazily staring up at the ceiling as he tried to figure out how to catch Jack the Ripper. Or something like that. No hallucinations, however, just lots and lots of dreamless unconsciousness.

Today I am well enough to go back to work, which is a Classic mixed blessing. It's not so bad for the most part; if I sit, I'm fine, and the horizon's no longer shifting no matter how I move my head. But standing is still no fun, mainly because I'm fatigued. Weary. Really really tired.

There are those of you out there who have done things on a grand scale, and those of you who've done things on a small scale but still important to you. I salute each and every one of you, even if I can't be bothered to track down linkage (remember, I'm very tired).

March 21, 2005

Diagnosis

Back from the doctor. Current thinking is that it's Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. Just my luck, it wouldn't have a cool name like Labyrinthitis.

Have read many books this weekend, because as it turns out, sitting quietly and not moving your head around severely limits your options. Go figure. At any rate, books read include:

  • Robert Parker's new Spenser novel, Cold Service - it's a Spenser novel. What else is there to say?

  • Terry Jones's Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror - a series of columns written by the former Python for The Guardian about the Iraq War.

  • The Collected Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1-3 - if you're unfamiliar with the Ultimate concept, it basically means take the original character and update it for the now. Lets them dump some concepts, such as the Secret Wars cosmic origin of Venom, but also results in newer, weirder ideas, such as Gwen Stacy effectively becoming Peter's adopted sister. So wrong on so many different levels.

  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell - a very interesting read about how basically thinking too much about something can just get in the way of doing it.

  • No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 days, by Chris Baty - by the founder of NaNoWriMo. A very amusing demonstration of Anne Lamott's advice, "Don't be afraid to write a shitty first draft," and it ties in very interestingly to Blink.

  • What Do You Say To A Naked Elf? by Cheryl Sterling - what I'm currently reading. Of all things, it's a romance novel aimed at romance readers converted to Legolas worship thanks to the LoTR movies. Fantasy pervades the book, but it is a bit thin in places. For example, our heroine's love interest is an elf named Charlie who's a lawyer. Let me repeat that: An elf...named Charlie...who's a lawyer. Yes, yes. I know.
  • Futurama episodes.

March 19, 2005

One Of Hitchcock's Stronger Films, But Not For Me

I seem to have a touch of vertigo. Feel off-balance and a little dizzy, and I do not like it when I have to move my head suddenly. No, not one bit. But until it clears up, at least I can save money on booze.

March 17, 2005

Not A Clock

Those nuts at the Golden Palace Casino have done it again. They've bought things like ad space on people's cleavage and stomachs, as well as things like a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the likeness of the Virgin Mary and a possessed walking stick.

Now they've bought themselves a time machine. Unfortunately, it appears to be broken. Aw, what a shame.

March 15, 2005

Jane Yolen

Much to my surprise, I learned today that Jane Yolen is coming to town in a couple weeks. She'll be one of the key note speakers at the Children’s Literature Conference on campus, and will also be swinging by the library for a reception-slash-book signing. Very cool.

Reading: After finishing Vera's dreamy Lords of Rainbow, I'm now working on Mike Jasper's collection Gunning for the Buddha. Big fun.

March 11, 2005

As Others See Us

So, I'm reading a book on writing: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Art, by Janet Burroway (6th edition, 2003). Michael Bishop used it as the text when he taught creative writing at LaGrange, so I got curious to see it. Used my librarily powers to get a copy through interlibrary loan, and started looking at it the other night. Well, flipping through it (I have a tendency to blow right past the writing exercises in those things). It's...uh, interesting. Not the advice on writing itself, which seems sound, but the additional material on genre. That's especially illuminating.

Here, allow me to quote (at length) from Appendix A: "Kinds of Fiction."

Science fiction, the most recently developed and still developing genre, similarly deals with ambivalence about technology, the near-miraculous accomplishments of the human race through science, the dangers to human feeling, soul, and environment. The surge in popularity of fantasy fiction can be probably be attributed to nostalgia for a time even more free of technological accomplishment and threat, since fantasy employs a medieval setting and solves problems through magic, whereas science fiction is set in the future and solves problems through intelligence and technology.
Hm. Not too bad. She doesn't think SF is dead, which is always a pleasant change of pace from what you usually hear. She calls it "developing," which seems a more accurate way to look at it. Of course, development means change and something changing means it's no longer what it was and could by some be then considered to be "dead," etc and forever amen. [And I see that Ben expresses the same opinion, only at greater length and much more verve] Always remember, it's a form of literature, not your Aunt Bernice.

The descriptions are pretty superficial, however. She's obviously not heard of alternate history, for instance. And while medievalesque settings are quite common in fantasy, that does not mean it's required. Still, these are quick one-sentence descriptions, not a complete detailing of the various flavors of speculative fiction.

But then she continues:

It is relevant that science fiction usually deals with some problem that can be seen to have a counterpoint in the contemporary culture (space travel, international or interplanetary intrigue, mechanical replacement of body parts, genetic manipulation), whereas the plots of fantasies tend to deal with obsolete or archaic traumas--wicked overlords, demon interlopers, and so forth. Because of this contemporary concern, science fiction seems capable at this point in history of a deployment much more varied and original than other genres, and more often engages the attention of writers (and filmmakers) with literary intentions and ambitions. Among such writers are Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick, and Doris Lessing.
Oh, I see. So....science fiction's primary function is to be used as a metaphor? A metaphor to solely relate to current events? And since fantasy fiction can never be used that way, it has limited use?

Uh huh. Yeah, that holds up, unless you think about it. But we get off light. She's even worse with romance fiction.

Readers of the romance genre, for example, will expect a plucky-but-down-on-her-luck heroine, a handsome and mysterious hero with some dark secret (usually a dark-haired woman) in his background, a large house, some woods (through which the heroine will at some point flee in scanty clothing), and eventual happy ending with the heroine in the hero's arms. These elements can be seen in embryo in the literary fiction of the Brontë sisters; by now, in the dozens of Harlequin and Silhouette romances on the supermarket rack, they have become formulaic, and the language is similar from book to book.
Now, I don't read romance novels, but even I, with my limited male awareness, can tell how stereotypical that is. According to the Romance Writers Assocation, all that's required is "a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending." And that's it. It seems she has confused the window dressing with the window itself, if you see where my metaphor is going. And other genres, such as horror, don't even get that much consideration:
In any case, the many other genres, including but not confined to adventure, spy, horror, and thriller, each have their own set of conventions of character, language, and events. Note again that the very naming of these kinds of fiction implies a narrowing; unlike mainstream fiction, they appeal to a particular restricted range of interest.
Please excuse me while I pound my head on my desk for a few minutes.

And then she finished things off here:

Many--perhaps most--teachers of fiction writing do not accept manuscripts in genre, and I believe there's good reason for this, which is that whereas writing literary fiction can teach you how to write good genre fiction, writing genre fiction does not teach you how to write good literary fiction--does not, in effect, teach you "how to write," by which I mean how to be original and meaningful in words. Further, dealing in the conventions and hackneyed phrases of romance, horror, fantasy, and so forth can operate as a form of personal denial, using writing as a means of avoiding rather than uncovering your real concerns. It may be fine to offer readers an escape through fiction, but it isn't a way to educate yourself as a writer, and it's also fair to say that escape does not represent the goal of a liberal education, which is to pursue, inquire, seek, and extend knowledge of whatever subject is at hand, fiction no less than science.
Ah, I see. Now it's all so clear.

For the 7th edition, perhaps Ms. Burroway should consider actually doing some research. For example, talking to writers who actually do work in genre first, rather than just printing whatever unexamined beliefs she happens to hold. That might help fulfill her stated goal to "pursue, inquire, seek, and extend knowledge of whatever subject is at hand."

March 10, 2005

I Don't Know If It's Art, But I Like It

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: another side of Gus.

Yes, he was sitting on the scanner.

Yes, I am a cruel man.

March 08, 2005

Buy Low

This evening I went to help sort books at the local library book sale. A couple of people I work with used to work there before switching to the university side; they thought I might be interested in helping. So I did.

Before you think this was pure altruism on my part, let me explain: the way they get people to help is, if you come sort, then you can look through the books and buy the ones you want before the regular sale starts. First dibs, all yours. And you know who helps sort? Bibliophiles, collectors, and book dealers. It's their natural hunting grounds. The books aren't all weeds - you know, when the public library buys ten copies of the current hot new book, then dumps nine of them after the demand for it ends. No, a lot of the books they sell are donations from the public. And when it comes to books, many people don't know what a book is worth. So that's what the book dealers do: they look for hidden gems, something they can buy for a buck and resell for twenty. Pure capitalism.

Of course, to find these hidden gems, they do have work for it. When I left, the sorting had produced, among other things, six boxes of Danielle Steele novels and almost that many James Pattersons.

But I had fun. Bought seven books, six hardbacks and a paperback for less than the cost of a new paperback, and only one of them is ex-library. Annoyingly I did have to throw away one of my purchases. Turned out what I thought was water damage was actually from a different kind of water. The cats became extremely interested in sniffing it. Yes. Gross. Ah well.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat -- Always Repeat

Hey, have you heard? Ideomancer is now accepting poetry. So you know what that means?

You guessed it: got a four day short personal rejection from them today. So you know what happens next?

Yep. I send them something else.

March 06, 2005

From Charlotte's Web

Back from Charlotte, NC. 'Twas a whirlwind trip with Lisa & my folks to visit my brother Paul. Quick but worth it, as I finally (finally!) got to meet Joy, his fiancé. The last time she came to this part of the country I'd missed meeting her because I'd gone to Arizona. At any rate, it was worth the wait: she's lovely, just lovely.

(hi, Joy! Soon you'll be related to me, and then the madness will truly begin! hahahahaha! and so on.)

March 04, 2005

Better Than Randolph Scott

I see the noble Scott Reilly has restored "Letters to Myself" to the bosom of J-Walker. No longer do I provide the wacky error messages caused by upgrading to MT. Phew.

Thanks, Scott! You rule!

March 03, 2005

Report From The Front

A 49 day rejection from Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. A short, nonspecific, generic little form rejection.

Sigh.

Clearly I am not the darling of the avant garde.

Why, Why, Why?

Please, somebody make it stop hurting. What causes my pain? Ladies, gentlemen and nonlibrarians of all ages, I give to you: The American Library Association Book Cart Drill Team World Championships (PDF file, 903k) to be held at ALA's big meeting this summer in Chicago. Yes, you read that correctly. Book. Cart. Drill. Team.

I'm so very very afraid.

March 02, 2005

All Thy Marvel-ous Works

Shamelessly funny Marvel blasphemy I'd like to see Tobey Maguire pull this off: The Amazing Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Stories. Oh, someone's going to hell for this, I have no doubt (via BoingBoing).


March 01, 2005

Whaddya Mean We're Out?

After approximately eight? nine? years, I have finally used up the case of paper Lisa and I bought o so long ago whilst we were in grad school, back in the Days of Yore and Yesteryear. Well, that took a while. Amazing how submitting stuff online slows paper use.