Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Little Family Humor for You

There are people who say that New Englanders are a dour lot, but that's simply because outsiders don't understand "our" sense of humor. For example, my mother told me today what I'm supposed to put on my pie. Some people put a little blob of dough that looks like an apple or a blueberry, or whatever. Not my family.

If you have just made an apple pie, you put a big "T" on it, for "'Tis apple. If it's not, you mark it with a big "T". For "Tain't.

And so the long New England nights just fly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Now I can improve my writing and annoy the cats at the same time...

It's one of those things I've heard people talking about for a while. When you're done with a story, read it aloud to yourself.

It works. If you stumble on a sentence, it probably needs to be rewritten.

Kinda wished I'd listened to this before I finished the novel. Ah well, there will be time to revise it again later.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

It's 11/11, Armistice Day, or Veterans' Day, depending on your sense of history. So I present you with a poem by WWI soldier Wilfred Owens. To some, Dulce et Decormum Est is an old saw, something we studied in school. Personally, I've never been able to escape the hard imagery of the poem, the haunting despair, the vivid sense of the narrator's exhaustion, terror, endurance, and humanity in the face of the overwhelming.

Writing is memory, and there are something we need to remember, even if it's on a single day out of the year. World War One was an colossal, senseless mess in which some nineteen million soldiers were sent to their deaths for little or no gain, and perhaps ten million more civilians died. As an event, it overshadows the rest of the twentieth century. The Second World War and the Cold War, the two great conflicts that dominated world politics for the latter half of the twentieth century, both have their roots directly in the Great War.

Not that the author, Wilfred Owen can tell us this himself. He was killed a week before the war ended. It is said his mother received word just as the church bells rang out to celebrate the Armistice. Many poets died in the Great War, just as I must assume great politicians, scientists, surgeons, and inventors did. But we'll never know, because they died young.

On this Armistice Day, I reflect that should be more careful with peoples' lives.

Dulce et Decormum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

Monday, November 5, 2007

Top 10 Great Things About World Fantasy Con 2007

World Fantasy Con was head-spinningly awesome. More writers and topics and editors and all-around delightful people than you could shake a wizard's wand at. I could go on to a hundred or more by being specific, but I'll just tease you with the top 10 great things about World Fantasy Con 2007:

10. Picking up a copy of Nick Mamatas’s Move Under Ground and then starting to set it back on the shelf, only to discover the author was standing behind me. I bought it, and he signed it. Nick remembered that I submitted “God of Chickens” to him without me having to prompt him, which I thought was pretty cool of him. Nick’s a neat guy to talk to.

9. The constant “Holy shit, Walter Jon Williams/ Charles Vess/ Kim Newman/ Lynn Abbey/ Tim Powers” moments as Walter Jon Williams/ Charles Vess/ Kim Newman/ Lynn Abbey/ Tim Powers and literally dozens of other familiar names walked by. It was extraordinarily difficult not to geek out at the parade of fantastic authors who have influenced, entertained and exhilarated me of the years, and I did not succeed every time. They were without exception polite, which cannot have been easy. I will try very hard to restrain my enthusiasm at the next convention, but at the same time, I want these people to know that their work is absolutely marvelous. I must find some balance.

8. William Jones. The man himself–he who bought my first story. We had a long conversation (long enough that the bookseller we were standing in front of shooed us away) about the publication process, what’s going on with Chaosium and Elder Signs Press, why short stories are a good thing, and what’s up next for us both. Awesome guy, and a very important conversation for me.

7. ST Joshi is a stunningly personable man. Those who have only read his commentaries simply cannot understand what an warm and delightful conversationalist he is.

6. The stories. When authors get together, they trade stories about writing and publishing. Like the one about the guy who got a rejection letter and posted a huge rant about it on his blog. A publisher who wanted to give him a three-book deal, looked him up, saw the rant, and decided he might be too difficult to work with. Note to self, be more polite when posting to blog.

5. F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone’s stories. These guys are the veterans of the book trade, and they have a million and one stories, all of the fascinating. Any ending you can imagine to something that starts off with “So Peter Straub, Stephen King and I went out to find the sleeziest strip club in Ottowa” falls short of the actual story. I’m sorry, but it’s simply the truth.

4. Learning that Elizabeth Bear used to play in my CoC campaign! Yes, that Elizabeth Bear.

3. Gary Frank. The thing to do at a convention is to follow Gary around, because he goes some extremely interesting places. And while he does so, he talks a lot of sense about marketing yourself, convention etiquette, and generally how to work conventions to your advantage. Gary’s an old hand at cons, so his advice is useful and practical.

2. Wilum Pugmire. Wilum is so supportive and kind to this fledgling writer. He gave me at least two significant opportunities I would not have thought to take advantage of myself, and we indulged in some highly entertaining conversation. There's no one like Wilum. We've been corresponding for a year, and it was simply a joy to finally meet him.

1. Reading this from “Summation 2006: Horror Anthologies” by Ellen Datlow (p. lii-liii), in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2007: "Arkham Tales, edited by William Jones (Chaosium), is, according to the editor’s introduction, the first anthology in which '. . . each story . . . is realized in Chaosium’s adaptation of the cosmic horror sub-genre.' In other words, if I understand correctly, each story is inspired directly by an actual aspect of the ‘Call of Cthulhu’ role-playing game published by Chaosium Press. Despite this, the stories do stand alone, and some do some nice riffs on the mythos, including those of C. J. Henderson, Brian M. Sammons, and John Goodrich.”