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    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
    Slow Clap

    Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
    A slow loris being brushed

    Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
    Will's Eve
    Follow him, friends: we'll hear a play to-morrow.

    What have been your most vivid experiences,
    hearing, seeing, reading Shakespeare?

    Among so many others, I remember an idyllic Edwardian Love's Labours Lost, on a lawn by the river Cam, under the willows (there were strawberries and cream in the interval); that black-and-white galliard at the close of Twelfth Night; that Macbeth in the mud in an abandoned church, for the witches in unsaintly niches and all the candles of Tenebrae.  And I remember reading straight through the Penguin Shakespeare, one cold wet Christmas in Wales, with interludes for stone circles.

    Star Wars fans shocked to learn that their novels aren't canon, either
    So there is nerd outrage over the (completely predictable and reasonable) comment made to the Hollywood Reporter by Simon Kinberg, one of the screenwriters of the upcoming Episode 7 of the Star Wars film saga, which boil down to, "We won't be paying attention to the SW novels and comics when we write our screenplay." Which means that, yes, SW novels and comics are not canon and never were, claims by the fanbase and Lucas to the contrary.

    Here's my response (originally posted on as a comment to Emily Asher-Perrin's article on this revelation):

    Canon arguments/discussions always make me want to beat someone until they bleed. I really do not understand why people get arsed over what's real in a fictional construct.

    Yes, the novels and comics and cartoons aren't canon. So what? You know what else isn't canon? The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Arrow. All totally, thoroughly, and in all ways not canon. Not even a little bit.

    There are three different versions of Sherlock Holmes currently being produced, none of which are canonical, yet all of which are immensely popular and fun to watch and enjoyable and nifty.

    Episode 7 does nothing to the EU one way or another. The books and comics and cartoons are still there, still good stories, still there to be enjoyed. Honestly, the whole "the novels are canon toooooo!!!!" argument was pretty much shitcanned with the prequel movies, and never held up to scrutiny, especially if you look at, say, the history of the Fett family.

    SW fans could take a lesson from Star Trek. Two of the most highly regarded Trek novels are Imzadi and Federation. The former novel was heavily contradicted by a TNG episode ("Second Chances"); the latter was totally nuked by the movie First Contact. Yet the two novels continue to be well regarded -- and so does that episode and that movie, even though they contradict each other.

    If you think that contradictory versions of stories in the same universe ruins one of the contradictory ones, then you don't understand how storytelling works.

    Current Mood: busy
    Design Your Own Dragon: final week!

    Just a reminder that the Design Your Own Dragon contest will be ending in a little more than a week, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 30th. This is your chance not only to win an ARC of Voyage of the Basilisk (once we have some on hand), but to have your very own creation included in the Memoirs of Lady Trent. I may choose up to three winners, depending partly on how many entries I get — so in a sense, the more of you that enter, the better your chances are!

    (Okay, really I’m just selfish. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of reading the entries thus far, and am eager to see what else people come up with.)

    E-mail your submissions to dragons.of.trent {at} You’ve got about one week left!

    Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

    This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.
    Lightning strikes maybe once, maybe twice
    The second landscaping guy came by today, and now all I can do is sit back and wait for these two dudes to give me their assessment. Great is my patio-envy, but little is there to be done about it.

    I'd planned to wrap up this blog post and see about some work out in that very same yard, for it is getting scraggly in all possible places ... never mind the giant rectangle where the patio will go - where we've neither weeded nor mowed so far this year, heh.

    But the best laid plans, etc. etc. etc., for now it's pouring down rain. Even if it stops, I don't feel like working in the mud. So forget it, for today.

    * * *

    New strategy last night in the Cat Karaoke wars. This time, when she hopped up onto the nightstand to sing into my ear at 3:00 a.m., I pulled her into the bed and held her there in a bear hug. She wiggled and fussed for about fifteen seconds, then started snoring. No further cat-singing ensued.

    I'm not saying this is a successful tactic, mind you; just because it worked once, that doesn't mean it'll work again. But a good snuggle is probably preferable to a pillow upside the head.

    * * *

    I love it when the cover art goes live on Amazon. It just makes everything feel so much more...official, you know? And also, in my experience, it makes people more likely to preorder books like oh, say, Maplecroft (if you were so inclined).

    * * *

    Here's recent progress on my witchy art-deco horror novel about Lizzie Borden thirty years after her parents' deaths - now featuring ghosts and non-ghosts alike, anti-Catholic conspiracy nuts, supernatural political shenanigans, the mafia, and a Bonus! space-worshiping murder cult hiding behind the KKK:

      Project: Chapelwood
      Deadline: October 1, 2014
      New words written: 2250
      Present total word count: 72,275

      Things accomplished in fiction: Sent a very weird letter to a very nice girl, who wigged out about it; made plans to follow up on some of the details of that letter, while it's still possible to do so.

      Next up: One more trip down to Storage Room Six.

      Things accomplished in real life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; consultation with the landscaping guy; paid some bills.

      Other: Nothing else to report at this time.

      Number of fiction words so far this year: 105,668
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "Broken Link"
    The fourth season comes to a close, and it's a major turning point for Odo -- and, apparently, for the Klingon Empire as well. The DS9 Rewatch clicks on a "Broken Link."

    An excerpt:
    And so instead the Odo story just meanders forward. It doesn’t even have the usual tension of a medical drama, since Bashir’s entire treatment strategy consists of staring at the screen and going, “Hoo boy, yeah, that molecular structure sure is destabilizing a lot!” We get lots of fun banter among the crew (like O’Brien bitching about Kira and Keiko going quiet on him as soon as he enters their now-shared quarters) but, again, it comes across as filler.

    Watching Odo adjust to being a solid will make for a good ongoing subplot in the fifth season, and the bombshell at the end is magnificent—Gowron’s been a recurring character on two shows for six years now, so Odo’s last line hits very hard—but all of that is setup for future stories. This particular episode is about fifteen minutes’ worth of interesting story stretched out into an hour.

    Current Mood: disappointed
    Why my music is only available in CD form.
    This question has been coming up a lot recently, so I thought I'd take a moment to address it in a central place that people could be pointed to. Specifically:

    "Why can't I buy your music on iTunes/Band Camp/Amazon MP3/whatever?"

    Sometimes the question takes the form of "I have gone all-digital, why do I have to buy a physical CD?", but those are basically the same thing, since "Why can't I buy..." is the flip side of "Why do I have to buy...". And here is my answer:

    I will never, barring the closure of all the CD manufacturing companies, be selling my music digitally. If you want to own my music, you will need to either buy and rip a physical CD, or pirate it. I would obviously prefer the former, but since some of my CDs are out of print, I'll understand if you go for the latter.


    Two big reasons. These are...

    It's a hobby.

    I am not a professional musician. Even if I sell every single copy of every single CD at full "retail price," never selling through filk dealers or sites like CD Baby, I won't turn a profit. Breaking even is the most that I can hope for. Because all CDs are nothing but red ink, they don't further complicate my already incredibly complicated taxes. If I started doing digital sales, which many people view as "money for nothing," I might pass that magical line where I make a profit, and then I would have to figure out how to deal with things.

    I don't take enough of a loss for my music to be a tax write-off (yet), but I also don't make any money, and that keeps things simple. If I started needing to religiously track receipts and who paid what where to who, I don't know that the carrot would remain worth the stick for me.

    The digital divide exists.

    I feel as strongly about physical CDs as I do about physical books. The ability to release things digitally is amazing for people who can't afford a print run, or are doing something incredibly focused, or just want to get themselves out there. I can afford a print run; I have an audience; I am as out there as I need to be. And people like my mother, who doesn't own an MP3 player, and who listens to all music via her CD player, still exist.

    Because of the costs of production, I can only afford to produce physical CDs when I'm sure that I'll be able to sell them. If 50% of my audience went to digital downloads, I'd wind up with a lot of unsold CDs, and again, would not be able to justify producing more. And for me, that would be the end of it. I'm not going to pay for recording and mixing and mastering and not have something in my hands when I'm done. I can't afford to produce CDs in units of less than 1,000—and with full "to get this, you must buy physical" buy-in, it still took four years for Stars Fall Home to sell out.

    Cover songs.

    None of my cover song licenses include digital rights. All my albums would be missing pieces if I put them up for digital download.

    And so...

    I know that this can create bottlenecks. I know that physical disks come with shipping costs, and that sometimes vendors run out. I know that I'm losing business. These are choices that I made, for the reasons listed above, and while they may be wrong choices, they are mine, and I'm sticking with them.

    Thank you.

    Current Mood: tired
    What are the Hugo rules
    regarding new editions of old books?

    Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
    The soldier
    In the Times there is an article about Emma Edmonds, who fought for two years as a soldier in the Civil War, dressed as a man.

    As it happens, today is also the launch of P.G. Nagle's A Call to Arms, a novel based on Emma's experiences. I started reading it, and found myself seriously sucked in. Nagle not only nails the period, she convincingly evokes the sensibility of a woman of that time, but one who has chosen to step outside certain of society's supposedly iron rules while being faithful to others.
    a Klingon Art of War signing at Pandemonium in Cambridge!
    In addition to TrekTrax this weekend and signings at Singularity & Co. and the Enigma Bookstore here in NYC in May, I'm also doing a signing at one of my favorite genre bookstores, Pandemonium Books and Games, located on Pleasant Street in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday 15 May 2014 at 7pm, with plenty of copies of The Klingon Art of War to scribble on.

    I've been going to Pandemonium since it was a dinky little walk-up just off Harvard Square in the 1980s, and I did several signings there when it was in the Garage Mall in Harvard Square in the 1990s, but I have yet to actually set foot in the new (not so new anymore, honestly) Central Square store. Really looking forward to it, and to seeing folks there!

    Current Mood: happy
    My tweets
    The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

    (Picture is a link)

    In what fellow FASS member Mark Jackson-Brown charmingly refers to as "the Before Times [1]", book distribution in Ontario was pretty patchy and while I remember that word of mouth on rec.arts.sf-lovers was very positive about The Steerswoman, I didn't manage to find a copy of it for my own until 1993, four years after it was published. I can tell this because when I look at the back of my copy it has a sticker from A Second Look Books dated 1993. Which I guess means the author didn't make any money off me so let's move quickly on to the next paragraph.

    These books are what SF should aspire to be; it is a shame they are not more widely known.

    There will be some spoilers. Read more...Collapse )

    Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
    Some junk
    Thanks for all the condolences. I won't be going down for the funeral, which has to happen right away for both logistical and liturgical reasons, but will be attending the mnemósynon in about forty days.

    I've been enjoying the new LJs I'm reading now. Ever since I started my day job, nearly six years ago now, I've had little time/ability to write about daily life. My friend Caren used to blog, years ago, "Put on clothes, went to work" every week day, and now I see why. I suppose I could write about Oliver's green poop! It's green!

    nick_kaufmann is trying to get people to visit his website by launching a guest-blog thing called "The Scariest Part." Today I write about the scariest part of my UK-hardcover-only title The Last Weekend. Check it out. (People who want the book, but who don't want to pay for transatlantic mail, should probably order from Borderlands Books, which has copies in stock.)

    I liked this interview with Cheryl Strayed over at Scratch Magazine. It's about money, which is everyone's favorite subject:

    I needed it to pay my rent. I had accrued $50,000 in credit card debt to write that book. The same thing happened later with Wild, only I was in deeper debt. So I got that check for Torch, and it was gone the next day. I actually paid my credit card bill. Poof!

    Then I did revisions, and I had a baby, and the next check didn’t come until 2005. I got my third check in February 2006, when it was published, and my final check when the paperback came out in 2007.

    So I sold my book for $100,000, and what I received was a check for about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS. Don't get me wrong, the book deal helped a lot—it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn't enough to live off. So, I guess it was a humbling lesson!

    Finally, re: the Hugo Awards, I presume my comments from before the ballot came out make more sense now, right?
    Various things from Minicon weekend

    First, I am pleased to say that my essay, “The Apple and the Castle,” will be appearing as one of the supplemental materials in the book, The Reader: The War for the Oaks. Get yours through the Kickstarter if you’re interested in gorgeous photos or me talking about what makes for a lasting fantasy classic, especially in the handling of setting.

    Other good stuff happened besides me selling an essay. I was on a map panel that went pretty well, I thought, despite everyone on the panel being pro-map. (Panels often have a little extra frisson if the panelists disagree a bit more.) I want to particularly point out that while three of us writer panelists were traditionally published at one length or another, the two who were self-published-only were models of how self-published authors should conduct themselves on convention panels. They confined their remarks about their own books to the relevant and interesting, and they talked about other people’s work in on-topic ways, just as a good panelist ought. Later in the convention I encountered both of them, and one didn’t try to sell his book to me at all, while the other did–at a launch party I attended of my own free will, knowing that it was a launch party. Going to a launch party expecting someone not to be trying to talk up their book would just be dumb; that’s what they’re for. So as a result, I came away from it with warm positive feelings about both self-published authors, while I have no idea about the contents of their books, and I’m going to link them both here: Ozgur Sahin and Blake Hausladen. Well done, guys; that’s how to do it right. If this is what the rise of the self-published author brings programming at future cons, it’s going to be awesome. (I expect that this is not actually the case and self-published authors are as much a mixed bag as traditionally published authors. Ah well; at least I had a good panel.)

    The middle-grade panel was less focused than the map panel, but several good names got discussed–Mer, everybody likes you–and our surprise last panelist got through her first panel ever without too much difficulty. (She was 14. First panels ever are hard.)

    Alec’s and my reading went beautifully–not a huge crowd, but not a tiny one either, especially given that it was scheduled over the dinner hour. Timprov was a hero of the revolution in bringing us hot soup so that we were fortified before the reading.

    A question came up in conversation at the book launch party, and I wanted to address it here, and that was: why don’t I post reviews of the books I get sent for review but do not finish? The dual entity known as James S. A. Corey was on Twitter just yesterday saying, “Writers: if people are bashing your work online, rejoice. It means someone has noticed it exists,” and I think that was the basic premise of the writer asking why I don’t post negative reviews: that negative press is still better for the smaller writer than no press. This is probably true. An individual post saying, “I stopped reading this on page one due to clunky prose,” or, “Rape scene chapter one, quit reading,” would still bring at least some attention to the book, and not everybody has the same taste in prose or the same distaste for chapter one rape scenes that I do.

    However. I do not get paid for my reviews. My time is valuable, and my time is my own. Any time that I spend on writing reviews is my choice, and I don’t choose to spend that on books that didn’t hold my attention to the end. I am not long on time and energy. I would rather spend that time on my own writing, or on reading something else, or on staring at the birch tree outside my office window and willing the leaves on it to bud out, or on making my godson brownies, or…yeah. Things. “How long could it take?” Oh trust me. I bounce off a lot of books. It could take quite some time. Adding in discussion with people in the comments section, especially if those people want to try to talk me into reading a little further? It could really take quite some time.

    Reviewers are good for writers, but reviewers do not exist to be good for writers. Reviewers are good for readers, but reviewers do not even exist to be good for readers. It is awfully nice that people send me free books to review. I am grateful. But what they are buying with the free book is the chance at my attention, and if they can’t hold my attention, they don’t get my time in the form of my reading or in the form of my review. Even if it would be useful to someone else.

    A Year in Pictures – Notre Dame Tympanum

    Notre Dame Tympanum
    Creative Commons License
    This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    This is another one I dropped a filter on, in this case because doing so made the sculptural details more distinct. It’s one of the tympana over the entrances to Notre Dame, and reminds me oddly of the temples we visited India, which is the only other place I’ve ever seen that density and intricacy of carving over a large surface. (Though if this had been an Indian temple instead of a French cathedral, the whole building would have been carved like that.)

    Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

    This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.
    The White Trap (1959)
    An obscure UK B-movie is the subject of my latest Noirish entry, but it's a far more interesting piece than its obscurity would suggest. For one thing, it's directed by Sidney Hayers -- only his second movie, in fact (his first, Violent Moment vt Rebound, is the subject of an upcoming Noirish post) -- and for another two it has chunky roles for Ewen Solon (Rupert Davies' Lucas in the old TV Maigret series) and Yvette Wyatt (Emergency--Ward 10). Throw in Michael Goodliffe and Conrad Phillips for good measure and you have quite a lineup!

    Screengrabs (the one at the foot might especially amuse UK readers):

    White Trap - 1 Joan in hospital, 'Promise me I'll be all right'

    White Trap - 2 Inspector Walters gives his subordinate, Sgt Morrison, some pithy advice

    White Trap - 3 Recaptured after a struggle, Paul has earned the respect of Insp W

    White Trap - 4 Nurse Ann Fisher watches wistfully as Paul's led away

    White Trap - 5 UK readers may be inrigued by the shop sign on the left
    Twenty Novels, Twenty Opening Chapters: Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker

    Today’s attempt to analyze what makes for a compelling opening chapter is a classic of the steampunk genre – one where gas-crazed zombies chase desperate scavengers through the underground of a collapsed alt-history Seattle.

    And yet the story opens in a vastly different, and dare I say audacious, way.

    For I have theorized that a good opening chapter will will not just introduce you to the main character at some point in the first three paragraphs, it will actually tell you what that character’s emotional dilemma is.  You’ll not just know who they are quickly, but be rooted in whatever it is they’re trying to do.

    And yet Cherie Priest, wisely, said “Fuck you and your silly theories, Ferrett,” and went a different route.

    Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (Feel free to download the sample to your Kindle, if you’d like to play along.)

    Opening Sentence: “Unpaved, uneven trails pretended to be roads; they tied the nation’s coasts together like laces holding a boot, binding it with crossed strings and crossed fingers.”

    When Do We Find Out What Motivates Our Protagonist? …we don’t. 

    The protagonist doesn’t show up at all until Chapter One.

    In fact, there’s no protagonist at all in this introduction.

    (A side note: Some may complain that the “intro” isn’t “the first chapter.”  But it is the first thing we read, and if it’s a bad intro or prologue or foreword, we will never actually get to the so-called start of your book.  So for analytical purposes, I’m sticking with my definition: this is the opening chapter, even if it’s not the first chapter.)

    What Cherie starts out with is, essentially, a nonfiction summary of her alternate history.  Here’s why people were incentivized to build big fucking steampunk mining-drills just before the Civil War,  here’s why they tried the drill in Seattle, here’s the disaster that occurred when the drill went awry and destroyed downtown Seattle, and here’s the mysterious gas that seeped up from the ground after the nefarious Dr. Blue and his Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine bored a hole straight to Hell.

    Now, one of the cardinal rules of worldbuilding is that you do not infodump.  You string the reader along, giving them only what they need to know just before they know it,  because a big clunky chunk of “Here’s how my technology works” is going to stand in front of your plot and characters and bore the crap out of people.  It’s considered kind of amateurish to just go, “All right, here’s what happened” and blather on for a thousand words to get your backstory across.

    And Cherie pokes that rule right in the face.

    She’s doing the audacious bit of telling a story without a hero – there’s no one person we’re following here.  And that’s hard to pull off, but she does it with lots of clever and visually dazzling phrasings to keep you going, such as:

    In California, there were nuggets the size of walnuts lying on the ground – or so it was said, and truth travels slowly when rumors have wings of gold.

    And, discussing the disappointing hauls the miners found:

    Gold came out of the ground in dust so fine that the men who mined it could’ve inhaled it.


    On the afternoon of January 2, 1863, something appalling burst out of the basement and tore a trail of havoc from the house on Denny Hill to the central business district, and then back home again.

    Cherie gets away with it because she’s continually creating interesting images to grab and pull you along, which keeps us interested until we get to the devastation about 750 words in – and frankly, if a rogue steampowered drill collapsing downtown Seattle isn’t enough to keep your attention, I don’t know what will.  Yes, it’s a block of infodump that’s unrelated to the emotional struggles of the characters who will be introduced shortly, but it’s a really interesting block of infodump, and so we read without complaint.  It slides by on pure, compacted prose.

    And it breaks the so-called rules, but also breaks them for a damn good reason.  Because honestly?  Trying to quietly intersperse this complex alt-history and chronicle of events while introducing characters you actually cared about?  Would be hell.  You’d have to keep ping-ponging back between character development and “Oh, here’s what you need to know about Seattle and its zombie-creating gas pockets now,” and I don’t think you could do both effectively in parallel.

    Yet what I really have to applaud is the way Cherie quietly transplants another genre into fiction.  Because this opener is not, actually, fiction.  What it is is straight-up RPG Supplement material – this could have been cut-and-copied from some parallel universe’s reference sourcebook for THE CLOCKWORK CENTURY’S GUIDEBOOK: SEATTLE.  And Cherie melding the world of roleplaying games and science fiction so effortlessly, remolding them together without a care in the world, is quietly genius.

    Yeah, in the next chapter we meet crazy Dr. Blue’s poor abandoned wife and son, and the son runs off, and damn if the wife doesn’t have to chase him all over Seattle.  And that’s compelling, too.  But the start is a different kind of technique, and a welcome reminder that really, in fiction, there’s no one way to make a sandwich.

    Past analyses:

    Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

    This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
    New On HBO
    The Muppet Show - with Kermit raping Miss Piggy!

    Will And Grace - with Grace raping Will!

    My Little Pony - rape with horse cocks!

    The Lord Of The Rings - You won't believe what Frodo does to Meri!

    Fraggle Rock - you will go down on Fraggle cock!

    Thomas The Tank Engine - hitching up the caboose!

    The Raping Game - The hottest game show you'll ever see!
    When was the most recent time
    Baen Books found a new author on the sales level of a Weber, Bujold or a Moon?

    Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
    Why Jaime’s [REDACTED] In Game Of Thrones Is So Goddamned Troublesome

    WARNING: This post is rife with Game of Thrones spoilers.  You now have three presses of my “Return” key to get the heck out.



    And now you have three presses of my “Return” key as a trigger warning:



    Let’s begin, shall we?

    Hey! Dreamwidth has actual spoiler cuts!Collapse )

    Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

    This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
    The Scariest Part: Nick Mamatas Talks About THE LAST WEEKEND

    Last Weekend cover

    Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (Remember, if you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.)

    I’ve known this week’s featured author for more years than I care to say. I was a big proponent of his first novel, the Lovecraft-meets-Kerouac road trip Move Under Ground. His latest novel, The Last Weekend, has just been released by PS Publishing. Here’s the publisher’s description:

    Meet Vasilis “Billy” Kostopolos: Bay Area Rust Belt refugee, failed sci-fi writer, successful barfly and, since an exceptionally American zombie apocalypse, accomplished “driller” of reanimated corpses. Now that all the sane, well-adjusted human beings are hunted to extinction, he’s found his vocation trepanning zombies, peddling his one and only published short story and drinking himself to death — that is, until both his girlfriends turn out to be homicidal revolutionaries, he collides with a gang of Berkeley scientists gone berserker, the long-awaited “Big One” finally strikes San Francisco, and what’s left of local government can no longer hide the awful secret lurking deep in the basement of City Hall. Can Bill unearth the truth about America’s demise and San Francisco’s survival — and will he destroy what little’s left of it in the process? Is he legend, the last man, or just another sucker on the vine? Nick Mamatas’ The Last Weekend takes a high-powered drill to the lurching, groaning conventions of zombie dystopias and conspiracy thrillers, sparing no cliché about tortured artists, alcoholic “genius,” noir action heroes, survivalist dogma, or starry-eyed California dreaming. Starting in booze-soaked but very clear-eyed cynicism and ending in gloriously uncozy catastrophe, this tale of a man and his city’s last living days is merciless, uncomfortably perceptive, and bleakly hilarious.

    And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Nick Mamatas (warning: contains, um, adult language):

    Asking a writer about the scariest part of their book is like asking a stage magician what the most magical part of his or her act is. The magician already knows the trick to sawing a lady in half—really, the lady’s flexibility is what makes the trick. The magician is just a bit of spectacle and handwaving, really.

    There are antecedents to this. Kafka thought he was writing humorous short stories, and was reportedly bemused to hear that his friends thought his work to be grotesque and unsettling. (And Kafka’s work does have a subtle humor about it. “Because I couldn’t find the food that I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else,” the Hunger Artist explained, as he finally starved to death.) Some of the best writers hardly have any idea of what they’re writing.

    I’ve rarely called my work horror, except for commercial—ha-ha!, there I go being funny again—reasons. I don’t terrify myself writing this stuff, or worry (or exult!) when I think of something that’s transgressive or taboo and put it in a story. Even when I’m writing a zombie novel.

    The Last Weekend was a hard sell. Apparently zombie novels are so popular that nobody buys them anymore. My zombies weren’t even different; they’re slow, shambling Romero types. The real difference between The Last Weekend and the other ninety zombie novels being published every month is that it is not secretly about reveling in killing marginalized minorities focused on the sort of people who don’t normally get themselves involved in apocalypses: bohemians, drunks, and loners.

    Every zombie fan knows that the heroes really get into trouble when a loved one becomes a zombie. No loved ones, no problem. In the book, protagonist Vasilis “Billy” Kostopolous calls the effect “anti-social Darwinism.” All that’s left in San Francisco, a town with lots of hills and almost no graveyards, are the awkward and isolated. The gung-ho heroes and the loving families were the first to die. Yay!

    To write about marginalized characters requires being a bit marginalized. A couple of years ago, before the book was sold, I read part of it at the Science Fiction in San Francisco reading series. Billy has gotten a job with what’s left of the city government as a “driller.” If you have a relative who is about to die, you call 911 and a driller will be right over to put a hole in Uncle Ted’s head before he zombifies. In this scene, Billy was a little late to the gig and had to actually destroy the zombie-wife of the man who made the call. It didn’t go well:

    “Okay,” I said, but the man, on his knees now, didn’t answer. I wiped my hand on some old magazine, but the paper flaked off and stuck to my palm in clumps. “Well, okay,” I said again. He started weeping. “WHAT?” I finally demanded. “What did you expect to actually happen here? I blow some air up her cunt and she comes back to life? Slice open the cuts, find her heart, and put it in a store window mannequin? Jesus Christ, you make me sick.” There was something in my hair; it felt like when I was a child and my father would shout “Eat it or wear it!” and turn a bowl full of pasta with the wrong brand of sauce upside-down on top of me.

    During the reading, I didn’t notice any audience reaction. Afterward, I got an earful. Did you know that “cunt” is a bad word? Bad enough that members of a San Francisco crowd gasped when they heard it, and someone muttered into her cellphone about it during intermission. Nick said cunt! I was completely surprised. Bad words, coming out of the mouth of a first-person narrator in dialogue, upsets people? Upsets modern people who do things like go to literary events? Couldn’t Billy have just said “Blow some air into her lungs” like a good boy? No, of course not. I never even thought of something like that, and though I had a couple of years to change the line before the book was finally published, never even thought to do so. Actually, I just recalled the incident when Nick Kaufmann asked me to write about the scariest part of my book for his website. (PS: buy Nick Kaufmann’s novels. I’m writing this to lure you here. Just click on something!) Let’s all march in place and chant, “Cunt, cunt cunt!”

    Anyway, the whole cunt thing was momentary, and small as far as these things go, but still interesting. Kill a few hundred million people in prose just to set the scene, have a bit of close-up physical and emotional torture of characters to get the story rolling, and what really upsets some readers is a degenerate anti-hero saying a bad word in the middle of a bad situation. The scariest part? Who knows? The last time I saw a magic act the friend who was with me couldn’t stop talking about the wig the magician’s assistant was wearing.

    Nick Mamatas: Blog / Twitter

    The Last Weekend: Amazon / PS Publishing

    Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law and The Last Weekend. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Best American Mystery Stories, and many other magazines and anthologies. As editor of the Haikasoru imprint of Japanese science fiction in translation, he is at least partially responsible for any number of books, including the essay anthology The Battle Royale Slam Book (co-edited with Masumi Washington) and All You Need Is KILL: The Official Graphic Novel Adaptation, based on the book by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and with art by Lee Ferguson.

    Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

    For those of you who remember my story of buying the chocolate cat/snail I figured I'd let you know they ate it on Easter and sent me a picture during the feast.

    Monday, April 21st, 2014
    Deck Photos

    While we were gone in Seattle (well, SeaTac), the constructionators brought back the big dumpster, and it was to be taken away at noon today. So our task this morning (and late last night) was to assemble as many things as possible to be put into the dumpster, and then to put those things into the dumpster. You know. As one does.

    So last night we brought boxes up from the basement, and went through old tax files from 20 years ago, etc etc. And this morning we did more of that, plus put a whole pile of construction debris into the dumpster, plus old rotten piles of firewood, plus I yanked a whole bunch of vines down from the lilacs and threw them in there, plus etc etc.

    I was going to go to the gym today, but at a certain point that began to seem ridiculous, so I didn’t.

    And after all that, I edited a whole bunch of scenes of the book, though there are still quite a bit more to do. But hey: every day we get closer!

    And there are deck photos!

    We had breakfast sitting on the steps.
    Breakfast on the Deck
    We won’t bring back the deck furniture till after we seal the deck, which has to come when there is a reliable span of a few sunny days. Which, er, is not now. It’s already raining again, till the end of time.

    Another angle on the pergola, outside the back door. This will be covered in trumpet vines, if we have any say in the matter.

    Upper and Lower Deck
    Standing by the greenhouse, looking over part of the upper deck, down onto the lower deck.

    We’d planned cable railing, but because of lots of reasons, many of them money and some of them time, we went with this vertical wood railing. I LOVE it, as it happens. Cable, I think in retrospect, would have looked weirdly modern on a 100+ year old house. The top of the railing isn’t really that white; that was the sun. Which is gone now.

    Greenhouse Beyond
    Standing on the other side of the upper deck, looking past the pergola to the greenhouse beyond.

    I tried to get a direct photo of the greenhouse, but I took several of them and they all look stupid and not-right, so…I’ll keep trying. Maybe it’ll photograph better when it has shelves in it, and plants, and all that. Who knows? It looks awesome in real life, I have to say. The whole thing is pretty amazing.

    And today, because there was no hammering and sawing and noisy generators going on in our back yard, three count’em THREE of our neighbors a) mowed b) edged c) had their carpets professionally cleaned d) mowed some more. But only when I was trying to write.

    Originally published at Shannon Page. You can comment here or there.

    Current Mood: sleepy
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