Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Luncheon in Memison

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There was a memorial for the late David Hartwell in New York City on Monday, the third such I've attended, and there will be more. David was an important figure in the field. Afterward, six of us went out to lunch together. We had a pleasant time, enjoyed it greatly, and many interesting things were said. However, I didn't take notes, so the following fictionalized account will have to do instead.


A Luncheon in Memison

"Who wants what?" Gordon asked. As the god of industry and organization, it was his job to impose some semblance of order on the luncheon.

"I want a reign of blood and death," Marianne replied.

"That's what you always ask for," Ellen said. "Just once try the salad." She was the goddess responsible for organic foods, natural fibers and the like. There were times when she envied the hell out of Marianne, but there it was. What could you do?

"Six martinis and a bicycle horn," said Michael. He was the trickster of the group.

"Make that one martini and the mushroom risotto," Gordon told the waitress."David?"

"Croque Monsieur," David said. Nobody knew what he was the god of, but it seemed to have something to do with wine and foods with foreign names.

When the food arrived, they ate, as gods do, avidly and with great satisfaction.

"You were in China last year, weren't you, Marianne?" Ellen asked. "How was it?"

"People died in great numbers," Marianne said. "Also, the food was delicious."



Above (l-r): Gordon Van Gelder, Marianne Porter, Michael Swanwick, Ellen Kushner, David Axler. Photo by Delia Sherman. Delia would have been in this story if she'd been in the photo. But there it is. What can you do?

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Monday, April 25, 2016

"I Liked It Better When We Were Going to Each Other's Weddings"

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Brief post today, because I'm off to New York City for David Hartwell's memorial. It's the third one I've attended, but in ways the most apt because it's being held by Tor Books, the publishing house he worked at most recently and for many years.

Years ago, Ansible reported on the funeral of a British editor, and quoted Christopher Priest as saying, "I liked it better when we were going to each other's weddings."

So, yeah. Like that.


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Friday, April 22, 2016

New From Dragonstairs -- Five Seasons!

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Not long ago, Marianne published her smallest edition ever -- an art book titled Fallen Leaves, which was issued in an edition of twenty, of which seventeen were offered up for sale. The costs of producing it being what they were, it was Dragonstairs Press's priciest (though still, her advisors argued, underpriced) book to date. And it sold out in less than twenty hours.

Those who know Marianne can predict where this is going.

 As atonement for making a book which some could not afford and hardly any had the opportunity to buy, Marianne has created a new chapbook titled Five Seasons, containing five related flash fictions, all written by me. Signed and numbered in an edition of one hundred, hand-sewn with appropriately crimson thread, it sells for only five dollars, plus one dollar for shipping in the US or two dollars elsewhere in the world.

Or, for free, you can read the first section here.  It's titled...


Winterthaw

I crave thy pardon, mistress, that I did try to eat thee.  It were the Darkwinter, when we all do what we must to survive.  I understand why thou dost flinch from my touch.
      Still.  Didst thou not kill thy sister, who did love thee, when the foodstuffs ran low?  Not that I disapprove.  It were the right thing to do, God wot.  Hunger knows no morals.  I did the same with my father, poor soul.
      Those dire times are behind us.  The snows are melting at last.  We can scrabble in the mud for last year’s roots, and perhaps a small rodent or three.  We keep our knives sharp and close to hand, of course, because we each know what the other is capable of.
      Now the ice turns back into pond water.  The air is warm.  Desperation falls a day, a second day, a third into the past.  Now at last – though I grip my blade as firmly as thou dost thine – I am free to say . . .
      I do love thee.

Which, okay, yes, is a little grimmer and more cynical than I usually go. But you should see the other four! 

Those who wish to buy a copy of the chapbook can find the Dragonstairs Press website here.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Talking About Darger & Surplus

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The industrious Carl Slaughter has interviewed me about my Darger & Surplus books and stories, and published the results in the current SF Signal. Which leads me to reflect on the nature of fictional confidence artists. Why are they so much more charming than the real thing?

I know whereof I speak here, because two con men once tried to take me with a cunning variation on the classic Pigeon Drop. It involved a hapless-looking man with a strong African accent stopping me on the street to ask for directions, a second man stopping to help, the promise of a large cash reward for my help accompanied by a quick flash of the first man's wad of greenbacks, and the determination that I should show the African how to use an ATM machine. If I had thought for a minute that I would take money away from the poor schlub, I might not have put the pieces together to realize it was a scam in time to walk away untaken.

I did not find those guys charming at all. Particularly since they were relying on my being not only gullible but at least a little racist as well.

But in our imaginations, we are free to fantasize being unfettered by morality and able to trick and outwit ordinary members of the herd. We imagine ourselves as the carefree predators and mere humans as our prey.

Which is, ironically enough, the most common trick in the con man's book: He offers you the chance to swindle somebody else. The roper presented himself as being a gullible fool, pathetically eager to throw his money away. And the inside man gently urged me to join him in fleecing him.

As I said, in real life not very charming.

Ah, but in our dreams...

You can find the interview here.




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Monday, April 18, 2016

News From Lake Tachyon

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The mighty publicity juggernaut of San Francisco megapress Tachyon Publications has just posted their latest set of "Tachyon Tidbits." Which is to say, bits and pieces of news that apply to their books.

This is relevant because "Not So Much," Said the Cat, my forthcoming Tachyon collection, has just received its first review.

I am, I begin to realize, old, old, old. So old that I find myself out of step with the times. In my day (the late Victorian era, my dears), a proper author did not engage in self-promotion. That was called "careerism." Today, it's called "being responsible." Nor did one solicit one's friends to promote one's books with the implicit promise to return the favor when their own came out. That was called "log-rolling." Today, it's called 'signal boost."

So I find myself feeling quite faint at the thought of repeating the nice things the reviewer had to say about my book. Instead, I'll quote a little said about  each of the other Tachyon books mentioned in the post.


Of Patricia A. McKillip's forthcoming collection, Dreams of Distant Shores, a reviewer said:

I have never in all my reading days, as far as I know read anything by McKillip. How I have overlooked such a powerful storyteller I have no idea.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter presents a news item about Daryl Gregory's novel Spoonbenders:

SPOONBENDERS, a hot manuscript about an eccentric family of magicians (think Royal Tenenbaums with psychics) by Daryl Gregory, has been acquired by Knopf for publishing and Paramount TV for television, in what sources say was a competitive auction on both fronts that involved multiple bidders. Terms of the deal were not announced, but the publishing-side advance is said to be at least in the high-six-figure range.

And another reviewer says of Cory Doctorow's nonfiction book (taking a deep breath here)  Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future.

 Ultimately, though, Doctorow’s essays in this collection, are still important for the ongoing discussion of freedom, personal rights, and access to information and the openness of the internet. Even though he lacks the specific factual and statistical research in most of his essays needed to drive his message fully home, I recommend everyone read these essays and to keep an open mind, because they are the start to addressing how we travel a very long road ahead toward a digital world, and I appreciated his work very much.

Plus, as I said, there was a review I am too old-fashioned to quote of my own book.

I hasten to point out that none of the people above blurbed my collection. Nor have I blurbed their books. Clearly, I belong in another century.

You can read the full posting here.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Liberty Gin (First Tastings)

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So how far do you have to go to reach your local distillery? Here at the American Martini Laboratory, it's a stroll of less than a mile to the W. P. Palmer Distilling Co. on Shurs Lane.

This is a new distillery and still a small one. They make Liberty Gin and Manayunk Moonshine. The latter is available only the distillery and since the whole legal moonshine phenomenon is a baffling example of the willingness of Americans to buy and drink practically anything, the AML gave it a pass.

Gin is another matter. Marianne and I bought a bottle and have begun testing it. The Palmer Distillery people advertise it as being "a wonderful Martini, a classic Gin & Tonic and a delicious Gimlet." No gin can be all things to all drinks, of course, so this claim must be taken as a perfectly understandable bit of corporate puffery.

Gimlets and gin and tonics are warm-weather drinks and it's been cool here in Roxborough for the past week, so we haven't tested either of those. But we did mix a martini and a pitcher of aviations.

And the results are...

Liberty Gin is seasoned with juniper, coriander, angelica, cardamom, and grains of paradise. As a result it has a strongly floral taste that does not particularly suit the steely grandeur that is the American Martini.

However, the aviations were exceptional. The aviation is a lighter, more festive cocktail and one that is well suited to a floral gin.

So we are well content with our neighborhood distillery and look forward to further tests when the weather turns warmer.

You can find their website here.


And since you asked...

Here's the standard recipe for the Aviation. Which has the pleasant distinction of being that rarest of beasts, the cocktail that is as blue as the sky.

2 oz       Gin
.5 oz      Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz     Crème de violette or Crème Yvette
.75 oz     Lemon Juice

Mix, shake, strain, and drink. It is optional whether or not to garnish it with a Maraschino Cherry. If all you have are those awful candied things that come in a jar, I wouldn't recommend it. But since Marianne spices her own cherries, we prefer our drinks garnished. Being careful not to muddy the color with any of the cherry's liqueur, it goes without saying.

Like most cocktails, the exact proportions of the drink should be to taste. Marianne likes to make our aviations with lime juice rather than lemon, which she feels imparts too yellow a cast to the drink's appearance.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Naming the Five Seasons

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Marianne has decided that since her last Dragonstairs Press project was (for her) pricey and issued in an extremely limited edition of twenty, she should immediately atone by putting out out one of her underpriced chapbooks in a gargantuan edition of one hundred. So now she is hard at work on Five Seasons, which will contain five closely related flash fictions (or, possibly, one story narrated in five vignettes) that I wrote some time ago to go in a set of five connected picture frames.

Our son Sean was appalled when I told him that the seasons are not a natural phenomenon but an artificially-created social construct. But it's true. You could as easily have two -- Burgeoning and Withering. Or three -- Growth, Decline, and Fallow.

One of the pleasures of being a writer is getting to name things that otherwise would go without. Dividing the year into five wasn't easy, but it was fun. The names I coined were lush and ornamental, in part because I was writing a fantasy and in part because the stories were rather darker than my usual stuff and needed at least that small taste of romance.

They were:

Winterthaw

Greengrowth

Summerdeep

Autumnbright

Darkwinter


You'll note that the names give you a sense of which of our seasons they were carved from. I was rather pleased with that.


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