Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Holidays

Colmo: Virgin of the Snow

by Medbh McGuckian

As the year begins in Florence,
The stars north of the equator that never set
Push dying spacecraft further out
Like thinner back leaves.

The white roses do nothing to rescue it,
Becoming lowered eye, ivory ear,
Raised lips, then flowers again,
The cooler white of a silk.

Only the two big clouds were planned
So that both saints can stand,
Important, inner saints, aristocratic,
And expensively dressed,

Gold over powdered shell gold,
In the most protected part of the room.
Given that some wood would
Have been lost, the wings of both angels

Would have hung straighter.
And the edge of the inside wing
Of the most damaged angel
Must once have equalled the usual blue

Shadow meandering across the lap
Of the other seated angel.
The highlight on the ‘M’
Confirms the presence of silver,

But a sixth nail is missing
In the gap between her head and its element:
The closeness of the nails to each other
Is like snowflakes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Congrats!

Fellow writer and good friend Ekaterina Sedia sold her novel "The Secret History of Moscow" to Prime Books!

Congratulations and best of luck Kat!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Down To The Wire

Slate interview with David Simon, co-creator and writer of The Wire, the best show on TV, maybe ever, or as Eliabeth Merrick over at Bookslut puts it, the best novel of the year. The Wire certainly fits that bill, a notion reinforced by Simon himself.

The cold here is violent. Pigeons seem to inhabit Chicago more so than people and downtown at the Daley Center, there's a small flame burning in the plaza near the big Christmas tree. The pigeons hover around it, some within the flame itself, oblivious. It's even worse for the many homeless, who I've seen sleeping between garbage cans in alleys at the same time I'm thinking about that man in Oregon who died, looking for help for his family after they got stranded in the woods. You always get hit up for change - it's a given - and I have none. I am literally as poor as these people. They ask me for change for the bus, well, I'm walking like you because I don't have any change for the bus. I go to gallery shows and readings as much for the free food and wine as the culture. I have spent nearly a month searching for a job, and I seem to have come at a time when hiring is down across the board, or the jobs I am getting interviewed for have enormous competition. It might take weeks to hear back from them, and while I'm out actively searching for jobs, I don't have weeks. I count days in dollars.

Also counting down: The space shuttle.

UPDATE:



Without a hitch.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Solar Tsunami



The impossibly beautiful destruction on our sun. Just amazing.

Equally amazing is this Q&A with Joss Whedon, plus preview pages from the first issue of the new Buffy season 8 comic!

Me & John Edwards



Last week I went downtown to see John Edwards speak at the Chicago Public Library, and today I saw this picture of me meeting the Senator on his website. I've said before how supportive I am of him and his efforts against poverty; he if he decides to run in '08, I hope I'm able to support him in any way I can.

That book I'm holding in my hand is a journal I keep; it has artifacts from various periods in my life in it, and among them are some tickets I kept from the campaign in 2004. I had hoped he would be able to sign one, since I couldn't afford the book, but the people running the event were very zealous about him only signing copies. But, I got say hi, and my picture taken with him, so no worries.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Meme Time For Everything

My very first meme here on the blog, inspired by Chicago writer David Schwartz:

One book that changed your life:
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. I read it in Dublin, in a day, and discovered that men could write about women, of women, in their voices, and more than successfully. It stunned me right out of my trepidation and naivete, and the next day for one of our workshop assignments I basically riffed on the book, exploring a Mrs. Kitchen who lived in small town Iowa, in the desolation of her life: the better part of her youth behind, her marriage perfunctory, her children alien to her and it was like discovering a new world for me. The Hours ultimately set me down the course I'm on now, straddling this line between 'literary' fiction and more or less science fiction (something Cunningham did himself in his follow-up, Specimen Days).

One book that you've read more than once:
The Hours, for one, but also A Confederacy of Dunces. I very rarely read books over; it's the same with movies or TV, though. I can't abide reruns. I do lots of spot reading/watching though, sections or segments I go back to from time to time like I'm nibbling on it or something. The only thing I repeat over and over is music.

One book you'd want on a desert island:
The Lord of the Flies.

One book that made you laugh:
Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson.

One book that made you cry:
I could be glib and say one that I wrote, since it made my brain hurt so bad, but there are lots of books that made me cry, including some I've mentioned already.

One book that you wish had been written:
Dignity: How To Maintain It In 3 Easy Steps

One book that you wish had never been written:
This is kind of like saying someone should have never been born.

One book you're currently reading:
The Art of Hunger, by Paul Auster, and Pincher Martin, by Golding, which I just discovered.

One book you've been meaning to read:
I have a mountain of books in Waterloo I've been meaning to read.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ground Water



Scientists may have found LIQUID water on Mars. And there's photographic evidence at CNN.

But since we're not going back to the moon in any substantial way for another 12 years, who's to say when we'll ever get those surfboards for Mars out. Who's to say we'll ever get to the moon at all. We've heard these promises before, and from more credible Presidents Bush. The Orion spacecraft designed to replace the shuttle, which may or may not take off tomorrow, won't come online until 2014, four years after the shuttles are retired in 2010. The pessimist part of me wonders just how long that gap will really be. NASA plans to go back to the moon on its present budget; very few people believe that's possible, and I imagine even fewer believe NASA's budget will be what it is now in ten years. On one hand, we live in an era of extraordinary discovery; every day we learn something new about our universe, and yet, we as explorers, actual physical explorers, are withdrawing from the promise of those new horizons. That never bodes well, for any society, in any period of human history.

Great audio interview with Kelly Link here.

Into The Dark

Wokka-wokka-wokka.

All is not despair:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mail

There is no end to the stories of sadness concerning the World Trade Center.

Writers at work. I especially like the Robert Burns one, and Emily Dickinson, too. Those two come closest to my situation. I inhabit writing. It's where I live most of the time, and as time goes on I am discovering that it makes me awkward outside of that cubby I hole up in. Not that I'm alone there. No writer is. There's a cast of thousands in there, all vying for attention, competing with real voices, real lives, the fragments of observation we take from our canvases of the outside world. I've been reading Paul Auster's The Art of Hunger, and in some of the interviews reprinted in the book, he talks about solitude - not as a choice, or necessity, but a simple human reflex. We're all alone. We know only our own thoughts, our own perspective. Writers enter their solitude in search of another's thoughts, another's perspective, novels a letter between minds, a paper bridge.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Delaney In '08

Peeps pick their sci-fi nominees for the LoA. Some rightly nominate Samuel R. Delaney, and he'd be my pick, too. A lot of his books are out of print and hard to find, though Vintage brought a few of them back a few years ago (my buddy Sugu had Delaney sign a copy of Dhalgren for me). I found one of his older titles at Goodwill once on a lark (Goodwill in Waterloo is actually a good place for books) and here in Chicago, I found a treasure chest of his older work at a place called Myopic Books. I had never seen any balance of his work all at once, and I was astounded. Money issues prevented me from buying them up, but I would love nothing more than to bring a big stack of them home.

This made me think of my story "Black Eyed Moon," in which a serious asteroid collides with the moon and causes some serious damage.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Evacuation of the Self

The poetry of Mark Strand, identified in this VQ article as self-annihilating. I love Strand; I suppose it's not odd to hear a writer who went to college in Iowa City say that, but I do. I found him early on, through a friend and poet named Kevin, and that first collection I read, Reasons for Moving, really made an impact on me. It formed a lot of ideas I would have about how to approach the Angel Book; in several of the poems, the narrator speaks to someone else, like in "The Suicide", where he's trying to jump off a building, but meets resistance, and more specifically for me, "The Man In The Mirror," where the narrator speaks to a lost loved one, of his grief and turmoil:

Buried in the darkness of your pockets,
your hands are motionless.
You do not seem awake.
Your skin sleeps

and your eyes lie in the deep
blue of their sockets,
impossible to reach.
How long will all this take?


These poems gave me the kernel of the idea of a narrator (the dead party in my novel), talking to a loved one still alive. It took my years to figure out how to do this - if I have - since my dead voice is able to speak, think, and yet observe and know the thoughts of others. She can flow through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person in a single sentence, and it's like riding a wave; it's exhilirating, and then it crashes down on you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home

I went down to see John Edwards at the Chicago Public Library today. He was there to talk about his new book, Home, but spent most of the time talking about politics. He says he's thinking hard about running in '08, and he sounds like a candidate; I hope he does run. He's the type of leader we need in this country; I would very much love to be able to contribute in any way I can to helping him become the next President. Outside, the DNC was hitting people up for money. I would have liked to have given, but I'm one of those poor people Edwards talks about; I couldn't afford the book, so I had to schelp my way into line to say hi to him. His handlers were very strict about signing rules and numbers and protocol, a little too strict, but I told him how much I appreciated his work and he was very nice.

Still no job. Running out of cash. The make or break line fast approaches, and I am terrified of the prospect of failure; I don't know what I'll do if I can't make it here in Chicago. My life would pretty much be over. I have zero prospects and zero means to get myself out of the hole I've dug myself in the last few years. I can say I tried and failed, but I tried; I'd rather say I made a go of it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Novelist Thrives On Breakdown

Absolutely wonderful piece on John Gardner and his The Sunlight Dialogues by Charles Johnson. Gardner's gravity snagged me, too, a couple years ago when I first read Grendel and then The Art of Fiction; he's become one of my brightest guiding lights, blinding sometimes in the glare.

The difficulties of Kelly Link. She's one of my favorite contemporary authors, and someone I think Gardner would enjoy very much.

Inside the writer's brain. A panoramic view of Will Self's office.

Dave Cockrum, dead at 63. At least he went out in style.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Fountain

I went downtown to see "The Fountain" tonight at the AMC ridiculously grandiose cineplex downtown. Some reviews I read had the film coming off cold, but I found it beautiful. It wasn't user-friendly, that's for sure, but the interweaving of the three plot threads was inspired in places, and after a while the disjointed vertigo of the first ten minutes or so disapates. I actually thought some of the ways Darren Aronofsky leapt from one thread (one each in the 1500's, present day, and what I assume is the far future) to the next were similar to what I've attempted in one of my novels, where the characters migrate from past to present tense, 1st to 2nd to 3rd person; I really loved this aspect of the film and it comes together wonderfully toward the end. The 1500's Spanish sequence mainly emerges from the manuscript of the contemporary Izzie (Rachel Weisz) and I began to wonder if it was imagined; the resolution of that sequence leads me to believe it is, since Tomas 'dies' in the shadow of the Tree of Life. It provides inspiration, and a warning, I think, to the Tom character, who ultimately does achieve immortality.

Hugh Jackman really shines as a man seeking a higher purpose that ultimately consumes and emiaciates him spiritually. The film isn't so much a quest for eternal life - it starts out that way - as it is a quest to accept death. Life is death, death is life; it's the ultimate subject in some ways, and no work of art will ever summit it, so you can forgive the film its shortcomings there. I had been looking forward to this film ever since I first heard of it (when Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were supposed to be in it - can't imagine it now) and I wasn't disappointed in the least.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Buffy's Back!

Sort of. Check out the interview with Joss Whedon about the new comic book series.

Interesting link (via Maud Newtwon) regarding the lineage of Pynchon (who I've never read, actually) and his debt, along with other big book writers, to George Eliot.

Ten years of LCRW, the zine co-created by one of my absolute favorite writers, Kelly Link.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To Ground

Robert Altman died today. One of the greats of American cinema. Nowhere near as tragic, but disappointing to say the least, is the news that Peter Jackson will not be directing the adaptation of "The Hobbit", apparently because New Line likes all that money they made off him from "Lord of the Rings" too much to give some to him.

Fore!

It's been a struggle finding work here in Chicago. That probably sounds absurd, but I've yet to make any headway. I've gone blind from submitting applications and resumes (and also from my dwindling bank balance) and when all you have is time, it's very easy to go to work on yourself. Frustration sets in, and so does the fatigue that comes with it. It's too soon to be discouraged, but I did jump without a parachute, and the ground, it's getting closer and closer all the time.

Monday, November 20, 2006

His Clay And His Congregation

It should be mentioned that some characters occasionally levitate. Great story on the development of the new series "John From Cincinati" by the incomprable David Milch.

I finished a new short story last night. I'm not sure what to make of it yet. I was inspired by the wonderful music of Regina Spektor, and also my friend and cousin Ben. who said he was writing about the toys of our youth - Star Wars, GI Joes, Transformers - and the nostalgia associated with it. I share the same love of those toys. I still have many of them, and like many people my age, I still collect them. But whereas Ben is writing about his experience, I had this weird idea about a fictional character overly obsessed with the toys of his youth, and somehow I took those that and the idiosyncratic bliss of Regina Spektor, and molded them together, and made something very crazy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Little Children

Last night Matt and I went downtown to see the new James Bond movie, which (surprise) was sold out everywhere. There were only a few hundred thousand people down on Michigan Ave. for the annual Festival of Lights, and after enjoying a parade in some light drizzle, what folks really wanted was some Bond. That was more than okay. We decided to see Little Children instead; I had wanted to see it anyway, since I live and die for Kate Winslet, and I'm very glad I did, because it was by far the best film I've seen all year. The film takes an unvarnished look at its characters, variously trapped in their suburban, post-joy lives, as they try to find little routes of escape. The many strands of the story at first don't seem to mesh - adultery, a child molester on the streets - until the end, which is extraordinary. The narration also seems out of place at first, but it gradually builds a connection with you in that it at once makes fun of the characters, and endears you to them. Go see it, if you can find it. It's excellent.

Maud Newton posts about The Book of Y and now I'm dying to check it out. Like the film last night, when you find a stimulating work of art, you're energized to write and dreadful of your talent at the same time. My work all seems awful, unrefined and middling and yet you can't help but keep slogging through. The author, Scarlett Thomas, has a website with some fun notes on beginning writers and beginning novels.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Applications Away!

So I've spent the last two days carpet bombing greater Chicago with my resume. I've walked all over downtown, following the advice of my good friends Matt and Lisa, and I've also been firing shells online (which is where most employers tell you to go anyway - but hey, at least I'm getting excercise). It's been a little overwhelming, like the city, but I've been here quite a few times before, so I'm not too freaked. My biggest concern by far is the I have no money issue.

Today I walked two miles or so to a grocery store, and got lost again on the way back. But you find things when you get lost, so no damage. I found the library branch, a K-mart, and lots and lots of little art galleries. I'm also going to get back on my writing horse after a few days off. I have a new short story that needs finishing, and a novel that needs to be laying down as much fire as my resume. You just have to do it, even though some books just don't get published. (Link from Matt Cheney.) You have to put it out there, though. I feel like mine is ready, finally, to suceed or fail.

And so am I.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Live From Chicago

Today I packed up some of my things and made the leap to Chicago. It had been coming for a long time. I desperately needed to do something and it wasn't going to be in Waterloo, as much as I may have wanted it to be. My good friends Matt and Lisa are very kind to let me stay with them while I get on my feet. I'm taking it one step at a time. I have zero money and I sort of feel like I'm jumping without a parachute, but I was falling anyways.

After I got into town Matt and Lisa introduced me to their dog Howie (so cute), the neighborhood, and Chicago cuisene. As in pizza. She also baked me a cake (since it was my birthday), which was very nice of her. I'm nervous but excited, and here's hoping I can make this work.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Eye On You

The creepiest and coolest storm in the solar system:



Cassini spotted a new storm about two thirds the size of Earth on Saturn. What sets it apart from the Big Red Spot on Jupiter and some of the other similar storms on Neptune is the eye: none of them have one so well defined.

Ed Bradley, dead at 65.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Entered The Haggis

Irish style with Ben last night down the pub and when I emerged on the other side, the Democrats had won back congress, and Donald Rumsfeld got his pink slip. But this is not all cause for celebration. No, sir. In fact, today should be considered a national day of mourning. Next time I go to the pub, I expect to come out rich and married to Kate Winslet.

Mercury transited the sun earlier today:



That little dot there. I really wanted to see it, but missed out.

The future of Cassinni (orbiting Saturn).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

E - TS (Eliot)

With a whimper:

Tens of billions of years from now, the Milky Way will be the only galaxy we're directly aware of (other nearby galaxies, including the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Andromeda galaxy, will have drifted into, and merged with, the Milky Way).

By then the sun will have shrunk to a white dwarf, giving little light and even less heat to whatever is left of Earth, and entered a long, lingering death that could last 100 trillion years—or a thousand times longer than the cosmos has existed to date. The same will happen to most other stars, although a few will end their lives as blazing supernovas. Finally, though, all that will be left in the cosmos will be black holes, the burnt-out cinders of stars and the dead husks of planets. The universe will be cold and black.


But don't despair: Brooklyn is not expanding.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Force Is With Him

More Tegan:



The blog of Jane Espenson, an Iowa native and writer of much good TV, including but not limited to Buffy. That alone would put her over the top, but the Iowa thing is neat, too. In the post I linked to (check 'em all out) she talks about giving the audience/reader what they want at the same time as giving them their worst fear (a Buffy/Angel hallmark from the title characters to Willow and Tara to Wes and Fred). This happens in the second book of the Big Damn Trilogy in about the worst possible way, and as hard a thing it is to write, to injure your characters, it feels good to (hopefully) pull off something pretty darn dramatic.

The art of Sparth. I found him browsing concept art, and discovered he loves gas masks and blimps just like me. I'm a visual person; I see what I write in my head as a film, it cuts like a film and in words I try to capture the rhythm and music of what John Garder called the 'vivid and continuous dream' - I'm making a movie, just for your head. That's no different from any other writer, ever, but we live in a visual age. I love images literal as much I do figurative and I would love to incorporate the visual side of cinema art, concept art, into my book a little more inventively than say simple illustrations. There's a little of this in a new book I saw called "The Looking Glass Wars" - Doug Chiang (Star Wars) does some neat concept work for it and I would love to do something like that. Maybe a little more ambitious. The web is a great place to bridge that gap and I have a few ideas - all I need now is someone blessed with the ability to draw since I sadly can only doodle laughably.

Friday, November 03, 2006

They Built A Statue Of Us

My new crush.

Reviews of the anthology Jigsaw Nation, in which my story 'The Switch' appears, here, here, and here.

I did my small part to help get John Kerry elected in 2004, as did a lot of other people, so it pained me to see him misspeak so badly the other day, and then run over his apology a few times before actually giving it. But the galling thing - not because it's surprising - is the conservative response. First, cover your nose; the desperation is pretty toxic. Second, consider how silent these same voices were when Rish Limbaugh didn't botch his pathetic, blatant accusation that Michael J. Fox was faking the symptoms of his Parkinson's. Maybe they figure no one takes Limbaugh seriosuly; maybe they just don't care about people with diseases, unless it serves their purpose to.

So. I've been off the radar a long while. I'll be in and out but while I'm in front of a computer I thought I would pump some life back into the beast. I'm in the middle of a major revision of the Big Damn Trilogy right now, and have been for a few months. I'm very proud of how the books are coming along, but I still have a lot of doubt and dread about the third one, which looms large on the horizon.

From Ben: Six word short stories. I love these. Six words from Whedon? Gaiman? Are you kidding me?

My contribution: Osama woke up in a freezer.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Failte Tegan

Big BIG welcome to Tegan Dennis Doherty, born 10/19:



With dear old Dad Conan (view askew):



Congrats to Amy and Co and all the best!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Maps

Here's a link to a good Matt Cheney post about the ubquitous fantasy map. It includes a link to a interesting essay by one of my favorite writers, M. John Harrison (Viricornium), in which he dismisses the idea of maps altogether. Time and place should be slippery things; it doesn't need to be any more concrete than 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and the more you map out your world, its history, the more limits you put on it. The more room your world and its characters has to move in a reader's imagination, the better.

Went to the pub with Ben tonight. Had a lot of fun with pushy waitresses. We talked about toys (no way!) old and absent girlfriends, and writing. He thinks maybe he can get my computer fixed for me -- dare I dream?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Black Eyed Moon

My story "Black Eyed Moon" is now appearing in the pages of Fantasy Magazine #3, and you can get your copy here. I don't have mine yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. I'm especially proud of this story. When people ask me what kind of fiction I write, I never know what to say, but now I think of just showing them this story (a fiction business card?) and letting it speak for me.

As for my computer woes, second verse, same as the first. Won't be changing any time soon. I'm about as poor as a boy can be, and now I thank my friend and mentor Dr. Daniel Dahlquist, who long ago promised me a vibrant career as a starving artist. Monetarily challenged as I am, it makes it hard to do the things I want or need to (glasses, the zine -- somewhat helped by the amazing talents of Amy Doherty, thank you, thank you -- leaving the Loo) but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Excellent, excellent post about Joss Whedon and the exercise of feminism in his work here. I found this very thoughtful and interesting since I'm lately considering a lot of this in my own work as well. My fiction has always been dominated by women, and the last week I've been revising the first book of the Big Damn Trilogy (to get back in the mindset for the third book) and I've discovered a world of mothers, good, bad and indifferent, and very, very few men.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Judy & Norman

The story is now up at Reflection's Edge. Give it a read and feel free to let me know what you think. I wrote it almost exactly a year ago, as I was starting my diet. Before I got a bike, I went for walks in the cemetary nearby, and I guess this is what writers think about while burning off the pounds in and around some headstones.

Summertime Blues

The computer blahs continue. They will for some time yet to come. I feel like I've been plunged back into the dark ages, say, 10 years ago, when internet access was something they kept like a secret at the library, and you got knocked off every five minutes, after it took five minutes for page to load. Sigh.

I didn't get into this NYC writing program I (desperately) wanted to. Waterloo couldn't be any less inviting right now. But, I did sell a short story the other day. My story "Judy & Norman" will appear in Reflection's Edge in the near future. It's about a girl named Judy and the father figure in her life who happens to be a zombie. My story "Paper Man" (in issue #3 of Shimmer Magazine) got a very nice review at Tangent Online.

There's so much I want to comment on and so little time. My friend Mandy is out in Portland; good luck and all the best to her. Lucky Portland. Go see "Superman Returns", it's everything The Phantom Menace should have been (and didn't know it could be). Matt is back in action. Me and him got to get together on a comic soon! And also check out Ben, who probably thinks I am dead.

Hopefully more sooner than usual.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Still Alive

Sort of. I don't have regular access to a computer, and mine is RIP, but I thought I would post here real quick to let everyone know I am still functioning. Sort of. I'm so broke I ain't worth fixing, so no computer any time soon, and no bike, either, since that's also lamed out on me. But the zine is still coming! Just as soon as I'm able. Bear with me. Sigh. This sucks SO much it's not even funny.

In the meantime, dig this:

Genre vs. deep genre.

The language of Milch, Mamet, and Whedon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pre-Pregnant

This is your country, folks. So you girls just plan on getting pregnant, and staying pregnant, until your government says otherwise. I've been reading the stories in the Jigsaw Nation book, and most of them, like my own, are very outlandish in their depictions of a future America, but then you read stuff like this, and it doesn't seem so crazy.

Another tragedy: The Vessey St. staircase, the only surviving remnant of the World Trade Center, which developers intend to get rid of. That would be as criminal as 9/11 itself -- this should be the memorial. The staircase to the sky. These people in charge of redeveloping the site need to use thier heads.

Computer watch: still toast. Now hard, calcified toast. Dangerous if you throw it hard calcified toast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hello & Goodbye

My first review, of my story "Black Eyed Moon", which appears in Fantasy Magazine this summer. You have to scroll way down to see it. It was nice. So my fingernails are safe. For now.

Writer and Other Than contributor Steve Almond quit his job at Boston College in protest over the school's invitation to Condoleezza Rice to speak at their commencement. Good for him.

It's raining cats and dogs here. Nothing like out east, but I'm over it. I almost got hit by a car on the bike today. He ran a red light. Thankfully, I have the reflexes of a tiger. Or something. I got my copy of Jigsaw Nation today. Despite having long since had the thrill of seeing my name in print for the first time (years ago when in 1995 when I wrote my first article for the newspaper) it was still very satisfying to see my first short story in print. The book looks great.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Other Than On The Web

And the big news: the zine now has an official website.

Go there and check it out. I've partnered up with good buddy Sugu to bring the zine to the web; I want to give him a big round of applause for all his help and hard work with the site. Couldn't have done it without him. On the site you'll find excerpts as well as info on how to get the zine, how to submit to it, and a lot more. Not taking orders just yet (the issue is forthcoming) but hopefully soon. Give it a look and let me know what you think!

The final cover for the Summer '06 issue:

Shimmery

Computer still dead. Amazingly, I'm holding together just fine, thanks. Over the last week I stumbled on a new idea for what will be my next novel -- or something -- and I'm very excited about it, because I've been living with the seeds and the fruit of my recent novels for ten years or so, and I'm happy and ready to be cultivating something new and fresh, something for the future.

And in the near future, like on May 19th, the new issue of Shimmer will be available. It contains my story "Paper Man," about blind Millie. You can get it from Clarke's World for sure, and I'll post here when it's up on their site.

And don't forget about Jigsaw Nation, too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Your Country Is Spying On You

You've all heard by now your phone calls are being collected by the NSA, because you might be a terrorist. Also, the administration is betraying its own national security by alerting the Mexican government of the locations of Minutemen on our side of the border. Oh, and by the way, they lied about the war, and when an American ambassador called them on it, they outed his CIA agent wife.

I'm not one of those people that are salivating at the prospect of a Democrat landslide in the fall, just so we can launch investigations and impeachments. We're better than those guys, or we should be. Let history judge Bush. But all of this is anti-American, anti-democratic, and in a just world, treason.

Which is all occasion to pimp my American going to hell in a handbasket anthology, Jigsaw Nation, now available for order at B&N. It includes my story "The Switch" and many others by very good writers. This was the first story I sold. I'm thrilled to see it in print at last (I should have my own copy Monday or so).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Still Alive (Sort Of)

My normally cruel and unforgiving headaches that situate in the roof of my mouth and behind my eyes have lately migrated to my back and neck, so I've been out of it. And now, my computer has died. Maybe it was the same thing that took down Ben's, I don't know, but it's dead, it died, I don't think it's coming back.

So things will be light here until I can get back to normal capacity. You have no idea how much you rely on something until it's gone. A writer without a computer, it's like being out in the weeds. A news junkie without the web! Even worse. A man in horrible pain without the proper medication! So-so.

I'll have lots of stuff about the zine soon, including the website, which is cool. Stay tuned. Peace, love, understanding.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Packaged Deal

First, plot and character. Then, find an author. You can imagine a struggling writer being intrigued by the prospect of quick, good money, until you read even more excellent insight into the world of 'book packaging.'

Despite all the behind the scenes intrigue in this story (who wrote what?) I keep thinking about is the whole Mary Sue thing. After the fiasco of the person who published and attempted to sell their own SW novel the other day, the fan fic thing has been on my mind, and it just seems this particular book reeks of Mary Sue, as do a lot of these 'packaged' books discussed in the articles.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a great article on the history of Mary Sue, but its reach not just into mainstream publishing, but -- gasp -- literary theory. Now, before you start laughing (or, when you're done), I have to admit that I find the Mary Sue trope compelling, theory wise. Normally, this trope provides a mechanisim for the fan to insert themselves into the pre-existing world of their favorite characters (Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, etc.), and usually in such a fashion that those characters can't imagine how they ever got on before without you. You're the long lost son/daughter of Somebody Important, Somebody's lover, you have infinite power and you make Obi Wan Kenobi look like the kid from the lightsaber video who didn't know he was being taped.

There was a little of this in the X-Men stories I mentioned before, that I wrote as a teenager; I had characters, not so much like me but like the person I'd like to be, who got the girl, who could wipe out everybody, etc. Except the whole THING was a Mary Sue, because it was me imposing a new reality on that of existing characters. What I find most interesting is that idea; the mallebility and fabrication of realities. It happens in our everyday life (don't take my word for it) and our entertainment leads us down a path toward a day when literally inserting ourselves into a fictional world may be possible.

My novel -- the one that hates me -- deals with these ideas. Which makes it so difficult. It's like being inside out of a novel, writing it, the truth and authenticity of each moment, each character suspect and it's such a f'ing fragile thing, a house of cards type book and I don't know if I can pull it off. Maybe I'll just hire a packaging company to get a writer to do it for me. Maybe someone else has already written just this type of book, and I can 'borrow' it, but forget I did! Maybe I'll write a book instead about a young, beautiful aspiring writer named Mary Sue who meets and befriends a 31-year old struggling writer and through her love and staggering talent, gets him to finish the great American novel.

Except she actually wrote it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Win Me!

I won this cool contest today at JD, scoring some neat Star Wars stuff. I never win anything. That's not true. My brother and I won the Main St. poster contest. And the poster is forthcoming, in some shape or form. Also, I found out today that Main St. is also going to incorporate the images of our poster design into their website also. That sounds pretty cool.

Speaking of things I hope to win: I'm applying to this great program in NYC that gives artists and writers space to work in for nine months. It sounds absolutely perfect to me. I go back and forth on the should I stay or should I go thing that I get sick of it myself, and lately I've been feeling so morose about this place. I daydream about being other places, about lives I'll never have. Stories I'll never publish. I got a rejection letter today from a mag. My work doesn't suit them, but they keep asking me to send more, because they like how I write (just not what I write) and I got to thinking, I don't have anything that suits them. If my stories don't involve the fantastic in some way, they involve violence, fear, intolerance in one form or another. I write many different types of stories but looking at them I see they're all wedded not just in theme but in vision. My stories are strange, violent, and often flooded.

No jackpot there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ouch

So I've been incermentally increasing how far I go on the bike, going a little further each week from the norm (10 miles, round trip) to where now I'm going roughly 14. By the end of the summer I want to be able to bike to Cedar Falls (roughly 20 miles, round trip) without suffering some sort of ambulatory episode. So I take precautions. But I don't wear a helmet, or pads, despite how fast I go (pretty fast). I had a dream the other night about being in an accident on the bike (which followed another odd dream where someone broke into my house in the middle of the night, but I shared it with someone I know [I think we were married], but not that well) and then today, I'm going down the trail, and this guy walking past points to this scar on his face and says, "This is what happens when you don't wear a helmet." So, somebody is trying to tell me something.

I've been putting the finishing touches on the zine. I've found all sorts of mistakes and pagination errors, and I'm sure I'll find more once it's printed. Never fails. I still need to figure out why the pictures aren't printing right, but other than that, we're ready to roll on issue #1. I'll have lots more info on that in the days ahead, as well as news about the zine's very own web site.

I have to figure out where I am with my novel. I spend most of my time piecing together another in my head, and this one only shows up to shame me with guilt. And tempt me with the possibilites, which are endless, and exotic, and sometimes I just want to sit down and spit it out all at once, or throw it out the window.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Writer Beware!

The worst 20 literary agents, and the absolute worst of them all.

When I was a teenager, I wrote all these stories in this little branch of the X-Men world I made up for myself, mainly because I couldn't draw them as comics. And sometimes when I'm really bored, I think of how I would have done the new Star Wars films. 'Fan fic' is fun, it's harmless, but this, this is Olympic-caliber stupidity.

Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of concepts that were embryos in that old X-Men thing ended up in the trilogy monster, in different forms. One character, for sure, and that was deliberate. Once I get my hooks into an idea, I guess. My novel has fled me. I've been away from it too long (over a month), busy with the zine, with life, and when I am writing, it's a short story. I've been infected by the short story virus. Never used to write them. NEVER. Now I'm more liable to have an idea for one of those than a novel, which is a little strange for me, since I've always written big, huge ridiculous things, all the way back to that deformed X-Men baby I locked away up in the attic.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hunting Season

So about a hundred or more Army National Guardsmen come charging up the dike onto the bike trail this afternoon, out of nowhere. It was an odd moment. They're there, and then they're gone, into the trees. Those deer didn't have a chance.

I got the revised logo for the zine from Osie today. Things will pick up a lot on the zine front here very soon -- I'll have a couple announcements to share.

I'd write more, but I'm beat.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Old Things Passed Away

And all things became new and terrible.

From the SF earthquake of 1906 to Katrina to the tsunami to little ol' Iowa City -- it makes you think going into yet another hurricane season, every scientist telling you that even if we significantly curbed our greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the global temprature will still rise 4 to 5 degrees anyways -- that we live in a state of constant disaster. My aunt Charlene will read my stories and sometimes say, you write an awful lot about diasters (or floods, apparently, to be specfic, but I'm an equal opportunity employer of catastrophe). Maybe I do. We live in disastrous times. Hell, the modern age is the age of the disaster, dating back to the Titanic, the Hindenberg, even the Triangle Shirt Factory; you tire of it. You grow immune to it and the only way it can affect you is by humbling the disasters that preceeded it in size and scope. Writing about it, removed from it as I am here in Waterloo (though, increasingly less so) helps navigate the way through, and helps keep the insult and onslaught of it all alive, and real, and appreciated.

Lots of IC tornado pics and accounts from Babies Are Fireproof.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Red Head Blues



Kelly Macdonald now a red head? God... have you no mercy or shame? The heart of the red head prone man is a fragile thing. Ask Sugu. He'll tell you. So clearly I am bored, and possessed of too much time. Oh, what the mess.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Imaginary Cities

I love the history of cities. That's why some of the damage in IC makes me sad (all those beautiful houses, you just know are going to be replaced with ugly apartments). You can pass through a century's worth of architecture in the neighborhoods I bike through. Sometimes I'll be walking around downtown and I'll just stop imagine what it looked like back in the 20's, or the 50's, when this place was really happening, or what it will look like in the future; where new buildings could go, what shape the city can take. Some cities have obvious destinies; New York was never going to be anything but a second generation city of the world.

I went out to the pub last night with Ben, and we were talking about writing, and building the imaginary worlds of our stories, and I talked a little about the fun I get out of building imaginary cities. You start with this idea of a place you like, and you then have to justfify why things are the way they are, which provides the material for developing your fictional society. Walking home, I may as well have been walking through the streets of the imaginary city; I discovered a part of it I never had before, and right away, I knew I had found not only a trivial piece of imaginary architecture, but probably the single most important image in the entire story I'm writing. Instantly, I knew how it functioned as a symbol, how it developed in each of the three books of this trilogy monster, and how it relates to each character that comes into contact with it. As soon as I got home, I started adding it into the story, being extremely careful with the words I chose to describe it, making sure the words themselves developed in each of its three appearances. Afterwards I had this buzz all night, this sheer exuberance over this feeling I'd finally unlocked something in this story, and my own writing as well.

Muriel Spark, dead at 88.

Great article about 'writer's block'.

Birth was the death of him.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Iowa City Tornado

UPDATE 2: Tornado stories and pics from Earthgoat. Also, the NY Times article. Except for the damage, which is extensive, it sounds like things could have been a lot worse.

UPDATE: Coverage from the IC Press-Citizen (thanks to Andrew for the link). The tornado was an F2, and one of 17 that hit Iowa last night, and just one of five that hit Johnson County alone. Burlington St. and Iowa Ave. downtown were hit really hard, as was Riverside Dr.; the roof to the court house is gone, as is the roof to St. Patrick's Church. The important thing is no one seems to be seriously hurt, and for that we can all be thankful.

I know a lot of my friends and the people that read this blog have connections to Iowa City, so I thought I would let everyone know: I just learned that a tornado struck the city earlier tonight, and did a lot of damage. Apparently it went down Riverside Drive, which is where my friend Andrew and I shared an apartment; my understanding is the Dairy Queen across from the apartment was destroyed. I don't know about the apartment or any of the other buildings on that street, but Hillcrest (I think that's the name) was also damaged. I haven't heard about any deaths or serious injuries, thank God. It apparently touched down by the Wal Mart out by the airport, and continued on into Coralville and North Liberty. They're asking people to stay away from Iowa City, and all classes have been cancelled.

I'm going to try and find out as much as I can, and try and get down there if possible. I know the Red Cross is already there, and I'd like to do anything I can.

Good Friday Flashback

Well, since the Loo Shots became a casuality of being too sick and having too much to do at the same time (I do want to get back to them, though, since I do like a little photography now and again) here's Gretchen Mol, who should have been an Exhibit, but wasn't only because I forgot, but would be, if I do them again:



I finished a new short story tonight. Actually, I was going through the pile (you know the little stack of ideas you have and write down, in case you have a night like tonight, where you just want to write, no matter what) and came across a story I half wrote, about a disgruntled dog catcher named Terry. I think I may have told Ben about this once. I like it, because it's so different for me. It's funny, and messed up, and relies entirely on voice. Terry has problems keeping his tenses straight when he's recounting his tale, but then, most people do; a lot of people relate things that happened to them in the present tense ("So I go up to the door, right --") and I try to capture that here. I don't know. I also incorporated a little bit of childhood lore into this. My friend Mike will recognize it immediately (how many sticks of dynamite was it?).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm Gonna Fly One Of Those



25 years ago today, I stayed home from school to watch the space shuttle lift-off for the first time. Back then the fat external fuel tank was still painted white, so it looked like some giant ivory tower blasting off into the air with an airplane attached to it. Columbia was as incredible a piece of human effort as the Spirit of St. Louis, and it belonged in a musuem. Unfortunately it belongs to the ages now, and when the shuttles are retired in 2010, it will be before their time, and too long past. The future of space flight is obviously in the domain of the private sector, and if I ever have an extra million bucks lying around, I'll buy myself a seat on one of these upcoming space planes. But it won't be the same as the flying on the shuttle, which I still wish I could do.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Looks Like Its Mother

I mailed the manuscript of the second novel of the sci-fi trilogy to my friend Conan today. It weighed over seven pounds. I had a father's pride.

The zine is also due any day now. I'm essentially done with it; all that's left are a few bios and the final logo. I'm so out of touch with my novel (it's been weeks) I'll have to go back and read from the beginning to get back in the mindset of it. I've done this before with previous ones, it's not so unusual. I feel very strange not being neck deep in writing a novel, having spent so many of the last few years doing nothing but. I'm glad for it, and at the same time, I feel a strange guilt. My novels are emotionally abusive. What can I say.

A humid, breezy, but beautiful day. The water is up higher. Damn floods.

Monday, April 10, 2006

When A Duck's A Duck

Nick Mamatas asks that you please kill him.

There's nothing worse than people who appoint themselves to graduate lowly genre fiction into the exclusive court of literary or 'serious' fiction, and that's what the editors of the anthology he reviews appear to be doing. It's the same thing when the New York Times discovers, for the fifth time, that comics aren't just comics anymore, but serious works of art. Thanks, but we've known that for 20 years now. And we all know quality writing is quality writing. It's not an endangered species in need of protection (okay, maybe it is). It's not in need of affirmative action, either.

It got to nearly 80 degrees today, so you know I was on the bike. Unfortunately the trail is still flooded over. I'm making due with laps in the cemetary. Working hard on the zine, assembling it without directions, cutting, pasting, more or less screwing up every five minutes and learning from it. I'm also putting the finishing touches on the new story, and then I'm going to send it to some readers for some feedback before I submit it anywhere. And then I have novels like forgotten children. There is no mercy like the mercy on neglected art. Sigh.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Got It Covered

Via The Millions: Penguin Classics continues its way cool line of Graphic Classics that feature books like Gravity's Rainbow with comic style covers by folks like Frank Miller. That's almost the coolest thing ever. And yesterday at the book store I saw a new book called Wolf Boy that has a comic book woven into it. And speaking of weaving art, I've fallen in love with an artist named Kettle whose work is on display at my brother's gallery. Here's a sample:



His work is really original and unique, and tonight I asked him if he'd like to contribute the second cover of the zine, and he said yes! Color me happy. Speaking of the zine, I got a wonderful poem from Amy Doherty -- or is that AJ Doherty -- which means I have all the contributions for issue one in hand. Now comes the hard part. Getting it printed. I plan on having it out on the street by early May.

I also finished my new short story tonight. 26 pages. I'll let it simmer a few days while I work on the zine (and neglect my novel even more) and see if I like it then.

Friday, April 07, 2006

White Space

Kevin Brockmeier on the use of white space. This is pretty neat.

The Gospel of Judas.

NBC snubs morning show cutie Campbell Brown to replace Katie Couric! Bastards. I'm so not getting up early on weekdays now.

It's just like the old days... From Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Close to finishing this new story. Endings used to be so easy. They usually came hand in hand with the initial idea for a story, and never changed much. Now they're invisible. It's like that game of trust. At some point you have to put your faith in the notion that when you fall backwards, the person behind you will catch you. Endings are the same. Sooner or later, you have to stop yanking on the reins and even let go, no matter how scary or confusing it might be.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pieces Of The Puzzle

Here's the final cover art of the anthology JIGSAW NATION, which includes my story "The Switch", along with many others by very good writers, like Paul G. Tremblay, Doug Lain, and Jay Lake:



The hardcover edition will be out in May, and I'll certainly let everyone know when and where if it interests them to get a copy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Flyover Fiction

Jessa Crispin talks about Midwest fiction, and the lack of attention it gets. Part of it is that fiction has always been about going to places that weren't familair (Dorothy didn't go from Oz to Kansas) and I think that most people consider the Midwest boring, comfortable, and somewhere people want to leave. I know from living here all my life the Midwest is about as unfamiliar as you can get. The only difference between the eccentricities of the coasts and middle America is that in the former, the buildings are bigger.

I always write about Iowa (unless I'm writing about outer space, or that story in The Angler, where I flood nice, innocent Chicago). I'm writing a new story now that takes place in this fictional town I've made up. It just sort of happened. A lot of my short fiction (and the Angel Book) take place there. This new story gave me nothing but fits until the last couple days, when I happened upon the right approach (really experimental for me) and now it comes out in these great gushes. I'm trying to hold on for dear life when I'm writing it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Roof on the Lake

My story "Roof on the Lake" is now up at The Angler. Give it a read and let me know what you think, if you want. You may hate it. A lot. In which case maybe you should just not say anything. Unless you're the type that lets things get bottled up. Then you should say something. For your own sake.

Well, It's About Time

Fantasy goes literary. Really interesting article at PW (via Matt Cheney) on the growing acceptance of liteary works of the fantastic, led by Kelly Link and others. I remember thinking when I was a little younger that when I published, I'd participate in this kind of 'revolt' -- you know, "I'll show them!" -- looks like it might be over by the time I get there. Wouldn't be the first time. Sigh.

The flu refuses to go away. I haven't been able to get any writing done, which is like a smoker going without a cigarette for a week. It's ugly. I've done a little bit here and there, even resorting to writing things out long hand (which I never do) because I'm so damn dizzy sitting in front of the computer makes me want to toss my cookies. Like right now.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Still Coughing

Happy to say the online alternative literary mag The Angler accepted my story "Roof On The Lake." It will appear in the upcoming 'hallucination' issue. This is a flash fiction piece about a girl stranded on a rooftop in Chicago after the lake level rises and floods the city, you know, in the future of global warming that George Bush assures us won't happen. Also, you can check out my new bibliography page over on the side.

Lucasfilm announces 'adult' line of Star Wars books.

Matt has some more Waterloo doodles on his blog of karoke devotees at the Tymes. I bet you could make an entire little strip out of these guys. They're great. He also has one of his pieces included on the postcard art of The Human Pixel Project.

John McGhahern died on Thursday. I want to say we saw him read in Ireland. I can't remember for sure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Queen + Paul Rodgers



So my brother is ga-ga for Queen. He has a tatoo of the Queen crest on his arm that even Brian May was astounded by, back when we met him in 1998 (also in Chicago). Aaron had him autograph his arm (yep) which he then had tatooed. So you get an idea of what we're talking about when he tells me Queen is back on tour in the States for the first time since 1981, and we're going. No matter what.

We actually saw two concerts: Chicago on Thursday, and St. Paul on Sunday. The pics are from Chicago, where we were able to smuggle the camera in (good thing; how sweet are these 8th row pics?). We got to our lovely hotel at the end of a runway in Elk Grove around 1 PM, and then I hightailed it downtown to visit Lisa and Matt. I felt terrible being in a rush, because I wanted to spend lots of time with them, and Chicago is still my first love, but I had to be back at All State Arena by 7:30, and I had over an hour commute each way. So the three of us made due at Rock Bottom (we had dreams of Uno's, but alas...) and I made it back, just in time. The show was fantastic. It was great to see the band live, and hear the songs again. I was iffy on the prospect of Paul Rodgers (or anybody) replacing Freddie Mercury, but Freddie was front and center in everyone's hearts and minds. His voice started off the show, and he sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the crowd via the miracle of modern technology. And Paul Rodgers fit right in. He sounded great. So did Brian May:



The highlights for me were Brian May's guitar solo (which was even more stupefying in St. Paul), "Radio Ga Ga", and "Under Pressure." Halfway through the concert I had lost hearing in my left ear -- no lie -- and I was very concerned, but it came back. So did the flu. The day after I was sicker than a dog, and I could barely stand up in St. Paul. I'd never been there before, and I found it very beautiful on the river. It reminded me a little of Dubuque, but much bigger. By the time we got there, though, I was dragging. I'm glad I made it, because the band was on a whole new level Sunday night. They killed out there from the get-go and were much looser and comfortable on stage than they seemed in Chicago (apparently Brian May was suffering from pain he sustained after falling into a piano pit). I put everything into clapping hands for "Radio Ga Ga":



But after that, I was spent. And I'm really feeling it now. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Queen is one of the greatest bands ever, and good for them they're able to go back out and play the songs for people. I'm sure Freddie would have wanted it that way.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why I'm Not Posting

I'm really, really sick. And I'd been doing so well. I came down with the flu pretty bad after Chicago and I've lost my voice. There's lots of stuff I see while I browse that I want to link to, but then I go, 'But that means work.' So check out the links on the side, and check back here, I promise I'll have pics of Chicago and a story to boot.

Update: Kat sent me this. So nice, thank you Kat. And also Ben now has a MySpace page.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stay Tuned

I'm going to have a big post soon about my trip yesterday to Chicago to see Queen + Paul Rodgers at All State Arena, as well as my way too brief visit with Lisa and Matt, but since I'm so tired I can't sleep:

Sugu sent me this. Maybe it would have made more sense 15 years ago when 5 million people cared.

99 Red Balloons! For an hour!

I'm not happy with any of my writing lately. I'm not even excited to sit down and work on it. Some stories come, and I have ideas for some, but I spend less and less time with the novels. The irony is, it's by design. I really wanted to be creative outside of slavish, monkish devotion to endless writing, and now that I have, editing the zine, doing a little photography, I feel like I'm having a nic fit or something. Maybe I need to be 100% devoted to the writing, or else it suffers. A person can't be, though, which is why I started asking for some space. There's life, too. You can't spend all your time living inside your head. But maybe you don't have a choice. You do what you're meant to do. If you turn your back on it, it leaves you, and you understand the meaning Mephistophilies gave Hell.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Phantom Of The Vendetta



I saw 'V For Vendetta' today, at the newly reopened Crossroads Theaters. It's bigger. That's about all I can say about it. As for the movie, it's entertaining. It starts off thrillingly, and like too many movies these days, loses nearly all of its narrative energy in about 20 minutes. We get spoon fed a lot of stuff in the middle that should be shown instead of told (interestingly, we get scenes reported to us by characters that then proceed to be dramatized, piecemeal). Natalie Portman is cute as a button, speaks in a passable English accent, and Hugo Weaving does a lot of thankless acting behind a mask.

The biggest issue by far is whether the film glorifies terrorism. I applaud the filmmakers for even raising the question of when is terrorism justified, and they do a reasonable job of leaving the question up to the viewer, but the film confuses the issue. For one, terrorism, the murder of innocents, is never justified. Period. Once you commit to random bloodshed of this sort, you conceed defeat. Your objectives can't be attained militarily, or politically. Terrorism, as widespread and horrific as it is, has never achieved anything for its proponents other than protracted semi-warfare that states either learn to accept (Israel) or will not tolerate (America). The film wants to have V a rebel against a vicious, Nazi style regime. No one would object to standing up to this kind of oppression, but V doesn't kill innocent people. He murders the architects of his country's facisim, and destroys its monuments. The destruction of Parliment is truly breathtaking -- literally -- but you can't imagine Americans thinking Timothy McViegh justified in his actions. To take it a step further, no campaign of domestic terrorism aimed at destabilizing the Bush administration would garner the support of Americans, regardless of their political leanings. Anarchy in the USA? Sure. T for terrorism? Never.

Monday, March 20, 2006

'Loo Go Bragh

The midwestern IWP squad came to Waterloo to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this weekend. I spent some time playin Virgil in Dante's Inferno, giving the tour of Hell, and we did lots of fun things, like walk the nature trail, crash the Bosnian bar because Jameson's was over capacity, and witness truly cutting edge karoke at the Tymes, where everyone leaves a little uglier than they did when they got there. There were some things we didn't get to do. The open mic at the Arts Center was a bust (a bigger heads up than a note on the door might have helped), Jameson's was too crowded like I said (apparently Ben was there the same time we were -- could have been standing right next to him and not known it), and we didn't play Pitch! We forgot! But I'm so happy and glad they all came and enjoyed Waterloo. I'm sorry the others couldn't make it, but there's always another get togther around the corner.

Co, Matt, and Lisa in awe of the Tymes' karoke:


Andrew appreciates the Tymes:


Me and Mandy at some point between "Sweet Home Alabama" and "White Wedding":


Exploring the woods out at Cedar Bend with Amy and Co's dog Dharma:


Dharma identifies an enemy target in the water and engages:


Wrapping up Saturday night:


The best news: Amy and Co are pregnant! I'm so happy for them. Congratulations and salinte!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Deoch An Dorrias

Going silent this weekend, as all Celtic hell is about to break out up in this peace. I leave you with a parting shot (again, not a 'Loo shot -- wither the 'Loo shot?):

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Runway Withdrawal

I admit it. One week later, and life after Project Runway is difficult. Of course, there's the Sopranos, but no new tirades from Santino? No more German goodbyes from Darth Klum? Sigh. Luckily, there is life after Runway. First, I found this blog devoted entirely to the show, with lots of links to the designers sites (and their own blogs). And of course Bravo has TONS of videos and material to keep you going for a while, including a video of Kara Janx's Fashion Week collection. Yeah, she didn't make the cut, but she showed, and good lord. I always liked her best, but if she had been contending... I could listen to her voice all day. If I had an iPod, that's all I'd do. Kara talking, on
shuffle. I need help.

My novel hates me. But two days until St. Patty's!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Metamorphosis

The winning entry in the Main St. Waterloo / Metro Arts Guild 10th Anniversary Poster Contest, 'Metamorphosis', by the Bros. Harn:



I know it doesn't show a lot of detail, but hopefully you get the idea. Very happy and proud of it. And this, too:



Once again, all the lettering and the logo are tentative, but I think this is very close to what the final product will look like. Since I put up the last cover version, I've switched the zine format to legal size paper, so that explains the new rectangleness. Legal looks better, feels better, and plus, it gets all the material in, which letter size utterly failed to do.

I'm Feeling Lucky

The Google map of Mars!. From Caitlin R. Kiernan. This is funny because I was talking with my friends Osie and Kyle the other day about space, and the private sector taking up the plunge into space, and how it would likely be a company -- Google -- that lands on Mars first.

I'm looking forward to V For Vendetta, even if Alan Moore isn't. I admire his uncompromising creativity, and I've always admired the original graphic novel, but wanting to take his name off it? The movie, okay. But the book?

I got back into the novel last night after taking a few days off. 146 pages now. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway would say, I'm trying to 'Make it work.' I wonder if it's this book that's so difficult, or this is the future of my writing. The more you know. The more you learn of craft, the more considerations you have, and for someone like me, who tends to fly through first drafts so I can whittle it all down later, it's like putting the brakes on. You have to consider all that there is to consider. So it makes the process slower, but better. I hope.

Only five more days until St. Patty's, and the IWP crew arrives! A good number of them, anyhow. I can hardly contain my excitement. I only hope the weather behaves, and they don't all find Waterloo oppressively boring.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Diamonds In The Rough

Happy to announce that my brother and I won the Main St. Waterloo 10th Anniversary Poster Contest, co-sponsored by the Metro Arts Guild. Our piece, entitled "Metamorphisis", is on display at the gallery -- unless it's somewhere else now. I'll try and get a scan of it to put up on the blog (why didn't you think of that before, Darby?)

There's a new literary journal out there called A Public Space that could not have started off better. The contributors and bredth of the material really has me excited not just to pick this up, but submit there as well. The coolest thing is they have a new story by Kelly Link. Check out the excerpt.

My own zine, Other Than, continues on pace toward completion. It seems like I may be hosting a joint reading at the gallery to launch it along side Osie's Murmur, which would be very cool and exciting.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter made it safely into orbit.

Lay Down Your Burdens

So I'm a huge fan of the new version of Battlestar Galactica. It's like an HBO show, but in space. I saw the second season finale, in which the producers take an enormous risk at the end by (SPOILERS) moving the series ahead in time by one year, and rebooting everything; relationships, the setting, even hair-do's (big no-no). I'm of two minds on it. I think the folks over at Coalescent say it best. BSG has been burning through its limitless story possibilites all year.

It started with the Pegasus arc. Honestly, the two ships coming to blows and the internal struggle between Adama and Cain should have played out over several episodes. Instead, she's dead in a couple, and so are two other would be commanders of that ship. And last night, Ron Moore, who's been a hero of mine since The Next Generation, runs through an entire season in a half hour. A half hour tacked on to the regular runtime. I applaud the risk taking. It sets BSG apart. But why the rush? And at the expense of so many characters and relationships. Callie's pregnant? What? What came of the budding relationship between Adama and Roslin? They had a perfectly fine cliffhanger with Baltar becoming President. I worry for the show's long term viability. One of the joys of a show like this is the slow accumulation of mythology. BSG seems intent on outrunning this. True, it's behaved as if genre trappings were just that. Burdens. The Sopranos has a mythology. So does Deadwood and any other quality show you can name. I say slow it down.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Got Water?

No 'Loo Slice this week. More like Saturn slice:



The tiny, until obscure as hell moon of Saturn called Enceladus has LIQUID WATER it routinely shoots out into space through geysers that make Yellowstone look like a bone-dry Super Soaker. Not only that, but the geyser plumes the Cassini space probe flew through last summer contain several organic materials.

Um... so when do we go? Mars, Europa, Titan, and now Enceladus are all huge reasons for us to get our act together space program wise and get up there double quick.

I finished a new short story tonight. A short sort of Kafka-esque piece that's very strange and unusual for me. I really like it, though. It's stark and bleak and unreal, irreal, however you want to say it. I also read just an amazing story by E. Sedia. I love it. I love all her writing. Also spent the most of the day doing the final proofing on the galley of my story "Paper Man", which will appear in Shimmer #3 this spring. I also answered some questions for an interview (my first interview!) that will appear on their website at some point.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen!

One of those nights I really wish I was back in IC: I missed Kevin Brockmeier's reading at Prairie Lights. I really want to get a hold of his book which sounds very interesting to me, because it sounds like it comes from the same crazy sort of place the Angel Book did. I love stories about death and what's after. What could be more exciting or adventuresome? "Death would be an awfully big adventure."

As is the usual, after writing ten pages or more of my novel in one sitting, I've taxed myself out. I wrote a little last night, but tonight, nothing. Exhaustion. Except the finale of Project Runway is on! I like them all. I thought Daniel V. was a lock until I saw his final looks, which didn't measure to the creativity he established for himself during the show. Mandy and I were talking about how there should be a PR style show for writers. A workshop where each week someone gets eliminated. The red check mark or something. It would be hysterical. You kind of already had that atmosphere in the actual workshop environment. It could be very competitive and cutthroat at times. Some people didn't survive. I remember the instructor of a poetry class I took (he was also a student in the Iowa MFA program) came in one day after being 'eliminated' let's say, and said, "My life is over." And all the German girls say Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Bad, More Good, The Everyday Cycle

Dana Reeve, 1961-2006. Life is ridiculously unfair.

But it has its moments. My dear friend Ilona is getting married. Congratulations to her and to the lucky fellow.

I recieved an extraordinary poem today from my old friend and mentor Daniel Dahlquist for the first issue of Other Than. I wouldn't be where I am, on this road and journey, if it wasn't for him. The zine is very nearly complete, just a couple more contributions to go. Early May still looks like the target date for printing.

I had a very good night with the novel last night. I ended up with something like 137 pages, so I wrote about ten new pages. The new issue of Bookslut is out, which contains a great interview with Jonathan Ames, which deals in part with point of view. That's a big part of the challenge with this novel. Like the Angel Book, I'm trying to bend and stretch first person as far as I possibly can, finding ways to open it up more, to allow it to insinuate itself into omniscence. And I like what Ames said about using first person to get into the character; you can do this with third person as well, but first is almost like playing a part, creating a voice, mannerisms, and tics.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Good With The Bad

Good news: Maureen McHugh's Hodgkin's has NOT returned! Commence with the Peanuts happy dance wherever you presently are.

Bad news: Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett has passed away at 45.

If only Ground Zero could be like this.

Through Maureen's blog I discovered there is another Darby who writes. I admit it. I've been cloning myself.

I watched the Oscars last night, despite having seen only one of the films nominated (owing to a combination of our local theater being closed, and those little films never coming here anyway -- well, Capote is playing here right now). I liked George Clooney's pride at not being in the mainstream, but I didn't like the Academy's making a darling of Brokeback Mountain only to give the Best Picture to Crash, the only film I'd seen, which despite it's pedigree is undeserving. I think it will be remembered more in the future as the first Best Picture shot in HD video -- yep, it was -- than a piece of art that reflects the times it was made in.

I wrote four pages in the novel last night. 127, now. Every time I sit down with it, it's a struggle, but nevertheless I manage to eke out something. I found myself going through an old book by Tom Gunning on the films of Fritz Lang, submerging once again into the stark isolation and paranoia of those beautiful films, searching for inspiration. This novel contains elements of noir, both the literary and cinema styles, plays with some of the tropes, like the lone anti-hero and the femme fatale (in this case, the same person), while at the same time it plays with sci-fi tropes in a way I hope (and pray) is somehow unique. We'll see. I also began a new short story, which feels very differet from the others I've written; it certainly wants to lead me away from the safe and familiar.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Nick Mamatas drops the bomb on yesterday's NY Times article by Dave Itzkoff:

'The often comfortable, sometimes fascist, middle has just enough leverage and dough to insulate themselves from much social change, and when the dough runs out they're the ones who slap on the Hugo Boss suits and the armbands and try to drag the world back into some Golden Age bereft of labor unions, international capital, and Jews. Not people you want to agitate too much, at least not on your first time out as an SF critic.'

So does Matt Cheney. On second read (which is where this seems to really reveal itself to everyone) the review/manifesto seems to relay more of Itzkoff's concerns with the social status of the sci-fi reader than it does the problems of the genre. I think Ben Marcus had this out with Jon Franzien back in Harper's, where Marcus took Franzien to task for putting the Reader before the innovation and challenge of fiction. Itzkoff seems to want some elements of sci-fi to do away with -- well, some sci-fi elements -- so that mainstream readers of books Oprah might suggest (like The Corrections?) will not ridicule or shun him on the subway. Like I said yesterday, boilerplate sci-fi doesn't always interest me, but I wouldn't ever concern myself with who noticed me reading it. Part of science fiction's appeal has always been, for me, its outsider quality. Should it be accepted as a geniune literary form? Absolutely. Is it? Absolutely. Does everyone need to read it to validate my existence? No.

Read Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners for free.

I have a novel I'm supposed to be writing. Except I'm thinking of another all the time. Thinking isn't cheating, is it? Maybe Itzkoff should ask his subway peers what books they're really thinking about when they're reading The Kite Runner. I have an idea for a story, I think; I have a beginning, and I don't know if it's to a story, or a poem, or something else entirely.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Worth A Thousand Words

I laughed at this because it's true.

My friend Osie sent me this review that elaborates on the divide between sci-fi as a genre and mainstream fiction. This article isn't saying it, but when I hear 'sci-fi' (or insert genre here) should be more accessible, I hear those guys like Michael Medved who appointed themselves guardians of Middle America, and want Hollywood to make movies everyone wants to see. Not smart, challenging artistic films like the ones nominated for the Oscars this year, but stupider, less diverse films that don't threaten anyone's politics or sexuality. Some sci-fi does read like an instruction manual. It doesn't interest me personally. It never really did. I love spaceships and robots and all of that, but stopping to explain it can be fatal. It doesn't really matter how it works, unless all you care about is how it works, and certainly some people do. You don't stop in the middle of a story to explain how a Toyota works, for instance.

Osie also sent me a preview of his upcoming zine, Murmur, which looks amazing. Hopefully he'll let me show a little of it on here. I love that there is art down here in Waterloo, I love that I'm able to be a part of it. That excites me, and it frustrates me too, because this place has been so dry for so long, some people don't know how to drink. Progress is progress when you move forward. Doesn't matter how slow. Progress isn't saying you're making progress and then saying that over and over again. It's art. Show, don't tell.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Big-Boned Wednesday

They're making a movie of "Until Gwen," a short story by Dennis lehane, and one of my favorites from this year's Best American Series.

Nick Mamatas interviews NOLA writer Poppy Z. Brite about Mardi Gras and the slow recovery.

The coolest nebula I've ever seen:



I'll have to crib it for my book. Which I didn't write today. Bad me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Coming Soon To A Newstand Near You

I'm very happy and excited to give you an early look at the cover to inagural issue of Other Than, art by my brother, Aaron Harn:



I really like it. It sort of jumps out and grabs you. All the type is temporary placeholder stuff, especially the logo, which reflects the original title. The new logo will be very similar, but of course say Other Than. I will include all the contributors in that little grid space on the back cover, once they're all set in stone, as is the style of many lit journals. This zine wouldn't be anything without the faith and contributions of very sweet and talented people. The plan right now is for the zine to debut in May -- I'll have a final cover before then.

Wrote 5 new pages in the novel tonight, which makes it a couple nights in a row, and it's the most consistent novel writing I've done in a while. 124 pages. I'm getting more comfortable with the story, though I still have no clue where it's headed. Though I know now the last line. Always cool to know that, even if it changes.

Film classics. By bunnies.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kindred

Octavia Butler, dead at 58. Butler didn't drive. She took the bus like me, or walked. She died walking. Too soon, but walking.

I recieved some more contributions for the zine today. One was an extraordinary poem from Doug Powell, a piece of riveting non-fiction from Mandy Hurley, and a great cartoon from Matt Hanneman. I forgot to mention I got a great poem (and a call!) from Polly Brewster. I spent a couple hours working on the zine and discovered I'm actually very close to filling out its pages. I should have the final contributions for the first issue soon, as well as that pesky cover...

I'm up to 117 pages on the new novel. Don't go in dark basements.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

21st Century Writer

Slipstream ain't what it used to be, ain't what it used to be...

A really good review of Ali Smith's new novel The Accidental spins off larger questions about life in the age of public narrative, and also, if the book is slipstream or not, and just what is slipstream nowadays. Read Bruce Sterling's 1989 essay for sure. Slipstream is more or less what I've been calling 'deep-dish lit' here on the blog; writing that inhabits a strangeness that isn't orthodox in either literary or genre terms. I consider myself that kind of writer. I don't particulary appreciate the term 'post-modern'. It's outdated, and I have issues with it. I'd rather just say I'm a 21st century writer. I'm a writer coming of age in a century very young and undefined, that changes exponentially every year. Our art and the means of its delivery to the public changes every year. It's very hard to define things that can't be or aren't meant to be defined.

Went out last night with Ben and friends from the Metro Arts Guild, Kyle and Osie. It was a lot of fun. We meant to go to the new Irish pub, but it won't be open to the public until Monday, so we went to the Lava Lounge instead. Osie designed the logo for the zine, which I just realized I've never showed here. Now that the title has changed, and Osie is graciously amending the logo, I present the original:



I love it and I'm sad there was another Other. Big thanks to Osie for his time and hard work, I really appreciate it. As for the cover... so, next week for sure.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't Worry About Security

Your president in action.



Maureen McHugh's Hodgkins may have returned. I wish her all the best.

So I promised the zine cover this week. Mmm... the week technically isn't over yet. So we'll see. I may have found a new title for it. I'm up to 110 pages on my novel. And I was in a car accident today. Nothing major. But the other guy was perhaps the biggest asshole I've met in quite some time. Aren't they always, though? We had pulled over to the side of the road to avoid an ambulance (as you're supposed to) and who comes flying out of a driveway? Asshole. We honked the horn for like five seconds and he just kept coming. He told me 'it didn't matter.' It was a generally crappy day. What can I say.

But I found out Mandy watches Project Runway too!



I'm so addicted it's not even funny.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Like Ghosts

The blurry line between YA and adult fiction. I think about this sometimes. When I was a teenager, I graduated into 'mature' comic books before I did novels. At the time DC was in the early days of what would become Vertigo; Alan Moore was doing Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman was just starting Sandman, and comics weren't comics anymore. I started reading more 'adult' books, at first things like 'The Stand', and then 'The World According to Garp.' I think about this because some of my fiction straddles this line, the same as it does genres. I don't think books should be labeled YA or OA or whatever, anymore than they should be shoe horned into categories and genres. It helps for young readers to have a realm of books all their own, but the best books, as they quickly find out, live there like ghosts; they're there, and they're not.

Went to the doctor again today. Same old story, except I've now lost 80 pounds. It's sort of hard to comprehend that this time last year I felt so big -- I was so big -- and ugly and shipwrecked and lost. I'm only a little over half way to my goal (half of my former self) but I know now I can do it, and more.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Conversations With: Molly McNett

This week I'm proud to present an interview with Molly McNett. Molly is a former teacher of mine from Iowa, and she was very supprotive and encouraging to me way back in my tadpole days. She teaches at Northern Illinois, and she's a graduate of the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop. She was a finalist for the Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Award, and her story "Catalogue Sales" appears in the 2005 editon of The Best American Non-Required Reading.

Q: What was your first literary crush?

A: I'll answer this literally- my husband. Because he was much better read than I was--still is--and writing seriously already when I met him. I hadn't read anything to speak of. And my husband's family was a wonderful thing to me, because they are all readers, and my mother in law is a writer.

But to answer the real question: Mary Gaitskill. I still have a literary
crush on Mary Gaitskill. Part of it is her language. She has such style
and control. And I remember Two Girls Fat and Thin was one I read with the dictionary at hand, looking up every big word and memorizing some of the phrases. (I still like that simple pleasure of a writer who uses a word I don't know, or complicated syntax, though I can't pull off anything close to those styles I admire the most.) And then of course there is the darkness and eroticism, especially of the stories in Bad Behavior, etc. There was an ugliness in those stories like nothing I'd ever read before them, and yet when I would finish reading them, I'd always feel uplifted, strangely. Well, they're beautifully rendered. Maybe that transcends whatever is ugly about them.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story 'Catalogue Sales'?

A: Let's just say that I don't have a very good imagination. I believe in wholesale invention, but I haven't ever practiced it.

Q: You graduated from the Writer's Workshop at Iowa. What advice and perspective would you offer writers wanting to pursue their MFA?

A: I have two thoughts on this, and they contradict each other. First, go to an MFA program and try to go to the very best ones, not because there is any true difference, exactly, in what you'll be taught, but because you don't want to be the best writer there. It's like playing tennis with someone who's worse than you are- there's not as much incentive to improve. (I don't participate in sports of any kind and can only imagine this, but that's what I've heard.) Raising the bar- is this some kind of track and field metaphor? Well, those are some well worn cliches I've given you there, but it's a fact that there's some kind of group momentum that occurs when a great piece is turned in for workshop. The next people who write respond to that, and it's like a great, heady conversation. And you have to read a lot when you're in MFA programs, so you don't want to have to read crap. There's probably a lower crap factor the more selective you are, but of course, crap can be found anywhere. But there is the other thing I wanted to say, and I think it's more important: stay away from anyone or anything that discourages you. My hero is this regard is Lily Briscoe, the painter in To the Lighthouse. Somewhere in the book she says she doesn't go to museums because there is too much great art there. "One might never paint again," she thinks, or something like that. In other words you have to know yourself and protect yourself and don't go too early or when you're too fragile. Or if you go anyway be vigilant and stick with yourself. It's the impulse to write that's the most important and its worth a lot more than the trappings of being a writer...even more important than being well-read, or being published, for example. Or going to Iowa.

Q: Is there a book or a story you really want to write but haven't yet?

A: Yes. I'd like to write a 3,000 page, six volume, first person critique of capitalist culture. It would deal with the nature of time, memory and its reliance on the senses, travel, jealousy, snobbism, and the way technology (telephone vs pneumatic tube, etc.) has changed the nauture of human interaction. Has anyone covered that yet?