April 2008


I just finished Elizabeth Hand‘s terrific novel, Generation Loss. What a wonderful writer she is! Her dark narrator is pitch perfect, her examination of the obsessive relationship between the artist and his art, unflinching and thought-provoking, and her evocation of place—a Maine island in winter—chillingly (in all senses) effective. It’s also a great page-turning read without car chases or stupid shoot-’em-ups to distract from the psychological horror of the tale. It’s not fantasy or sf, but manages to be other-worldly just the same. I highly recommend it.

The third Ravencon will be here in lovely springtime Richmond this weekend at its new, more convenient location. Check it out. The first two were exceptionally well-run small cons. I’ll be around quite a bit on Friday and Saturday. I’m scheduled for the following:

Writing Full Time, Friday, 4 pm, a panel about being chronically broke, uninsured, but happy.
Using a Pseudonym, Friday, 11 pm, a panel at 11 pm. Does anybody use their real name then? Robert Sydney will be doing this panel. Dennis Danvers is asleep at this hour.
Signing, Saturday, 6 pm, me sitting alone with some of my books, or, if I’m lucky, sitting next to someone else keeping their books company. I will sign anything. I’ve been working on my Robert Heinlein and Phil Dick signatures.

After eleven years of blissful togetherness, Sarah and I decided to marry. Issues like health insurance hung in the balance, and time was of the essence. For the record, Sarah proposed to me, and I accepted. I have some experience with marriage ceremonies. This was a decidedly odd experience.

Sarah and I first went to get our license, an event I hoped to photograph, forgetting that the courthouse bans cameras, so we had to dash over to Sarah’s office to ditch it. For some reason, marriage licenses are to be obtained in a federal courthouse who must be vigilant against terrorists taking pictures. Once you have the license you must go elsewhere to be hitched. In Virginia now one must have a marriage ceremony. You can’t just go to the courthouse and say “I wanna,” and that’s enough. Even queers could do that. No, there has to be a ceremony, by God. We were given a list of “celebrants” in two categories “religious” and “civil.” Now, you can guess which category a pair of atheists would pick. I called one of the names on the list, talked to this guy’s wife who set up a time. I explained we wanted it soon, with a minimum of ceremony. $50 if performed in their home, $100 anywhere else. Their home, it is.

It’s a house in an older burb. The guy fills out the paperwork while the wife regales us with stories of her grandson and his remote control car. Fair enough. Then the guy emerges with what could have been a Bible or prayer book in his hand, or maybe it was his daily planner. He never opened it. Anyway, he launches into the standard religious service beginning with marriage starting in the Garden of Eden, right down to God joining us together and no man putting asunder or whatever it is. I love the word “asunder,” but this is civil? I wonder what the religious ceremony would be like. I was afraid Sarah was going to bail on religious grounds, but she hung in there, though she did giggle a couple of times.

The high point was the rings. We didn’t have rings. We haven’t decided on the ring question, and we hadn’t had time to go gold shopping with other matters pressing. Not to be deterred, Civil Celebrant whips out two gold bands and hands them over. They’re not technically bands, since they’re split so that they’ll fit any finger hankering after the symbolism, though maybe no ring in that regard would be better than a cheapie broken one? He gave me permission to kiss the bride, and I did. We were so stunned by the whole experience, we almost forgot to give him his fifty bucks.

Then we went out and ate a meal we never would’ve bought any other day, costing about as much as a week’s groceries. We’re very happy now that we’ve made a meaningful commitment.

With this ring?…

The new issue of Intergalactic Medicine Show is online, and I’m in it. If you’ve never read an issue, now’s a good time to try it out. At a mere $2.50, it’s a real bargain. Here’s the table of contents for Issue no. 8:

From the Clay of His Heart
by John Brown

The Frankenstein Diaries
by Matt Rotundo

The Angel’s Touch
by Dennis Danvers

Accounting for Dragons
by Eric James Stone

End Time
by Scott Emerson Bull

Limbo
by Stephanie Dray

Horus Ascending
by Aliette de Bodard

Plus:

Tales for the Young and Unafraid by David Lubar

InterGalactic Interview With Zoran Zivkovic

IGMS editor, Edmund R. Schubert, asked me to write a few words for his blog about how I came to write the story, which I include below, along with Liz Clarke’s nifty illustration for the tale—

How I Came to Write “The Angel’s Touch?

Sarah and I were traveling. We turn into TV sluts when we have a hotel room and a remote control, cruising up and down all those channels. At home we wrestle with rabbit ears for everything we watch, a struggle with cosmic forces, not unlike Jacob’s tussle with an angel but with much less spectacular results.
I came out of the shower, and found Sarah watching some sappy tale of divine intervention nearing its predictable conclusion. You could tell by the music, the beatifically smiling faces. It made me nauseous.

“It’s one of those angel shows,? Sarah said. “The one on the left’s an angel. She saved them from suffering.?

“What suffering??

“I missed that part.?

I groaned. “Anything else. Please.?

I knew I was running a great risk. Sarah has been known to land on a televangelist and stay put just to lure a bit of sacrilege out of me. It’s one of my more attractive traits, she claims.

The angel was still on the screen, being angelic. I grumbled, “If they wouldn’t always make angels so insipid, so goody-goody. I mean, the angels in the Bible aren’t exactly Care Bears with wings.?

Sarah finds it interesting that a non-believer like myself has read the Bible more than once. It’s a strange world. When I taught Bible in World Lit. classes at a Texas university, a student who claimed to believe every word of the Bible to be literally true, couldn’t remember what it was exactly Abraham had done. “Was he the guy with the ark?? he asked me. “No, he was the one who almost offed his kid because God told him to.?

“I think you should write an angel story,? Sarah said as the credits started to roll, and she resumed surfing.

“Right,? I said.

“I’m serious.?

What a ridiculous idea, I thought, and immediately started thinking about it. If God employs a tribe of assistants in the world, they would have to have a wide range of duties and personalities to match. Some of them might be a bit unnerving, even scary as shit. They are, after all, alien beings, and their duties might very well include the full range of divine prerogatives, which would include, well, everything. Even all the unpleasant bits. Like death and sin and suffering and disease and… You get the idea.

Maybe it was because there was an elevator in the hotel, but almost immediately I saw my scary angel packed rather uncomfortably into an elevator, riding in close quarters with my hapless protagonist. However unpleasant he might be, I did want him to be a real angel, that is, an agent carrying out the will of God, so that the result of his intervention in my protagonist’s life should plausibly represent the will of God, which, if you believe in an omnipotent God, would be, well, everything, so I didn’t see that as much of a plot impediment. I decided to make it a love story, since, speaking from experience, love offers so many opportunities for mortals to screw up.

In an early draft of the story, I blew everybody up, just to get it out of my system, I suppose—to flex my God muscles. I call that the Sodom and Gomorrah draft. Once I didn’t blow the lovers up, the story wrote itself. Since God is reportedly keen on the forgiveness of sins, I daresay he would approve of the results.

My neighborhood association each year asks me to read at the neighborhood Christmas gathering. Year before last I wrote a story, “R3,? especially for the occasion, which ended up appearing in Strange Horizons last December. This last year I read “The Angel’s Touch,? and got a terrific response. That is, they laughed in all the right places.

Actually, the story was dictated to me by an angel after every publication in heaven turned it down as insufficiently angelic. He’s letting me keep the money. Seems they don’t have money in heaven.