July 2009


I have stories in both the new Realms of Fantasy (“Healing Benjamin”) and the new Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (“The Broken Dream Factory”).  Here are the covers, in case you’re shopping this weekend.  Better yet, stop by their websites and subscribe.

One of the very best classes I’ve had in years comes to an end tomorrow when they take the final.  I’ll miss them!  There was no clear loser on the syllabus except Being John Malkovich, which is growing a little stale.  Murakami and Gaiman both had loyal supporters, and while it was no one’s favorite, they were willing to tolerate Topper.  In a first, no one would wish away the experience of reading Kafka on the Shore.  That may be because they had an extra day to read it since equipment failure canceled the screening of Donnie Darko.

I’m eager to get back to writing—several story ideas have been percolating lately—but this class makes it harder than usual to leave teaching behind.  Thanks everyone, it’s been a real pleasure.  Keep reading.  Remember what Colonel Sanders tells you (by way of Murakami):  A life without revelation is no life at all.

This was my first time at Readercon, and once I got over the geography-of-nowhere location, I enjoyed it.  I got to hang out with friends Jeff Ford, John Clute, Patrick O’Leary, and Elizabeth Hand (though since Liz was a guest of honor, her time was much in demand).  I heard some terrific readings—Patrick and Jeff’s, as well as Catherynne M. Valente and Theodora Goss, both excellent.  The real treat was finally getting to hear the brilliant Gene Wolfe read.  And what a nice fellow!  One small criticism of the proceedings—There are several venerable figures in the field in attendance, and occasionally they have a tendency to hold forth with opinions heard many times over.  This is usually not a problem except when younger, fresher voices are drowned out.  On the panel I was on, I think you could fairly clock the number of words spoken in direct proportion to the age of the participants.  The discussion rarely limped into the 21st century.  The smart young woman on the panel was cut off by the moderator mid sentence of her first response and was rarely heard from again.

One other little pet peeve of mine surfaced again, and at the risk of revealing I’m a cranky old fart, I’ll voice it:  The Door Bangers—they’re at every con.  Why, upon leaving or entering a session do people allow the clanky, heavy doors to bang behind them?  Are they so much in their own little worlds that they don’t figure out it might interrupt the reading or discussion going on?  It takes a second to tend to the door’s closing.  And convention facility designers:  Do the doors have to be so heavy and clanking?  Perhaps I’m only channeling my mother who was driven to distraction by the smack of the screen door during the long Texas summers as my brother and I ran in and out.  But then, we were only kids.

It certainly explained a lot to me when Republicans told the world that empathy for one person necessarily means prejudice toward another.  I’d always thought empathy simply meant the ability to understand the feelings of another, no matter who they were.  So that a judge, for example, might find it comes in handy to understand the feelings of the working poor, corporate sleeze balls, the cop on the beat, crack dealers, lying vice-presidents—all sorts of folks.  All the better to understand and weigh evidence if you have a sense of where people are coming from, even people who wouldn’t know empathy if it bit ’em on the ass.  I didn’t realize Republicans can’t do empathy in stereo, much less in surround sound.  Now I get it, guys.  Thanks for clearing that up.  It explains a lot.

I’m attending Readercon in suburban Boston this weekend.  I’ve long wanted to attend but it’s been difficult scheduling in the midst of summer teaching.  Here’s my schedule:

Saturday 12:00 Noon, Salon F: Autographing

Saturday 1:30 PM, NH / MA: Reading (30 min.)
“Healing Benjamin,” forthcoming in Realms of Fantasy.

Saturday 3:00 PM, ME/ CT: Panel
Academic Attention: Good, Bad, or Ugly?  Matthew Cheney, Dennis Danvers, Samuel R. Delany, David G. Hartwell (L), Fred Lerner, Veronica Schanoes.
Academic attention may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the genre, as writers get real-world attention and corresponding increases in advances.  Or it might be the worst disaster of them all, as the very lifeblood / sap / coolant fluid is drained from the genre’s twitching body.  Or maybe it depends on which academic is paying attention?  Absolutely no firearms or other weapons will be allowed in the program area for this panel.

As proud papa looks on:

1962, I think, would’ve been the first time that I put a story in an envelope and sent it off to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  There have been dozens since, always coming home, rejected.  Though I must say that editor Gordon Van Gelder writes the nicest rejection letters in the business, and I have quite the collection, I’d seen my share.  Breaking into F & SF had become a dream of mine.  I would’ve said impossible dream, until today.

He said yes!  Hallelujah!  Carlos, our letter carrier, must’ve heard me hollering half a block away.  “The Fairy Princess” will be appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction!
I don’t have a pub date, and other mags pay better, but I don’t care.  I’m delirious with unrepentant joy.  Now I have to go grade a stack of student papers.  Perhaps the gods have smiled upon them as well.