February 2011


As I blogged previously, I’ve been teaching two classes during the summers at Virginia Commonwealth University.  I described them in some detail in a talk I gave at the Library of Congress last August.  I started with a Science Fiction class seven years ago and added an Urban Fantasy class five years ago.  I have loved doing them, and they have both been quite successful.  I jinxed myself, apparently.  Due to all the variables universities are heir to, I’ll only be teaching one class this summer.  The rubric is now the innocuous Textual Analysis with a general course description one might park a moth-balled space shuttle inside of with room to spare, so I’m toying with various conflations of the two courses.  I may borrow a page from Andy Duncan’s book and teach a sampling of the very recent sf and fantasy—there’s so much good stuff to choose from.  I believe I’ll read some of it now.

While thinking about my literary influences for Wilderness for a class I’ve been asked to teach on the novel, I thought of Timothy Tiger, about which I was deeply passionate at 4.  The influence on my work is clear:

Timothy was a dear little tidy tiger who did not have a mother.  He lived all by himself in the Great Big Jungle.  What he wanted most of all, was someone who could cuddle him and play with him and purr him to sleep every night.  So one day Timothy set out in search of a mother…

Canada Geese in Byrd Park

I’m moved by their dawn song, though I’ve grown to hate them,
a flapping, crapping infestation,
a non-migratory shit machine.
Still I’m a sucker for the splash
of their landing in the morning mists
upon the lake built to be so lovely in the 20’s
for man and goose alike. Only it’s
winter, guys, you’re not supposed to be here,
with more and more all the time,
a hazard to every water hazard,
destroyer of US Airways Flight 1549.
So where do you guys get off sounding so sublime?
Hired border collies roust you from the shit-slick promenade,
but still you keep coming back, determined. These are
your darkest days. The temptation must be strong to fly.
That must be what I hear in your song that moves me—
That longing to be birds again and fly the whole world round.
Hang in there. It’s Sunday.
Your pals with the Wonder Bread will be round shortly,
their chubby eager children, churning through the slime.

Among the books I’ve read recently was the fine novel, Flanders, by Patricia Anthony, which I missed when it first came out in 1998. I was delighted to find it still in print from Berkley. She is one of my favorite sf writers, especially Happy Policeman and Brother Termite. The fantastic element here is ghostly and understated, but it is hands down the best novel I’ve ever read about World War I, a pitch perfect epistolary novel about a Texas sharpshooter in the trenches. I loved this book.  If you’re weary of hip noirish steampunk mushrooms, give Flanders a try.  It will break your heart.