Processing.

So I was discussing fantasy novels with a co-worker today, and I mentioned The Last Unicorn, and they asked what that was, and I made a noise which is perhaps best described as “glk”. It looks like they might check it out, though, so that’s probably to the good.

Continuing to make progress on my clearing out of stuff; a couple of boxes of assorted smallthings left out for the CDA, and a bag of clothes. I’ve gotten rid of maybe another foot’s worth of books, and am organizing the remainder a little better now.

I feel older. Does that make sense? Realizing that I am not going to use things seems weirdly tied to realizing that I won’t have the time or energy to use them, and that realization makes me feel slower and more run-down. It’s not a bad end result–I am loving the decreasing of clutter–but it’s a somewhat melancholy feeling.

Books, spaced and sorted.

I’ve gotten a total of 58 inches of shelf space cleared over the last two weekends–and I’ve just realized that while if that was stacked up it would not be quite as tall as I am, it would still be pretty impressive–and I am thinking that I might need to change how I organize my books. Usually I sort fiction into anthologies, collections, and novels[1], but lately I’m thinking it might make more sense to subdivide the anthologies.

I’m starting to feel like the ones I have fall into two general groups; some are reference works (most of the annual “Year’s Best”, for example) and some are themed works (many one-shot anthologies, and my goodness I have a lot of post-apocalyptically themed ones). And organizing them that way–splitting the collections of ones selected for notability away from the ones selected for theme–might start to make it a little easier to get a handle on the… well, the general flood.

(I have over two hundred books that I own and haven’t finished. This doesn’t really make me very happy.)

I have also just realized (because I was updating Goodreads while sorting the culled books out) that I have finished one book this month. One. And it was a fairly slim graphic novel loaned to me by a friend.

(I am, for the record, in the habit of finishing between five and eight books a month. The higher numbers do usually include graphic novels and e-novelettes, both of which are quite fast reads, but still. So I feel a little bit better having evidence that I’ve actually been ridiculously busy, but at the same time I little disconcerted to realize how busy I’ve been.)
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[1] Well, usually I sort them first by hardcover/paperback/mass-market format, and then by anthology/collection/novel within that format, with the caveat that certain authors–Terry Pratchett springs to mind–get their own section by virtue of being who they are. Graphic novels, RPGs, and non-fiction are grouped by subject. The favourites shelf and the Mythos shelf (both of which are expanding past the “single shelf” category) may both ignore all these restrictions.

More air, less pulp

I’ve been cleaning things out lately; not even decluttering (which suggests to me either putting things away or disposing of casually accumulated things), but actually revisiting what I do and don’t want to keep. Things that I decided yes to a couple of years ago have been re-evaluated, and some are being kept, and some are being gotten rid of.

(The paper recycling is going to be heavy as hell this week, for the record. I feel a little bad about that, which is probably not reasonable.)

There are several more square feet of space in the room I am focussing on, and the impromptu cat bed has been replaced by a promptu one (surely not the correct word, surely a comprehensible incorrect one). It really does make a huge difference to how clear I find myself feeling when I’m in the room.

I’m hoping to get a chance to work on my office a little this weekend. At some point, I’ll need to comb through my physical books again, but that’s never an easy step to take. However, we’re at the point where we need another bookshelf to keep all the books we have[1], so something needs to change. I figure I’ll look at it once the rest of the house is better sorted.

[1] We already have thirteen.

Of fine bookery

Orrin Grey’s excellent collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, is coming back into print! There’s a Kickstarter currently running for the new edition, so I am going to have two copies of it, and one of them will come with an extra story and some e-phemera. The stories in this book are lovely; I may have mentioned “The Seventh Picture” before, and I continue to live in the hope that someone will someday make a movie out of that one.

My review of the initial edition is here, but I figured I’d yank a partial paragraph:

There’s horror here, yes, but that’s not all that’s important here; Never Bet the Devil would be an impressive but rather cold book if it was. The infinite strangeness of the supernatural, that was what I was having trouble defining, and a love for the strange and supernatural elements of the genre. The stories, taken together, are stories of horror, and loneliness, and madness, and mystery. And they still manage to convey a sense of wonder. Not overwhelmingly so; I don’t think it’s possible to come away from them thinking cheerful thoughts. But dammit, reading stories like this, stories that have these things in them… this book makes me happy, and the reading has improved my days.

Overall it comes out to less than $2 a story to get a digital copy, and these are some really, really lovely stories, even without the illustrations. Worth checking out.

Magical alphabet noir

I have a short story that’ll be appearing in the No Shit, There I Was… anthology from Alliteration Ink! The anthology theme is pretty straightforward; you could submit any specfic story, as long as it started with those five magic words. It’s currently being funded on Kickstarter; an ecopy of the anthology is $5, although nearly as many people are going for the trade[1].

Alex Acks is doing a daily discussion of the stories over on his blog while the Kickstarter is running, and today he wrote about mine; you can read what he had to say here, and I am sharing this because I am… well, gleeful and flattered and so pleased that apparently my story did what I wanted it to do!

(The discussions are compiled under the no shit anthology tag, and make for excellent reading, joint and severally.)
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[1] Omigod more of my words are going to be in print.

The Western Weird.

Yesterday, my contributors copies of The Weird Wild West came in. (They should have come sooner, but apparently there was some trouble, for which I suspect I should blame Canada Post; in any case, I would like to say that everyone at eSpec Books was absolutely lovely to deal with, and thank them all.)

I’m in a book. I’m in a book with an ISBN, and people said nice things about my story. One of the editors had a lovely reaction to it, and Amazing Stories called it a strong start to the anthology, and overall I am hugely pleased.

WWW_insideAnd the art is beautiful. I can’t take a good picture of any of the full-page pieces (and I suspect that might not be cool, in any case), but look at my extremely clumsy picture of that beautiful story header. Look. <3

Anyway, it’s on Amazon; you can get it starting at $5 for the ebook, or in trade paperback. And there’s a lovely page at the front with all the author’s names, and space for signatures; I’m planning to take one of my copies to cons, and get as many as I can.

Incluing at one remove

I’ve realized there’s a specific kind of world-building I’m interested in, and I’d love examples of it, if anyone has them: the kind in which the reader learns a truth about the world that is not apparent to the narrator/protagonist/viewpoint character(s).

Examples, off the top of my head

  • Petey” – TED Klein – probably the most full-fledged example of the lot, for reasons described below. None of the people attending the house-warming party know what’s going on. The attendant taking care of the former house owner doesn’t know what’s going on. None of them ever realizes during the text. But the reader understands.
  • The Events at Poroth Farm” – TED Klein (I sense a theme)
  • Fat Face” – Michael Shea
  • The Essayist in the Wilderness” – William Browning Spencer – the narrator assumes he’s observing the behaviour of crayfish. Those are not crayfish.
  • The Steerswoman series – Rosemary Kirstein

(The latter four are probably easier to pull off, in that the protagonists discover the facts they are ignorant of before the end of the story, but at a point where the reader already knows. “Petey”, on the other hand, does not do this and remains a story that in this regard is so beautifully executed I am in awe every time I read it. This makes it really difficult to dissect and analyze.)

It’s interesting that, with the Steerswoman exception, these are all relatively short works; two short stories, and two novellas. I imagine this might be the kind of thing that’s fairly hard to do without the reader growing exasperated that the characters haven’t figured it out.

Important Clarifications

Multiple viewpoint stories don’t inherently count. For example, in The Diamond Age, the reader knows more about the world than Nell and Hackworth and Judge Fang know individually, but what they know are factual details which are plausible within the presumed reality of the setting. The reader does not come away knowing that the world is reset-to-new-default-every-night-at-midnight in the manner of Dark City; that kind of thing would be a greater and occulted truth about the nature of the world, and not a default assumption within a future-set nanotech-driven earth. What I’m looking for is not merely a case of factual details being revealed, but of larger and different truths about the nature of the world being revealed.

The truth of the fictional narrative is not the default reality presented in the narrative. “Fat Face”, for example, presents a modern street-level existence; shoggoths are not assumed to be part of that default reality. The Steerswoman series presents a quasi-medieval-fantasy world which contains magic and which is just beginning to develop technology; the actual truth of the world contains things which are not assumed to be part of that default reality. But in reading each story, the reader learns a thing that they would not assume to be true based on the premise of the world.

Stories in which the narrator perceives A Secret don’t count. For example, say they’re running around seeing ordinary people as demonic creatures/animal-headed being which reflect their true nature/aliens only spottable with special sunglasses. If the narrator is right, then the reader doesn’t learn more about the world than the narrator. If the narrator is wrong, then the reader learns that the narrator is unreliable, and nothing special is revealed about the world.

(Technically you might be dealing with an unreliable narrator, but in a way which can also be reasonably described as them being an ignorant narrator.)

Finally, I’m looking for text only. This means that things like the I Am Legend movie do not count. It is a wonderful example of how what the viewer can see is really going on (as displayed on film) does not match what the protagonist asserts is going on, but I really want to see how this is made to work in text.

With all that said…

Suggestions? I’d love to read more of these.

Counting ink, 2015.

Now is the time for minutae-minded individuals to get bogged down in idly typing up details, so I’m posting about my reading and writing this year.

Reading

In 2015, I aimed for 70 books and finished 82, covering a total of 22535 pages.

Four of the books I read I five-starred on Goodreads, which is a rating I reserve for books that I think people should read even if they usually pass over that genre (A Gift Upon the Shore, “Sugar“, After the End, and Feeling Very Strange). The first is a novel, the second is a standalone short story (although it’s set in the Tabat universe, which also contains the really really lovely “Events at Fort Plentitude“), and the other two are anthologies.

Two of the books I read I two-starred, which means I did not hate them but pretty much stopped enjoying them and ground on to see if they would get better. If they had, I would have rated them higher.

And the oldest book I read this year was Fritz Leiber’s Gather, Darkness!, first published in 1943.

Writing

I submitted stories 56 times in 2015. I also got 49 rejections (one shy of a deciBrad, which I have decided is the correct term for ten centiBrads!), but three were from stories submitted before 2015, so you can say I only got 46 2015 rejections. (In 2014, those numbers were 34 submissions, and 31/30 rejections.)

I also got four acceptances, which was four more than last year. Or ever. Three of them have already been published; they’re linked over here.

This means I’ve got six stories out at the moment. I’m hoping to manage seventy submissions next year; will see how it goes.

Happy New Year! See you on the other side.

The proof is this…

The complete collected works of Bob Leman.
The complete collected works of Bob Leman.

I have only ever read three Bob Leman stories.

I read “Instructions” long long ago; looking at ISFDB, it would either have been in the September ’84 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction or the ’85 Year’s Best Science Fiction, years after it was published.

I read “Window” in The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction collection. That was years after it was published, too. It stuck with me; I didn’t remember the author’s name at the time, though.

I read “Loob” in January of 2012. It was online at Weird Fiction Review, and I was sitting in an emergency room with a friend. It was very late and we were both zoney and tired, and I was reading the story on my phone. The language seemed like it could have felt stilted, but somehow it wasn’t, and the story pulled me along, and then I hit one of the lines and it chimed.

Weird Fiction Review had an article about Bob Leman, and I looked at that too. The description of “Window” pinged a memory, and I went to look at the Best Horror Stories collection and that was when I connected “Window” to Bob Leman.

I don’t remember when I connected “Instructions” to the story I’d read. I know it was before 2014, because when I was at the Tachyon Publications table at LonCon, I interrupted myself with “You have ‘Instructions‘ by Bob Leman? Wait, the Bob Leman?” and the gentleman manning the table very kindly told me that I was well-read, and then introduced me to The Boss in the Wall by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis, who I hadn’t heard of at that point.

(LonCon was a bit rough on my bookshelf space.)

Anyway! I have been sadly poking around the Internet to see if there’s a copy of Feesters in the Lake that by some minor miracle is going for less than $250, and it turns out that while there isn’t, his daughter is hoping to put his complete fanzine online. So that will be something to look at and read through, as it goes.

In the meantime, I will sleep well, and dream of Goster County dogs.

So many words.

It’s been a long week; heavy on the editing, light on the writing, with Thursday being a sick day.

I’ve started reading The Thousand Names, by Django Wexler. I’ve also started putting more of a dent in my magazine backlog, which is kind of huge. And it’s going to get bigger in the next five days, when September’s issues come in. And I have a copy of Fran Wilde’s Updraft on pre-order.

(…and I look at all this and I think oh, goodness.)

My morning glory has continued growing enthusiastically despite the fact that its stem has been broken clear through. It’s put out six flowers in the last week, and grown at least a foot of vines. I’m somewhat bewildered by this, but really, it can’t keep doing this for much longer, can it?

The flowers are getting smaller, at any rate. And paler. But the stem below the break is putting out new leaves, and I’m hoping that I’ll get some new climbing vines before it stops growing. It’s odd to think that it’s nearly September, and October’s just around the corner. I need to start looking up what to do to take care of the garden plants over the winter. (The foxgloves haven’t flowered this year, but I’m hopeful for 2016.)

I am thinking I might need to add a gardening tag, if I keep struggling with the plants.