Not a Blog

Words For Our Times

July 23, 2020 at 5:35 pm
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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic

Writing, Reading, Writing

June 23, 2020 at 9:38 am
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I have to confess, after half a year of pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing, I am showing signs of cabin fever… half of which is quite literal in my case.  Yes, I am in an actual cabin in the mountains.   No, I have no fever.   Yay!   For the present at least, I am healthy… for an out-of-shape guy of 71, at least … and doing all I can to stay that way.

If nothing else, the enforced isolation has helped me write.   I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress.   I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week.   But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week.   It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.   Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.

I was heartbroken when CoNZealand was forced to go virtual due to the pandemic and I had to cancel my plans (exciting plans) for a long trip down to Wellington with Parris and my minions… but there is definitely a silver lining in that cloud.   The last thing I need right now is a long interruption that might cost me all the momentum I have built up.   I can always visit Wellington next year, when I hope that both Covid-19 and THE WINDS OF WINTER will be done.

I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world.   In between tapings, I return to Westeros.   Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah.   I will be dropping back into Braavos next week.    I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.

I do wish they would go faster, of course.   Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month.   I fear I shall never recapture that pace again.   Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.    A fever indeed.

Anyway… when I am not writing, or thinking about writing, I am watching television and reading.    Publishers send me huge piles of books, so my “to be read” pile is always growing, no many how many books I consume.   Of course, I also buy books as well.   Cannot help it, I am a book junkie.   The new Stephen King collection IF IT BLEEDS was one recent favorite.  I love these novella collections that King comes out with from time to time between his novels.   This one features a new Holly Gibney story, and it is always great to see that character again… but there’s also a story called “Rat” about a writer trying to finish a novel in an isolated cabin which… ah… resonated with me rather strongly for some reason.   One bit, where the writer gets derailed trying to figure out how many rocking chairs a sheriff could fit on his porch, was a dead-on depiction of the kind of stuff I go through all the time.   Steve’s protagonist gets some help when a dead rat turns up to be his muse.  So far, no rats at my cabin.    Sid did catch a couple of mice last year, but she made pets of them.  And Timmy and TomTom were no help whatsoever with WINDS.   (Please don’t send me long emails about the dangers of mice, we know all that stuff).

Another recent book that really knocked me out was THE GLASS HOTEL, the latest by Emily St. John Mandel.    A few years back, she wrote a (ahem) post-pandemic SF novel called STATION ELEVEN which I loved at the time and now devoutly hope is not going to prove prophetic.  It was my favorite novel of that year, and I thought it deserved to win the Hugo and the Nebula.   Which it didn’t, alas.   But I had Emily at my theatre for an author event, which was great, and snapped up her three earlier novels.  I really liked those too.   Now comes her latest, THE GLASS HOTEL.  No, this one is not science fiction or fantasy.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to say what it is except a damn fine novel.   It is about a hotel in a remote location, the people who work there, the people who stay there, it is about a Ponzi scheme, and art, and music, and a dysfunctional family, and… oh, well, I don’t know what it is about, but I do know that once I started reading, I could not stop.   When people describe a book as a “page turner,” usually they are talking about novels that have a lot of plot, which Mandel definitely does not, yet somehow she keeps me turning pages regardless.   And she writes just beautifully.   Her prose is not overblown or excessively ornate, as is the case with too many writers who are known as “stylists,” but… it is just lovely, haunting and evocative and immersive…   I guess you can say I am a big Emily St. John Mandel fanboy.   I look forward to whatever she writes next.

There are other things going on in my life as well.   I bought a railroad… well, I bought a third of a railroad.   See the post below.   Hollywood has slowed to a crawl thanks to the pandemic, but THE HOUSE OF THE DRAGON is still flying along wonderfully, thanks to Ryan Condal and his writers, and the tireless Ti Mikkel.   With my producer hat on, I am still involved in trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s brilliant WHO FEARS DEATH to the small screen, and relaunch the WILD CARDS tv project.   We have feature films in development adapted from my stories “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” and “The Lost Lands,” television shows in development based on works by Roger Zelazny and Tony Hillerman, there are the secret shorts we’re doing that… well, no, if I spilled that, it wouldn’t be secret.

But up here on the mountain, all of that that seems very distant, and much of it has stuttered to a halt in any case, until Covid goes away.

Mostly, it’s just me in Westeros, with occasional side trips to other places in the pages of a great book.

Now you will have to excuse me.   Arya is calling.   I think she means to kill someone.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

No Fooling

April 2, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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April is here, though up where I am there is still a lot more snow than flowers.

The weirdness continues, all around the world.  Sometimes it is hard to recall how much has changed in just one month.

Regular readers of my Not A Blog and the Wild Cards website know that I usually do an April Fools post.   We have had some great ones over the years, even fooled a few people.   Not this year, though.  None of the ideas we were playing with seemed quite appropriate, with everything that is going on.  Or maybe I just wasn’t feeling very funny.

Science Fiction writers are supposed to be good at predicting the future (that’s a myth, actually, but never mind), but I have to confess, I have no notion where or when any of this is going to end.   I can see half a dozen branching alternatives, some of which are very grim indeed, and some much less so.  One does not want to be too alarmist, of course.   But at the same time, it would be folly to be too dismissive of the dangers.  All we can do is shelter in place, keep an eye on the news, and take this day by day.

The Jean Cocteau Cinema and Beastly Books remain closed.   When I first shut them down a few weeks ago, it was only for a month… the idea being that we would re-evaluate on April 15 and see where things stood then.   As I write this, on April 2, that April 15 date is looking wildly optimistic.   If things change at all in the next two weeks, they are likely to be changing for the worse, not the better.   Most likely, then, both cinema and bookstore will need to remain closed… for how long, I have no idea.

Our mail-order service at Beastly Books remains open, however.   Unlike Amazon, we don’t sell toilet paper or medical equipment, so nothing will take priority over your book orders.   Take a look at the selection at https://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/signed-books/

All  our books are autographed, and reading is one of the best ways to pass the time while quarantined.  (I know I am doing a lot of it).  Also, truth be told, your book purchases will help us keep paying our staff at the cinema and bookstore, since there is no other source of income at present.   And we have some great, great titles in stock.

In other virus-related news, conventions and festivals and sporting events continue to cancel or postpone all over the world.   Including SF cons.   Some of them, I fear, may never come back, since — in some cases, not all — venues and hotels are refusing to let the events out of their contracts, which means the sponsoring organizations could have huge debts with no income to help offset the costs.   This year’s Nebula Weekend is going virtual.   Some of the writer’s workshops at which I sponsor scholarships — Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, and the Taos Toolbox — may need to do the same.   None of them have made that determination yet, since the workshops are still months away, but I know all of them are exploring their options.

The biggest news in that regard is that this year’s worldcon, CoNZealand, has also decided to go virtual.   I know what a difficult decision that was for the Kiwis, who have worked so hard bidding and winning the con, and dreamed so long of bringing fandom to their magical island.   New Zealand is one of my favorite places in the world, and Parris feels the same way.  We have been there several times before, and I know we will visit again… just not this year, alas.  I gather that pushing the con back to late 2020 or early 2021 was not feasible, for various logistical reasons, which meant that going online was the only real alternative to cancellation.   How that will work, I have no idea.   No one does, really.  It has never been done before.   The technical aspects are going to be daunting, no doubt… but I know that everyone concerned is going to do their best.   Fingers crossed.

If there is a silver lining in these clouds, this will give me more time to finish WINDS OF WINTER.   I continue to write every day, up here in my mountain fastness.

Want something to read while you’re waiting?  This would be a good time to check out my Wild Cards series, if you haven’t done so already.  There are twenty-nine of them (some still in the pipeline), which should keep you reading for a good long time.   If it is more Westeros you want, and you just know A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, take a look at A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS (the Dunk & Egg novellas) and FIRE & BLOOD (wherein you will find the source material for the new HBO series, HOUSE OF THE DRAGON).   And there are some other wonderful writers out there as well.   The QUILLIFER series by Walter Jon Williams is the best work WJW has ever done, and I am really enjoying the new AFTERSHOCKS series from Marko Kloos.

Need something to binge watch?  The third season of OZARK is riveting, HBO’s recent Stephen King mini-series THE OUTSIDER is a faithful, engrossing adaptation of his novel, and the DOCTOR SLEEP film is very good as well.   I am also really enjoying THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel that seems more timely than ever before.   And WESTWORLD and BETTER CALL SAUL are must watch too.

However you spend your days, my friends, stay safe.

Current Mood: anxious anxious

Trick or Treat

November 2, 2019 at 9:39 pm
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A friend sent me this cartoon, which I think is very cute.

Unfortunately, it isn’t true.   For whatever reason, our neighborhood gets almost no trick or treaters.  Damned if I know why.   It’s a safe enough neighorhood, and Parris and my minions and I always stock lots of candy.

This year was the absolute nadir.   We got no one at all, not even people we know with a kid in tow.

A pity.   Halloween used to be my favorite holiday when I was a kid.   I usually went as a monster of one sort or another, and I was fearless trick or treater, prowling late into the night and knocking on doors blocks and blocks from home, on streets I seldom visited during daylight hours.   That brief glimpse into the homes of strangers when the door was opened was part of the thrill.   In those days you got the usual candy, sure, but also cooler treats, cookies and home baked pies and brownies and little cakes, the caramel apple (no razor blades, that urban myth was years in the future).   Nor would it ever have dawned on me to bring my mother along.   I would have been mortified.    All Hallows Eve was for ghoulies and ghosties and kids.

Halloween isn’t what it was, alas.

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Kale Kontest

October 19, 2019 at 9:30 am
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My tortoise Morla and Master P, the visiting peacock, are both unaccountably fond of the kale we put out. (They’re more than welcome to my share)

Current Mood: amused amused

Hall of Fame?

December 13, 2018 at 8:03 pm
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It appears I have been nominated for the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

(So has Peter Dinklage.   And many other fine folks).

2018 Nominee Voting

No idea whether or not you need to live in New Jersey… or at least be from New Jersey, as I am… in order to vote.

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

The Dragon Has Three Heads…

December 19, 2017 at 2:05 pm
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… and he’s landed in my back yard.

He’s a gift from m’lady Parris, and the work of a marvelous artist named Tyler Eugene Smith.

I love it.

And yes, Tyler’s the same amazing sculptor who made the Alfies for Spokane and Kansas City. For those he had old hood ornaments to work from, but the dragon he made from scratch.

Current Mood: null null

Gobble Gobble

November 23, 2017 at 3:22 pm
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Another Thanksgiving has arrived.

One of my favorite holidays.

Here’s hoping all my friends, fans, and readers are having a great day. I have a lot of things to be thankful for, and you are one of them.

Gobble gobble.

Current Mood: happy happy

Dare I Eat A Peach?

September 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm
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Yesterday another birthday came and went.

(And thanks to all those who sent me cards and emails. You’re very kind. Love you all).

I had a good day with family and friends, but…

69

Really.

Urk.

How did that happen?

Seems like only yesterday I was one of the Young Turks of Science Fiction.

What a long strange trip it’s been…

And I still have a ways to go, I hope. Lots of stories still to tell.

(And yes, Mr. Prufrock, I still eat peaches).

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Shame On You, United

April 11, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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I don’t often comment on current events, but the story about the passenger that United Airlines beat bloody and dragged off a flight — for no reason but to accomodate some of their own deadheading employees, and despite the fact that he had a ticket that he’d bought and paid for and was doing nothing but sitting peacefully in his assigned seat — has me seeing red.

Jimmy Kimmel said it better than I could.

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I stand with Jimmy, with Alan Grayson, and with millions of other ordinary Americans from coast to coast who were outraged by these videos, and by the mealy-mouthed corporate bullshit the United’s CEO chose to offer afterwards.

One point Jimmy did not raise: in what world does an airline employee’s need to get to his next flight take precedence over a doctor’s need to return to his hospital?

The “police” who dragged the man off the plane and beat him do not deserve the name of police officers, and should be fired immediately. “They were just following orders” is no excuse.

The United CEO should also resign. He’s a disgrace.

I am old enough to remember when airlines were regulated, and passengers had rights. But we deregulated the airlines, and now passengers are cattle. The present rule seems to be just what Kimmel says: do what we say, or else. You may have given us your money, but we owe you nothing.

And here’s the cherry for your (bloody) sundae: United has also announced plans to begin charging passengers for carry-on luggage.