Not a Blog

Some Odds, Some Ends

June 23, 2017 at 1:55 pm
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Had a great visit with Walter Jon Williams and his Toolbox students up in Angel Fire. It’s a lovely drive from Santa Fe, and it was nice to meet (however briefly) the fledgling writers. How many of them will actually go on to make it, well, one can never be sure of that, but I shared what wisdom I could from my years in the field, and showed them a few of my scars as well. They have some good teachers in Nancy Kress and Walter Jon. As I mentioned to the class, I workshopped with WJW for years, and he was right almost 75% of the time. 🙂

Back at the homestead, we’re facing a certain amount of disruption. Santa Fe is a lovely town and one of its charms is its pueblo style architecture… but be warned, those damned flat roofs will LEAK, don’t let anyone tell you any different. My office roof has been leaking off and on for years, and has been patched and repaired at least a dozen times since I’ve been here… to the point that my contractor finally threw up his hands and said he couldn’t keep putting patches on the patches on the patches. I need a whole new roof. And since that process requires me to vacate the premises, I figured this is the perfect opportunity to do some of the renovations I’ve been planning (and putting off) for the better part of the decade. So, bottom line, I’m moving to new workspace, while the old workspace gets a new roof and some cool additions. But I should be settled in at the new place within a week or so.

Also have the big trip coming up. I cut way way way back to my travel this year, to give myself more time to work. Back in April/May I did Stokercon on the Queen Mary and the benefit for Clarion, but come August I’ll be off again, first to NYC for a wedding and the usual round of publisher and agent meetings, then off to Finland for worldcon, then on to Russia for a con in St. Petersberg. I have been to Finland twice before, but this will be my first time in Russia… though I know I have a lot of Russian fans from the emails I receive. It will be nice to meet them. Two trips for all of 2017 is the least amount of travel I’ve done in twenty years.

LOTS of things going on with television and film. Season 7 of GAME OF THRONES will be here on July 16 (and we’re doing a season 6 marathon at the JCC), the five successor shows are moving forward at various rates of speed, and we’re talking with UCP about not one, not two, but three possible Wild Cards series. And there are a couple other TV projects that I can’t tell you about… how much of this will come to pass, nobody knows. Ah, the joys of development…

Oh, and football will be starting soon. Don’t ask me to explain what the Jets are doing. I don’t understand it either. I foresee a very painful season for fans of Gang Green. But hey, what’s different about that?

My Days With Beauty and the Beast

March 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm
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MAX HEADROOM was not the only show I wrote for back in the 1980s.

There was also a very different sort of series, no less iconic, called BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

With the recent release of the new Disney live-action remake of their old animated classic, interest in our show has suddenly kicked up a notch or three, and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER rang me up to interview me about my time on B&B.

Here ’tis, for those who are interested in such things:

March Madness

March 18, 2017 at 3:57 pm
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No, I’m not talking about basketball. I’m a football guy, mostly. A little baseball on the side. But I don’t follow basketball, or hockey, or soccer, or tennis, or golf.

My own March has been pretty damned mad, however. Hard to believe half the month is gone already.

We had two great nights at the JCC with Leeman Kessler and ASK LOVECRAFT. His YouTube videos are a lot of fun, but he’s even better in person. If you have a chance to see him at a con, don’t miss it. Some of his bits are funny, but he also has moments (as HPL) that are moving and profound.

The HAP & LEONARD premiere was also terrific. It’s always great to see Joe Lansdale, and the second season of the show looks to be even better than the first.

And of course on Tuesday we brought together the Santa Fe film community up on the hill, and rolled out the Stagecoach Foundation. That was exciting as well.

(Though I have to confess, reading some of the various reports about Stagecoach on line makes me want to bang my head against the desk and bewail what passes for journalism in this age of the internet. Back when I was a journalism student at Northwestern, some of these clowns would have gotten themselves a “Medill F.” They don’t even get basic facts right. mutter mutter mutter)

Besides all that, there’s been the huge new Wild Cards deal, the Wild Cards reread, lots of stuff with HBO that I cannot talk about yet, and of course — always, always — WINDS OF WINTER.

So much to do. And the days go by so quickly. I love my work, all my work, all my projects, all my children, but sometimes it seems as if the harder I work, the further behind I get.

Maybe things will calm down soon. But I am not holding my breath.

Rock On

December 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm
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So we were watching Dennis Leary’s rock comedy SEX&DRUGS&ROCK&ROLL t’other night. The plot of this episode involved Gigi firing her band, the Assassins, and bringing on a new band of younger musicians to take their place.

The name of new young (fictional) band was… wait for it… Red Wedding.

Sooner or later, everything comes around in a big circle, doesn’t it?

In 1983, when I wrote my rock novel THE ARMAGEDDON RAG, the name of my own (fictional) band was… wait for it… the Nazgul.

Rock on, friends.

RIP, Dave

January 22, 2016 at 6:56 pm
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The news of David G. Hartwell’s sudden and tragic death has been all over the net for the past few days. Most of you reading this probably know already. He fell while carrying a bookcase section down a flight of steps, hit his head, and died of a massive brain bleed.

For those of us who knew him, the news was as shocking as it was sad. Just a few months ago, David was dancing at the Hugo Losers Party at Sasquan, and seemingly having a great time. He was 74, it is true, but he was still strong and sharp and vital, and should have had a lot more years. Dozens of moving tributes to David’s life and career have already been posted. There’s not much that has not been said, but I feel compelled to add my own few words.

I have known David for a long, long time. I first met him at a con… a worldcon, or perhaps a Lunacon, it is hard to recall. I was a young writer, and he was a young editor… at New American Library (Signet) in those early days. Later he moved to Berkley, and still later to Pocket Books, where he founded the prestigious Timescape line.

In the early days, the NAL and Berkley days, David and his first wife Pat were also resident proctors at Bard Hall, a graduate dormitory at Columbia University. There were always a few empty rooms at the dorm, so when impoverished young SF writers came to NYC, David and Pat would put them up. One Christmas season I was the impoverished young writer in question, and I stayed in a dorm at Bard Hall for a week. The best part of that stay were the nights I sat up talking with David. I was greener than summer grass in those days, still years away from my first novel; I got a graduate course in publishing that week, and learned more about the history of science fiction on his couch than from all the books I’d read. (Heard some choice gossip too).

Some years after that came Tor, where he has been a mainstay for oh, these many decades. Tor’s long long track record as the preeminent publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the United States is based in no small part to the work of David G. Hartwell. Oh, and he did a lot more than that too. With Robert Weinberg and Kirby McCauley, he founded the World Fantasy Convention and has continued to supervise and help run it ever since. He administered the convention’s award, the Howards, for decades. He helped to start THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION, one of the premiere critical journals in our field.

Professionally, our paths crossed a number of times. At one point David was editor of a short-lived SF magazine called COSMOS, where he bought my story “Bitterblooms” (still one of my favorites) and made it the cover story. At Berkley, he was a bidder when my first novel DYING OF THE LIGHT was put up for auction. He didn’t win — Pocket Books and another publisher both outbid him — but as fate would have it, he became my editor anyway a few year later when he moved to Pocket to found Timescape. He was the editor on my second novel, WINDHAVEN, my collaboration with Lisa Tuttle. And thanks to that, he had an option on my next book, which turned out to be FEVRE DREAM. But when I turned that one in, David did something very ballsy and unselfish… he passed it along to another editor at another imprint at Pocket, Anne Patty of Poseidon Press, because he knew that she could pay me more and get out more copies (Poseidon was a bestseller imprint) than he could. FEVRE DREAM turned out to be my biggest success to date, in no small part thanks to David’s gesture. Shifting it over was not necessarily the best thing for Timescape, or for David himself, but it was the best move for me and my career. Not everyone would have done what he did. It was a remarkable kindness.

I never worked with David again after that, but we remained friendly through all the years that followed, though the only time we ever really saw each other was at cons. David was a great editor… but he was also a fan. He never missed a worldcon that I can recall, nor a World Fantasy once those got rolling, and he could be found at many a Philcon, Boskone, Lunacon, and Readercon as well. Some editors go to cons for strictly professional reasons; they do panels, take their writers out to dinner, and then repair to their rooms. Not David. He was as much a fan as a pro, and you’d find him at the SFWA suite, the Tor party, the Baen party, the bid parties, the bar, the Hugo Losers party… wherever there was good fellowship and good cheer and good talk to be found. David G. Hartwell was a trufan.

And when two a.m. came rolling around, he would sing.

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Good night, David. You’ll be missed.

Pat Floats Away

November 6, 2014 at 11:18 pm
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Alas, alack, we've lost Pat.

My faithful minion Patricia Rogers, who has manned the phones here for lo these several years and done all manner of other things to keep the chaos at bay, took her leave of the office on November 1.

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Thankfully, Pat departed for Albuquerque rather than the stratosphere.  She has gone to work for James S.A. Corey, made up in equal parts of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.   Yes, sad to say, she has turned to the Dark Side.  But the Dark Side is considerably closer to her house than the Citadel of Wisdom here in Santa Fe; it will save her three hours of commuting every day, so we can't blame her.

But we will miss her.

Lenore Gallegos has taken over most of Pat's duties.   Raya remains as well, and from time to time Jo pops in, so I am adequately minioned for the moment.  (In other words, DON'T SEND JOB APPLICATIONS, I am not hiring).   So long as I keep that skylight closed, they should remain safely stuck to the ceiling, and work will proceed as usual.

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September 3, 2014 at 12:21 am
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I don't recall when or where I first met Kirby McCauley.  It was forty years ago at least, at some convention, probably on the east coast… a Lunacon or a Philcon, perhaps, or maybe at the Nebula Banquet.   I went to a lot of cons in those days, when I could afford it.  So did Kirby.  I was a young writer, still years away from tackling my first novel, but selling short stories, and losing Hugos and Nebulas.  Kirby was a young agent, fresh from Minnesota, newly come to New York City, still building up his client list.  All the established names in the field were signed with established agents, with Henry Morrison and Scott Meredith and Virginia Kidd and the like, so Kirby reached out to the kids (well, we were in our twenties, mostly, but we sure seem like kids when I look back) just starting out, recruiting promising young talent from the ranks of the unagented young dreamers who still did cartwheels when they sold a story to Ted White at AMAZING for a penny a word (on publication).

Writers like me.

Kirby was good-looking, fast-talking, charming… and he was there with us in the con suite  The established agents of the day never came to cons.  Kirby came to all of them.  You'd find him in room parties, laughing, joking, flirting with the pretty girls, staying up till dawn… and talking about books and stories and writers.  He was not your father's agent, not a beefsteak-and-martini lunch kind of agent, not a three-piece suit kind of agent.  He was jeans and a smile and a beer in his hand.   He was One of Us.  He was a fan.   He knew SF, fantasy, horror.  Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, he knew more about all of them than you did.  Mystery writers too.

It was maybe our third or fourth meeting when he asked me (at a party) if I had representation.  I did… but only in Germany.  (I had taken on another start-up, a small German agency called UTOPROP, the year before, to sell translation rights to my short stories in West Germany).  I didn't need representation, I told Kirby.  I had no plans to write a novel, and you didn't need an agent to sell short stories.  And I'd sold two books on my own, an anthology and a collection.  One of these years, I knew, I would write a novel, and that's when I would need an agent…. but when the time came, I figured I'd be well enough known to get one of those big established agencies, not some guy my own age whose list was made up mostly of writers even newer and greener than I was.  So I said, "thanks, but no thanks."

But Kirby did not give up.  He asked me again, at the next con.  He read my stories in ANALOG and AMAZING and F&SF, and wrote me about them, suggesting clever ways they could packaged into collections or expanded into novels.  When Lisa Tuttle and I published our novella "The Storms of Windhaven" in ANALOG, he was the first to see the novel in it, and wrote to say how much he'd like to sell it.  Persistance and enthusiasm will win a writer's heart every time.  He wore me down.  (And those big, well-established agents still had yet to notice my existance).  Finally… I don't recall just when… I agreed to let Kirby McCauley represent me, everywhere but in Germany.

That was the best decision I ever made.

Little did I know, but I'd just hitched my fledging career to a star.  I'd bought Apple at a penny a share.  I'd won the bloody lottery.  I might have had a career anyway, sure… I am nothing if not a writer, I would have written my stories and published (eventually) my novels, but the success that I enjoy today is built in large part on the foundations that Kirby laid for me back in the 70s and 80s.

The young, fast-talking guy from Minnesota became, for a good ten years or more, the Best Agent in the World.


His stable, in the beginning, was made up almost entirely of young punks like me, and the estates of dead writers, some of them on the verge of being forgotten.  But Kirby loved the classic stuff, and somehow, with his relentless hustling, got a lot of their books into print.  For the newcomers, he did even better.  Back in 1974 and 1975, the standard advance for a first novel  was $3,000.  A few of my contemporaries (not agented by Kirby) got half that.  If you had won an award, and had a good agent, maybe you'd get $4,000.  I won a Hugo Award for "A Song for Lya" in 1975, so I was dreaming big when I finally wrote my first novel, AFTER THE FESTIVAL (published as DYING OF THE LIGHT).  "See if you can get me $5,000," I said to Kirby when I gave him the manuscript, thinking I'd made an outrageous demand.  He laughed.  "I think we can do better than that," he said.  He got half a dozen publishers bidding on the book, and in the end I collected more than ten times the standard advance for a first novel.

He did even better when Lisa Tuttle and I finally wrote that WINDHAVEN novel.   And a few years later, when I wrote my historical horror novel FEVRE DREAM, he knew at once that it should not be published as a genre title, and deftly moved it to another imprint at the same publisher, while keeping both my old and new editors happy, and getting me my biggest advance to date.  With THE ARMAGEDDON RAG, a few years later, he raised the bar still higher and suddenly I was drawing down six figures.

I was by no means his biggest success story, either.  He did as well or better for a dozen other young writers on his list… and one of them, this guy from Maine named Stephen King, did better than all of us together.  It is probably an exaggeration to say that Kirby McCauley was entirely responsible for the huge SF boom of the late 1970s and the horror boom of the early 1980s… but he was sure as hell helped.  He was one of the first to see what was happening, and to take advantage of it for his clients.  Kirby revolutionized agenting in SF and fantasy and horror.   At a party there was no one more genial or friendly, more fun to share a beer with… but editors and publishers soon learned to fear his skill as a negotiator.  He would NOT take no for an answer.  And he would not take peanuts for a book, either.

The older, established, three-piece suit agents were soon scrambling to keep up with him.  Meanwhile, their clients were leaving them, moving over to Kirby in droves.  And who could blame them?  Snot-nosed punks like me were drawing down advances ten and twenty times as large as writers who had been publishing for decades, because we had the good fortune to be agented by Kirby McCauley.

Through all of this, Kirby remained a fan as well.  He had always loved horror and fantasy, and in 1975 he teamed with several other leading fans, editors, and booksellers to found the World Fantasy Convention, as an alternative to the long-running World Science Fiction Convention.  The first one, in Providence, Rhode Island, he chaired, and remained on the board for years to follow.  He helped to establish the World Fantasy Awards, the "Howards" or "Howies," given annually by a panel of judges to the year's best fantasy and horror.

He was also an editor and anthologist.  DARK FORCES, his landmark horror anthology, remains to this day perhaps the greatest single horror ever published, and was recently reissued in a 26th Anniversary Edition.

Things started to go wrong for Kirby around 1985 or so, though.  Too many clients had signed on, maybe.  Kirby was nothing if not loyal, and stayed with the clients he had started out with long after any other agent would have cut loose the ones who had not made it.  So his stable got bigger and bigger.  He hired assistants, brought in other agents to help, but he was never good at delegating… and besides, none of us wanted to be assigned to a sub-agent, we wanted Kirby.  There were other problems.  An excess of success, maybe.  I was off in Hollywood by that time, working in television in the aftermath of the commercial failure of THE ARMAGEDDON RAG (even Kirby had not been able to place my proposed fifth novel, BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER, though he tried his damndest, with the same persistance that he had shown when he tried to sign me), so I wasn't privy to much of what went on… but all of a sudden clients were leaving the agency, instead of signing on.  BIG clients.  Some of the agents Kirby had brought in to help left as well, taking more clients with them.  And Kirby… well, there were personal problems, and they ought to remain personal.

The dark years did not last forever, though.  Things stablized with the arrival of Kirby's sister, Kay McCauley, who moved to New York and proved to be as splendid a representative as her brother was, as those of us who stayed the course soon realized.   And Kirby came back strong.  In 1994, when I sent him two hundred pages of a fantasy I had been working on for a few years, and asked him if he could maybe sell it for enough money to get me out of television, he chuckled and said he thought maybe he could.  Turned out, it was 1976 all over again.  Kirby sent the book all over New York, got six publishers to submit offers, and soon had two of them bidding each other up and up until… well, Bantam won, and I popped a bottle of champagne, bid farewell to television, and set to work on A GAME OF THRONES.

I don't believe Kirby ever fully retired.  In recent years, however, I heard from him less and less, as he left most of the day-to-day running of his agency to his sister Kay, who does it admirably.   He no longer attended cons or other fannish events, though he kept saying that one of these years he wanted to return to the World Fantasy Convention, the convention he helped to found.  Last year, when I was in New York, Kirby and Kay and Parris and I went out to City Island, to eat crabs and clams and fried shrimp in a seafood shack over the water.  He was the same old Kirby, bright, charming, laughing, full of stories.  We talked about Alfie Bester and H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.   It was a great dinner.

Kirby McCauley died last weekend, of renal failure associated with diabetes.

He was the best agent any writer could hope for.  He made amazing deals for me, helped launch my career in 1976, and relaunched me in 1994 when I came back from the dead.  Like Gatsby, he came out of the midwest to New York City, and made it his.  At his height, he owned the city.  He used to tell me tales of his trips to Paris with Stephen King on the Concorde, of his date with Mariel Hemingway.

But I will remember him best from the old days, the midnight room parties at Lunacon back when it was still at the old Commodore, eating greasy breakfasts with Howard Waldrop at MidAmericon in '76, sleeping on his couch in his old apartment on 26th Street because I could not afford a hotel room in Manhattan… a lot of writers slept on Kirby's couch in those days…

Hey, Kirbs.  I miss you.  Rest in peace.

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Home Again…

July 9, 2012 at 9:32 am
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… for two whole days.

Had a great week teaching at Clarion West. A very talented group of young(ish) writers. You’ll be hearing from some of them in the next few years, I suspect. Assuming they want it badly enough. Persistance and hunger and a certain amount of luck are required to make it in the writing game, as well as talent. Anyway, I have left them to the not-so-tender mercies of Connie Willis, SFWA’s newest Grand Mis… er, Master.

Now I get to be home for those TWO WHOLE DAYS and catch up on a thousand emails.

On Wednesday, I am off to San Diego for Comicon. I go direct from there to Spain. Don’t expect a lot of posts here for the next month.

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I’ve Been There…

May 24, 2010 at 12:38 am
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… though not recently (thank the gods).

A hilarious video that brings back memories of the day I signed next to Douglas Adams at a Chicago Worldcon (“No waiting for George R.R. Martin”), or that time in Dallas when I went up against Clifford, the Big Red Dog.

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All I can say to Mr. Hall is — keep at it. Twenty or thirty years from now, I’m sure you’ll be an overnight success like me.

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