Thursday, December 29, 2005

NEW HAMPSHIRE--Hamster Density State

We're going to New Hampshire tomorrow to visit our friends Eric and Paulette for New Year's, as well as Mr. Shortly and several others. Eric and Paulette have told us a lot about New Hampshire, a state we've never visited. Here are some of the things we've learned.

* Due to hot springs, the area is very warm during the winter months and we should bring our Bermuda shorts.

* New Hampshire has more hamsters per capita than any state in the U.S. Many hamster-pelt products can be bought by the roadside.

* Hedgehogs are a common sight in people's George Foreman grills. They grow hedgepigs big in New Hampshire--as big as real pigs. They cause accidents on the roads.

* The standard form of greeting in NH is to walk up to someone and say, "Up yer butt," which apparently refers to an old battle during the Civil War.

* Beer has no calories in New Hampshire.

* Every day is Squid Day.

* The snow in NH tastes like cinnamon!

* There are no reality shows in New Hampshire.

* Bears love it when you run at them with shovels.

We're really looking forward to it!!!!

See you in the new year, when I'll post more music lists, interviews, etc. And thanks for reading.

I do wonder a bit why Eric asked us to bring mosquito netting. I understand why we should bring the Penguin Phat, though.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005


David Schwartz has just added my appreciation of Gavin J. Grant's "Heads Down, Thumbs Up" to his ED SF Project. (Thanks to Shortly for a suggestion re my entry.)

Ellen Datlow's SciFiction site published a number of truly important stories in her years as editor there, as well as bringing back a lot of classic reprints. She also helped legitimize online publication in a way I personally don't think had happened before in the genre field, despite a number of fine online publications having existed before SciFiction.

At the same time, I suppose I'm one of those who kind of took SciFiction for granted, much as I took Omni for granted when Datlow edited it. Why? Because I thought it was something that would be around forever. Perhaps it is an indicator of SciFiction's excellence that I could think that way. In any event, I'm now sorry I took it for granted because as it turns out, SciFiction was finite in duration, with the last stories published this December.

So, congratulations to Ellen for doing such a sterling job, a chorus of boos to for pulling the plug, and here's to bigger and better things for Ellen in the new year.

In the meantime, visit the site and the appreciation project site. There are a lot of really nice analyses of the various stories. David Schwartz deserves a lot of praise for putting the appreciations idea out there.


BEST MUSIC OF 2005: Dan Read's List

Our close friend and multi-talented programmer, author, and publisher Dan Read has been kind enough to gift us with his music picks for 2005. I will never forget Dan driving us around Atlanta for a disease guide reading, blasting Dr. Octagon. That was pretty damn funny--and surreal. Dan lives in Atlanta and runs the website--info here. More lists to follow, from Ben Peek, Liz Gorinsky, Neddal Ayad, and others. - Jeff


The Tom Collins - Daylight Tonight
Classic rock and alt rock fans who have not checked out The Tom Collins are really missing out. I'm not as plugged into the scene as I used to be, but in my opinion this is the most underrated band in the U.S. Their second album didn't leave my player for months, and the wait for this third record was painfully long. It was worth it. I mention both "classic rock" and "alt rock" in describing this band because their style is a very effective mix of the two. It's a cliche to compare a band's sound to Led Zeppelin, but the comparison between the styles of drummer Kyle Spence and guitarist Fran Capitanelli is inevitable, though it would be unfair to suggest that their range is limited to channelling Bonham and Page. The band fully embraced their Zeppelin roots on their second release, Deep Cuts, evoking great Zepp records like Presence and Physical Graffiti. But on Daylight Tonight the Zeppelin influence is more in the background, allowing songwriter/singer/guitarist Capitanelli to go further out on a limb with his own unique style. If you ever get a chance to catch The Tom Collins live, don't pass it up. Hopefully the world will catch up with this band soon.

Deerhoof - The Runners Four
Even though on first listen I was put off by it, I continue to listen to this record and continue to be simultaneously baffled, amazed, and repelled by it. The band really has some moments. Great Keith Moon influence on the drummer, and I detect a Townshend influence in some of the songwriting and guitar playing. Somehow this record keeps evoking The Who for me. Overall I suppose you'd have to classify this record as indie rock, but that would also pen it in unfairly.
The female vocalist just trips me out. She's the biggest barrier for me in relating to this record fully, but that's purely a stylistic matter. The Butthole Surfers scared me the first time I heard them, and Sonic Youth was downright confusing and somewhat repulsive upon first listen, and I saw fIREHOSE live four times and never could get it. After they broke up I finally got it, and wished I could go see them live again--though there was that time I missed them in Orlando when they opened up for the Butthole Surfers and we were outside in the parking lot drinking beer missing the whole fucking thing (I found out later that they played a cover of "Revolution (Part Two)" with Paul Leary on guitar. We fucked up missing that one. Gary Shandling! Gary Shandling!).

There's so much different shit going on over the course of this record's--what is it? 20 songs?--that it's hard to generalize. Some of the melodies give me a sickly feeling like some of the songs on Ween's masterpiece The Pod can do to me. But I keep listening, because sometimes the rock is right there where you want it, like that rare feeling that The Who created so well when they played live (cf. Live at Leeds), the music rising to transcendent heights, divinely inspired, but feeling like it could all fall apart at any moment. Deerhoof mixes those moments with the kinds of moments that Ween, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, and the Butthole Surfers can create for you, in which you're not sure whether you want to keep listening, but you do anyway because a returns to bliss is likely just around the corner.

Melvins/Jello Biafra - Sieg Howdy
This second collaboration between the best working rock band in the world, the Melvins, and punk rock godfather Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame is much better than their first effort. This one feels more truly collaborative. Great punk rock energy and classic Jello liberal fuck-you sentiment mixed with rock like only the Melvins can lay it down. The tunes stretch out a little, even becoming somewhat psychedelic at times.

Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five - The Message (reissue)
This record is a mixed bag stylistically and quality-wise, but that was it's creator's original intent clearly. Besides the classic title track, my official theme song is on this record, "Scorpio," with a beat that will kick your ass, and the best use of a robot voice ever.

Opeth - Ghost Reveries
A perfect metal record. Just perfect. Blown away. There was a period of about three months in 2005 where I listened to this every day.

Run DMC Reissues
I recommend the 2005 remastered reissues of all of Run DMC's classic 80's rap records. Whether you were hip to it at the time or not, if you have any appreciation for hip-hop/rap, then these are essential. One thing that has struck me listening to these new releases is how effectively Run DMC mixed in rock and roll tropes with their unique approach to beats and cadence. Excellent liner notes by Chuck D also.

The Taybacks - Selling Air
The album's original title, The Soft Rock Conspiracy, describes this record perfectly. MacGrogan and Tegethoff of the Taybacks pay homage to a neglected subgenre, soft rock, with only a hint of irony. It's clear from listening to Selling Air that these guys share a real appreciation for the solid playing, sophisticated arrangements, and production quality that went into even the cheesiest of the 70's era American soft rock tunes. In the same way that Steely Dan embraces and transcends the soft rock genre, The Taybacks put their own stamp on it with original tunes that are truly catchy and artfully arranged. The songs stick with you, and reward multiple listens with little gems layered into the mix.

You may have some trouble finding it at the time you read this because it is only just now becoming available for purchase, but keep an eye out on and for Selling Air. (Full disclosure: friend's of mine--but my praise is sincere.)

Public Enemy - New Whirl Odor
I continue to buy Public Enemy records whenever they come out, partly because I want to support the group in their continued independent defiance of the major label system, and partly because there are always at least a couple really good tunes on the record. I was pleasantly surprised to find that New Whirl Odor is their best record in years. I still miss production team and collaborators The Bomb Squad, but a new cat named DJ Lord skillfully injects some new style into the PE mix. Chuck D mixes in some of his rock crossover stuff too, and there are a couple of nice Flava Flave solo tracks. I recommend it. Lots of new Public Enemy coming down the pike in the next couple years, including remastered reissues of the their first three albums, masterpieces every one of them.

Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
If you got into The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, then I suspect you'll appreciate this new NIN record also. It has the same epic ambition and scope, but is more compact on a single disc instead of two. I got hooked on this for several weeks leading up to catching them live this Fall, which was an outstanding experience--a full blown arena rock show with all the goodies.

Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine AND Vio-Lence - Eternal Nightmare (reissue)
For those who don't follow metal, Exodus and Vio-Lence are two of the original San Francisco Bay Area thrash bands of the mid-to-late 1980's. This was heavy metal's Golden Age, and the Bay Area scene was one of the most vital scenes, producing great thrash and speed metal bands like Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Vio-lence, Death Angel, and many more. Some would argue that Exodus was the best of them. I might have to agree, though I would have to argue that Vio-Lence's debut 1988 album Eternal Nightmare is probably the best single album of that scene in that great era. 2005 saw the re-issue of this classic metal album with a bonus disc containing a live recording of a reunion show played in 2001 at a multi-band Bay Area scene reunion extravaganza that I wish I could have attended.

Shovel Headed Kill Machine is a new record by the latest incarnation of Exodus. The only person left from the original band at this point is guitarist Gary Holt, but he has always been the main songwriter and lyricist, so I'm willing to go along with the continuation here of the name Exodus. To my pleasant surprise, this is a good record. The sound is definitely a more up-to-date sound than the band's previous release Tempo of the Damned, which was top to bottom a continuation of where they had left off in 1991. The classic Exodus swing is there in places, but the feeling on this latest record is more like what you get with a band like Arch Enemy. I recommend this one for metal fans.

I didn't buy any new jazz this year, mostly because I don't like new jazz, but I made some great jazz purchases in 2005:

Thelonious Monk (with John Coltrane) - Live at Carnegie Hall - I guess this could count as a new release since it's never been available before, but the concert is decades old.

Charles Mingus - Presents Charles Mingus - So sweet. Loft recordings from 1960, featuring Eric Dolphy, released on indie label Candid.

Chucho Valdes - Solo - I went on a solo piano kick this year. This is really interesting.

Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk - A just must-have. Incredible recordings of Monk by himself at the piano, recorded by the great Miles Davis producer, Teo Macero. This is out as a really nice reissue from Sony, with a bunch of bonus tracks.

Oscar Peterson - Solo - More solo jazz piano. In the same vein as the Art Tatum, listed next.

Art Tatum - "Best Of" from the Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces box set - A couple hours with Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson can turn your brain to jelly. When you read the song titles, you realize that you know all these old standard tunes, but these guys put them through a virtuosic blender, in much the same way that Charlie Parker did on the saxophone, such that the original tunes are hardly recognizable. Challenging, but rewarding.

Thanks for reading. I could go on about the ass-kicking Dinosaur Jr. reissues I bought this year, and the fun I've had buying up the 70's Jethro Tull catalog, but I'll stop here. Thanks to Jeff for the soap box. - Dan

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Had a great weekend.

We drank this:

Did this for 30 minutes a day to avoid guilt at drinking:

I got one of these:

We ate one of these:

Then lifted some of these so we wouldn't feel guilty:

And watched football and movies until we couldn't watch no more. Of the movies, we thought Suspect Zero one of the most underrated films of the year and Motorcycle Diaries, oddly enough, one of the most overrated (although gorgeous to look at). We also enjoyed (but did not love) The Jacket, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and Crash (really wonderful on so many levels, but connections between people sometimes more like coincidence, and WASP woman played by Bullock a total cliche).


Friday, December 23, 2005


I'm closing up shop for the holidays and probably won't post again until late next week. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a "kind of" holiday tale from Secret Life. (I hate reading stuff online, but it's easy reading if you print it out.)

Thanks for reading this blog. I've gotten a lot of pleasure out of posting. Thanks also to everyone who has read my fiction--those who've liked it and those who haven't liked it. I appreciate all of you.

Happy holidays to everyone. I hope your 2005 was good and that your 2006 will be even better.

Much Love,

Jeff (& Ann)

Jeff VanderMeer

You watch the crocodile and the crocodile watches you. Under a slate-gray sky. Dusk over the midway. Clowns and jugglers. Stiltmen and acrobats. Cotton candy and rancid buttered popcorn. Your father’s hand in your hand, his palm still sweaty from the calf skin gloves that were a present from your mother. A strip of masking tape on the side of the reptile’s tank reads “Greed.” Who had named him Greed, and why?

You watch the crocodile. It watches you. A waiting game you can never win. It is an expert at waiting. With no room to move, it wallows in five inches of brackish water, awash in coils of its own feces. Algae have turned the sides of the tank a corroded green that reflects your face back at you. The ridges of Greed’s spine are dried out and cracked, with a revelation of pink sensitive flesh beneath, fly-circled and fly-settled. Greed spasms but cannot dislodge the flies. The claws on the strangely delicate front and back legs clack at the glass like a dog’s paws on linoleum.

The permanent grin of Greed’s mouth opens and closes on packed rows of greenish teeth. Atop the narrow snout, ornate nostrils spiral close together, the eyes far apart as if to compensate. The eye nearest you regards you oddly, the vertical black pupil set against bright speckled gold. The filmy nictating membrane licks the eye, withdraws. No photograph in a school science book could convey the mystery of even that single eye.

The barkers, standing larger-than-life against the snow-threatening sky, goad spectators to throw pennies and nickels into the tank. Greed thrashes and hisses, tormented by people who will read the evening paper and weep over reports of drowned puppies and tortured kittens. While you live inside a tunnel with the croc in the tank, your gaze open and unblinking. Your face reveals nothing, but inside something bends; something could be said to break.

Your father squeezes your hand and his voice descends to you through layers of cold and wind. “That’s enough, don’t you think. I think we’ve seen enough. Let’s go see the rest of the circus.”

When you do not respond, your father kneels, takes both of your hands in his, and looks you up and down with his flinty gray eyes.

“Let’s go,” he says with a gentleness that surprises you. He is such a large man, with shoulders hewn from stone. “Let’s go,” he says, and you see in his gaze not a reflection of Greed, but an image of your dead mother.

You allow yourself to be led away from Greed to the other attractions. But you do not remember them later except as glimpses, fragments, through a film of cold. The elephants have snowflakes in their long, dark eyelashes and red welts along their flanks. The jugglers wander aimless and forlorn, mouths cruel and unsmiling. The trained monkeys look like motley convicts in their red-and-black striped shirts.

Your third-story apartment stands only four blocks from the circus grounds. The red brick building has dirty black balconies and laundry lines strung across the meager front lawn. Inside, the dark wooden staircase wheezes when stepped on like a chronic asthmatic.

Your apartment opens onto the kitchen where once your mother cooked dinner and washed the dishes. From the kitchen window, the familiar spreads out before you at the speed of boredom: the running lights of railroad cars like a crude necklace at the farthest extreme, near the dark spackle of liquid that marks what you can see of the river, shackled by bridges and overpasses; then the dark, rectangular factory buildings where your father works as a foreman; the smoke stacks that drip black fire; the blinking red lights atop the smoke stacks that make the darkness even more complete. On a good day, you catch only a tinge of pulped paper smell in the air. Most of the smell is brought home on your father’s clothes.

Your father heats up cabbage and beef stew on the oven burners, under the dull kitchen light bulb, surrounded by the shelves of cans that form most of your meals.

“Did you like the circus?” your father asks.

On the walk home you had said nothing to him and he, for whatever reason, had said nothing to you. The circus hadn’t come to town for years, but as you left under the peeling fake gold of the rotting front gate, you did not beg to return.

Now you nod and smile, playing with the salt and peppershakers shaped like snowmen. “It was fun.”

“What did you like best?”

The crocodile.

“I dunno. What did you like best?”

“The clowns. Maybe. But maybe the elephants. I always liked the elephants when I was a kid.”

“The elephants were neat.” But all you see is an image of Greed, watching you watching it.

Your father does not know this about you. Your father likes to hunt deer on the hills and slopes beyond the factory. He took you once but you just stood there, the rifle slack in your hand. Sometimes his eyes search your face for something that is not there.

He smiles at you as he pours stew into a bowl. You smile back, but your mind is elsewhere.

After dinner, in your room, beneath the airplane mobiles and the dormant ceiling fan, tucked into bed because tomorrow is a school day, the image of Greed eats away at you. Your gaze flickers from desk to drawers to bookcase to baseball bat to neatly stacked toys in the corner near the closet. The cold has crept into your bones and inside you can feel the infections eating away at your back; can feel the cool, slick coins strike the pink flesh; can feel a helpless animal rage.

Greed is coiled inside your chest and you cannot sleep. Sheep jump over fences only to turn into smiling crocodiles burrowing under fences.

You turn on the light, leave the bed, and dig a book out of the pile on top of the bookcase: The Big Golden Book of Nature. A crocodile photograph on page six stops your random flipping. You frown. The shape is familiar. The eyes hold your attention for a moment. But it is just a photograph. It conveys nothing real to you. On the mantel there is a photograph of your mother at the beach, holding you, her gaze serious yet serene. That photograph conveys nothing real to you either.

Later still, when the pressure becomes too intense, you sneak out with your baseball bat to save the crocodile.


Later still, when the pressure becomes too intense, you sneak out with your baseball bat to save the crocodile, X, the writer, reads with smoldering disgust.

“Enough!” he shouts. Loud enough to hear himself through the Mozart rumbling from the speakers of his stereo system. Erupting from his seat by the window. Rips the sheet of paper from the typewriter. Crumples it up and tosses it in the general direction of the wastebasket.

He stands in front of the window, breathing heavily, face flushed. Then sits back in his chair. Notes the precision with which the whorled black branches of the oak trees vein out against the sky. Stares at the misplaced immigrant pecking at the bird feeder: a lone robin. Wonders what went wrong.

A boy and his crocodile. A boy and his croc. A croc and his boy. The croc and you. Old stupid croc. Which the boy went to free with a baseball bat, of all things. In the middle of a frozen night. And the town had no name. And the boy had a room as generic as a manila envelope. And the dad is some kind of silent-but-noble blue collar worker. who goes hunting in the I-forget hills above the what’s-it-called city. And the mother is dead because of laziness—because he hadn’t wanted to write yet another character into the story. Poor mom. Dead of sloth.

It makes him nauseous—almost as nauseous as the proofs for his latest, The Book of Winter, which lies in a box on the desk, each page tattooed with red copy editing marks from failed writers given a second chance by publishing companies as grammar-and-spelling champions. Inflicting a thousand trifling wounds in the flesh of the Beast. The Beast would not be killed—no, not by them.

The writer pulls a cigar from his rosewood humidor and lights it with a silver embossed lighter. The robin still roots around the bird feeder while fat nut-nourished squirrels squabble over husks on the frozen ground.

The thing was—he reflected as he took a puff and exhaled with a sigh of satisfaction, no longer in the present tense of anger—the thing was, the only element of the story he really knew anything about was snow, and although you could achieve some nice effects with snow, perhaps even impact the plot, snow could never be an effective character. Snow could not watch a crocodile watching it—and even if it could, it certainly could not attempt a rescue, except perhaps in some half-assed Bunuel film where the writers all took daily doses of LSD.

Of course, he had once been a child of a sort, even if some of his girl friends claimed he’d been born 80 years old, and he had had a traumatic animal experience when he fed his constipated rabbit so many food pellets it burst open. (Technically the rabbit’s fault for not refusing the pellets.)

The writer tapped his cigar into a glass ashtray and stroked his beard (what had once been a conscious decision to cultivate an image had become an unconscious affectation, a continual posing for an author’s photograph). He wondered if the story would be more real for him if he substituted a rabbit for the croc. It might even build more reader sympathy for the situation.

You watch the bunny. The bunny watches you. A waiting game you can never win. It is an expert at waiting. With no room to move, the bunny wallows in five inches of brackish wood chips, awash in coils of its own feces. Algae have turned the sides of the tank a corroded brown that reflects your face back at you. The fur on Bunny’s back is dried out and mottled, with a revelation of pink sensitive skin beneath, fly-circled and fly-settled. The permanent grin of Bunny’s mouth opens and closes on packed rows of cute greenish teeth. Atop the soft head, ornate nostrils spiral close together, the eyes far apart as if to compensate. The eye nearest you regards you oddly, the vertical black pupil set against bright speckled gold.

Yes, well—no—the writer decided, setting the cigar in the ash tray, that did not present a, uh, viable option, since it seemed he couldn’t make stick the metamorphosis from croc to what’s-up-doc (had Kafka had similar problems?)...especially since, Mozart’s Requiem swelling behind him, his restless thoughts had touched upon a bunny tangent, sparked by the memory of a pair of delightful bunny-print underwear worn by...Carla? Stephanie?

A procession of carnal pleasures enjoyed with Carla and Stephanie (alas, separately)—the old Latin tricks that had withstood time and the Internet; the slow and the fast tumescence of the flesh, the truly religious revelation of the newly naked and the nakedly new—ran through his brain. Which put the lie to the overriding theme of his croc story: that a ten-year-old boy could have an experience that would alter his whole life. Unless it was seeing your whole family offed by a serial killer while peering out of the closet. Or a freak tornado that lifted the whole house up and wind-blendered everyone to death but you. (That neither Carla nor Stephanie would be talking to him again in the near or far future made no difference, theory-wise.)

He re-read the beginning of the end from the yellow longleaf sheets he had been massaging into typed sheets:

This happened 30 years ago. I was 10. So was she. I never saw her again and the croc was gone when I checked the sewer the next day. I don’t know if it survived for long. For almost a year, the image of the girl possessed me: the sudden appearance of her at Greed’s tank that night, the sudden disappearance of her.

I am not old yet, but I have been through two failed marriages. I have no children. I am good at my job with a sales company, but I will never be famous or very rich. I find myself coming back to the memory of that night again and again. How she said almost nothing and yet I understood her perfectly. In the photographs of my ex-wives I now see the shadow of her in their black hair, the high cheekbones.

The memory of that night is like a beacon to me now as I seek to make my life more meaningful. It is a moment fraught with mystery. It is the kind of moment that may never come again. Where the elements and your companion join together in a way that makes you feel as if you have become one with the world once and for all. To be so very light against the heaviness of flesh.

Boy, the writer thought as he stopped short two paragraphs from the end, like a horse drawing up lame in the final stretch, that was beautiful. Except it wasn’t particularly true, which made it a lie, and therefore as ugly. If you lived in the moment—for the moment, of the moment—that could never be true. Each moment layered on the next and in each you could find something or someone unique, beautiful, irreplaceable. How could anyone exist in the world without continually dying from the irredeemable beauty of it?

The writer picked up his cigar and breathed in its thickness. Take winter—such a bracing time of year, he thought, addressing the glowing red tip as if it were a good friend. Every detail on the sidewalk, from a rage of red-orange leaves to a green meandering crack in the concrete, took on a binocular significance. It was a forethought of the awareness that overtook him when he wrote: the premonition of something moving through him and onto the page, the pen in hand become a blur and the heart so full, limbs aflame, body with fever. Like sparks burrowing into you until, finally conquered, you become vessel, container not contained—trapped and free—and all the little hairs on your arms rise, and you feel as if your own skin has been painlessly flayed back to reveal, beneath the perfect diagram of veins and arteries, the beauty and horror of the world—the words like tiny mysteries and the combinations of words solutions to those mysteries, and yet more mysterious for the revelation...and you’re crying silently because, after all, these words are your life, even in distilled form, even brought forth by an unknown will...and you know this is the closest you will personally ever come to an awareness of what God might mean—this feeling that so encompasses the whole of your being that you are unimaginable strength and weakness intertwined...and in the aftermath, the writer often found, as the madness left him, that he would observe, say, the reflected worlds within a perfect drop of water as it lazed in the sudden sunlight across the yard, and was spent, exhausted, by even that simple image.

Yet another lie—a lie!—he realized as, shivering though it was 80 degrees in the house, he turned off Mozart and returned to his desk, to stare at the loose-leaf sheets of paper. A lie because he had felt that madness, that high, when he had been writing what he had come to think of as “Experiment #25—The Croc and You Story,” and Experiment #25 had turned out to be a steaming heap of dung, despite having originated in “inspiration.”

He put out the cigar for good and rummaged through the papers until he came to what he now believed had been the fault point: the introduction of the girl once the boy had snuck back to the circus at night:

A girl stared at him from the other side of the tank. He came to the realization slowly—the lighting dim, the tank corroded with algae—but as he turned inward, into his thoughts, he stopped focusing on the crocodile and his gaze fled into the glass, where he saw his own face and, as if superimposed over it, the girl’s face opposite him. She stood very still. He thought her an apparition and then, with a start of dread, something far worse: a circus hand who had discovered his trespass.

Taking hold of his fear, the boy slowly walked to the far edge of the tank and peered around the corner...just as the girl peered around her corner of the tank. The white of their breath mingled. Warmth leaked into him through his pores. Black hair shot through with the white of snowflakes. Cheeks flushed with cold. Eyes soft and blue and lined with long lashes. She gave him such a searching look that he shivered from something other than the cold. The words she spoke came out with a melodious tingle: “He’s Sorrow, not Greed. They named him wrong. We will call him Sorrow.”

The writer had originally added her not as some inspiration or epiphany, but because the boy’s plan—the baseball bat—had been so bad and he saw no way to dissuade the boy from it. Except perhaps through an accomplice—someone who did have a plan. He had chosen a girl who had snuck into the circus at the exact same time. How very convenient, and depressing. It meant some sentimental echo of a Hollywood formula film haunted the story. Mass media should be gut shot and left out in the desert to die, he decided, looking again at the proofs on his desk.

The writer leaned back in his chair. The robin had left the feeder because the robber baron squirrels had found a way up the greased pole—good for them. He should have left the girl out. After all, Hemingway hadn’t written The Old Man, the Sea, and the Coincidental Girl. Nor had Nabokov, for that matter, written Lolita and the Boy with the Baseball Bat.

Women. Carla and Stephanie in his case. He loved them both—whichever he was with he found himself sincerely devoted to, in that moment—but had hurt them both. It had become a theme in his family, a tradition carried forward by his grandfather and father, a curse that you could resist, like encroaching vampirism, but to which you finally succumbed, faltering into a life of frank debauchery. At least, unlike his recent ancestors, he had never married. Still, worse fates than the guilt of adultery awaited him. Last Thanksgiving, brought to the dinner table by the smell of turkey, his grandfather, defiant in the mid-to-late throes of Alzheimer’s, had suddenly stood up and, before the assembled mob of two-score relatives, recited in pornographic detail—like an erotic sergeant-at-arms barking out name, rank, and serial number to the capturing enemy—the particulars of every romantic roll-in-the-hay he had had over a 60-year career of philanthropic philandering. While the family sat aghast, unable to stop him, and every man in the family under the age of 50 smirked behind his mashed potatoes. It had been, in an odd way, his grandfather’s finest hour.

If truly generous, he should write a story about two beautiful, intelligent women in which they did not meet a visiting writer at the sales office where they both worked. They might appreciate that. They might even thank him for it. Alas, he doubted either would ever talk to him again. He had deliberately hearticulated his love for Carla in glistening glissando at her office, in front of a green-card Bangladeshi who at last glance had known little English. But the intern had, in the interim, empowered himself by colonizing the language via correspondence course and, giddy with self-improvement, shared the discussion with one of Stephanie’s friends.

At the time, the writer had thought his idea cleverly erotic: to reveal a secret while a third party who could not possibly understand sat within earshot, oblivious. Instead, it had simply been hysterical. The next day a wildly comical farce had played out when the woman he was sleeping with met the woman he was sleeping with when he came by to pick up one of them for lunch (he had forgotten which one).

Maybe the croc story was just an attempt to keep his mind off of these things.


Just visible from the window, icicles hung from the golden wind chimes by the front door. Though frozen, the chimes moved in the wind and made a sound somewhere between bells and the crack of an ice cube tray. It was definitely winter—the winter of a non-terminal discontent. He could feel change coming in his bones: they shifted and shook in contemplation of it. The truth of it would be revealed soon, as it had finally been revealed to his father that Autumn, in the form of inoperable colon cancer, no doubt brought on by his abandonment of his wife, the writer’s mother (for the aforementioned reasons of philandering, as before stated, in this court of law, your honor sir, and therefore the monies released to my client should be quite substantial and should include such properties as...). Neither of them was happy: Dad was dead and Mom spent her days re-wallpapering a house littered with mail-ordered commemorative plates. One day, the writer knew, the re-wallpapering would become so frenzied the rooms would shrink to well-insulated postage stamps in size. These were the kinds of revelations he could do without.

As for the boy in the story, nothing would ever be revealed to him. He could not be rescued from the story. Not that it was much of a story any more. It consisted of a lone snow-encrusted crocodile. No boy. No girl. No father. No real setting. The writer felt a grim satisfaction. Let none of them get away alive. Not a single soul. Not on his watch.

A million snowflakes had fallen across Greed’s back during the night—so many that the crocodile shone more white than green. Frost had stolen over the ridges above its eyes and formed shimmering ice bridges. A delicate layer of ice coated the water that imprisoned its feet. Greed would die if left out here much longer. He might die anyway.

Crocsicle, popsicle. The writer set down the papers for good. Yes, he might die anyway. But of all the story elements, Greed/Sorrow had been best described. A very good facsimile of a crocodile in pain. Maybe he could rescue the old croc—airlift him out of Experiment #25 and into another story. Perhaps even into a poem. After all, it was the Age of Free Verse. He could just put in some lazy line breaks and sell it to a pretentious little poetry journal.

So save the croc, briefly mourn the rest, and pray that Carla and Stephanie (her eyes so blue and her double entendres, her golden legs and fractured stories) would forgive him as he did not forgive himself. Meanwhile, the cigar had awakened in him a need for scotch—amber, calm, and deep—so there was nothing for it but a trip to the local bar.

On went the coat, the gloves, the scarf. He walked to the door, the cold-encrusted croc already lumbering attentively behind him in his imagination. The city in winter spread out before him: austere and bitterly clear in the cold fading light. The glow of houses and buildings floated against the horizon, half-concealed by trees. A flash of gold, shot through with early dusk, so that a corona of shadow spread across the sidewalk. The cold he loved. Better if not alone, but still he loved it. Into the glissade of snow. Into the glister of ice.

At the door, a sudden image struck him: of the boy, watching the girl walk away through the snow, not knowing he would never see her again, and he hesitated—almost bumped into the image of Sorrow, who had already begun nestling into another story. With the smell of pine in his nostrils, the brisk burn of the cold, the glints and glimmers of Experiment #25 that rose in his mind seemed genuine. The childhood memory that holds true when all else is ruin. The desire, in times of need, to sublimate yourself to a quest, a mission, to anything that will allow you to forget your situation. To—sweet bliss!—disengage from thinking altogether.

The last paragraphs of the story stole into his mind like the silent tread of snow across a distant rooftop.

Ever since then, in bad times and in good, thinking back to that night, I have wondered if I am searching for something that does not exist, something that even saving Sorrow cannot salvage, something that—like a cell or a fingerprint or even love—is so individual yet ephemeral that it never appears in exactly the same way, though you spend your whole life.

Despite this, I can see the girl, even now, walking off into the silence of the slow snowfall, in the dark glowing with street lamps, while I just watched her, certain I would see her again, certain that Sorrow would live—and I just kept watching until the dark and the snow covered her up.

A puzzled look appeared on the writer’s face. He turned back into the doorway, where the crocodile waited. The writer watched Sorrow and Sorrow watched the writer. The bright, gold-speckled eyes regarded the writer with an odd and ancient gaze. It was just him and the crocodile, in a tunnel of cold. Shaken, he put a hand out to support himself against the doorway. A thought had overtaken him and something inside had bent; something could be said to have broken: What if his gift knew more than he did?

Then and only then did I relax, stretch my arms, take a puff of my cigar, and set down my pen, well satisfied with the book of winter.


It has been approximately 3,000 days since I started Shriek: An Afterword. I still have the original draft, which is 12 pages long. Originally, I meant for it to be a chapter in a projected series of Ambergris travel pamphlets (a really dumb idea). But then the characters got hold of me and I realized I had actually just written the rough outline for a long novel. Over the next eight plus years, I worked on it on and off, sometimes stopping because I couldn't solve a technical problem, sometimes stopping because, for example, I spent 10 weeks of my life in 2000 driving around Florida for my day job. Or, er, editing stuff (Leviathan, Album Zutique). All the time, ideas and images were accreting to the novel on little scraps of paper. If I'd kept all those scraps they would fill a large garbage bag by now. Sometimes I stopped because the personal stuff I needed to fictionalize for the novel had not yet been digested by my imagination. For a long time, as I have documented before on this blog, it was not clear to me that I would finish the novel. Still, I continued working on it because I knew the general ending of the book, and I've never failed to finish a story or novel when I knew the ending before I started writing. Sometimes I would re-read my 12-page original "outline" or look over my mess of timelines charting each character's life and wonder where all the words had come from. How had I even gotten this far.

So, now, with Peter Lavery at Pan Macmillan emailing me to tell me that the novel has arrived at their warehouses, that they have it in hand, and that I will soon see the Pan Mac edition, it’s even more surreal. Suddenly those 3,000 days have become compressed so tightly that there is only the original spark lingering in my mind and this end point and the hard work in between is so vague in memory that it’s like that time period never existed.

Anyway, it’s definitely cause for celebration—and just in time for the holidays!


If you’re going to get hold of the UK edition, I suggest you get it from Forbidden Planet. Official release date January 26. Joe Gordon at FP has been very kind in his support for my work and FP is one of my favorite bookstores on this or any other planet. Right now they’ve not only got a listing for Shriek, but also a few words from moi on the novel (kind of a mini-interview).

Thus far advance notices have been excellent, sometimes ecstatic, and in January I’ll begin to share some of those as the Campaign for Shriek in 2006 kicks off. ;)


(Evil Monkey: "Dude. What's with the Straub quote on the cover. That was for Secret Life." Jeff: "I don't know. I think the actual book has it in context or something else on the cover, but I won't know until I see it." Evil Monkey: "If not, you'll have to get Straub to read the book and somehow get him to say the exact words in the prior quote, or he's gonna kick your ass." Jeff: "Yeah, or I could just apologize abjectly." Evil Monkey: "Dude, I think you're in for a major ass kicking. That Straub guy--he knows some kind of ancient kung-fu-judo-wrestling-boxing move that deflates your skull and rubberizes your legs in 2.5 seconds." Jeff: "Deflates your skull?!" Evil Monkey: "Yeah. I saw it in a documentary about him. Somewhere. Can't remember where. Apparently, skull deflating is three thousand years old as an art form." Jeff: Sigh.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


What do I know about Jim Kelly? He’s a great writer, with a body of short stories that I would have killed to write. I know he’s fun to hang out with. I know he’s painstakingly considerate to and yet honest with his students at Clarion. Not only does he know a lot about writing, but he knows how to convey that knowledge to others. I hate to get all mushy, but it’s nice when a great writer turns out to be a great human being, too.

Now he has a new novel, Burn, out from Tachyon Press. It’s intelligent, thoughtful, and provocative. On the Tachyon site they summarize it as follows:

The tiny planet of Morobe's Pea has been sold, and the new owner has a few ideas. He has renamed it Walden, and voluntary simplicity is now the rule. It will become a rural paradise for everyone who embraces Thoreau’s philosophy.

But the previous tenants have their own ideas. And they are willing to set themselves on fire to defend them...

And, as Matt Cheney says on Mumpsimus, it’s "a science fiction novel that explores some of the ideas of the Transcendentalists, particularly Henry David Thoreau." And: "[The novel] may seem at first like a space opera with firefighters and Transcendentalists, but there's more going on beneath its compelling story -- questions of progress and responsibility, intervention and witness, technology and truth. The ending is extraordinary, forcing us to reconsider everything we've taken for granted in the story so far. This is science fiction that Thoreau himself might love!"

Not to mention, a very powerful trifecta weighs in:

"A powerful cocktail of the strange and the hauntingly familiar"
Cory Doctorow, author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

"With his immaculate prose and perfect structural tricks, Kelly's book offers a richly satisfying blend of adventure and philosophy" – ("A" pick)

"James Patrick Kelly is one of the masters of science fiction. He imagines futures both high-tech and human, both dizzyingly complicated and determinedly simple, and then sends us to Walden, where simplicity is anything but, and even Henry David Thoreau begins to look disturbingly different"Burn is inventive, moving, and involving. It's James Patrick Kelly at his best, and there's nothing better." —Connie Willis, author of Doomsday Book

And last but not least, Jim has been podcasting the novel.

I’m pleased to report that James Patrick Kelly has agreed to walk the plank, with unpredictable results.



Why should readers pick up your book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?
I'm pleased to announce that BURN is easier to pick up than any other book you can imagine. Since I was able to take advantage of Space Age Diction, I've made BURN incredibly light. In fact, this book weighs a scant .34 kilograms on earth, or .13 kilos if you're reading me on Mercury and a mere .86 kilos on the surface of Jupiter. I was able to achieve this by eliminating most adverbs; in their place I have made extensive use of the latest polymer verbs. By the way, for all of you Hugo and Nebula nominators — and you know who you are — I'm pleased to announce that even though BURN looks like a novel and plots like a novel and quacks like a novel, it is in fact, a very long novella.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
I'm pleased to announce that any high school or college student being forced to read Henry David Thoreau's WALDEN can give BURN to their teachers instead of writing that paper that was due last Thursday. I guarantee no less than a B- or I will refund the cost of the book. BURN proves that almost everything Thoreau said was wrong, wrong and wrong. By the way, did you know that HDT once started a forest fire?

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
I'm pleased to announce that the deadtree version of BURN is more or less inert and can be ingested without harmful side effects. On the other hand, those downloading the podcast version should be warned that it can potentially induce a hypnagogic state, with resulting visual and auditory hallucinations. Do not listen to this book while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
I'm pleased to announce that no children can possibly be harmed reading my book. I've read Chapter One to several K-8 focus groups and have noted soporific effects roughly equivalent to those brought on by our President's Saturday Morning Radio Addresses. Moms and Dads take note! I have four other novels that can be put to similar use when the kiddos get tired of falling asleep to this one.

Why do you insist on writing so many short stories?
I'm pleased to announce that coming within a few hundred words of writing a novel has so traumatized me that I will be able to write nothing but haikus and greeting cards until a Democrat or a human being is elected President.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
I am pleased to announce that I have already joined the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing low residency program and will be teaching the next generation of literary tyros how not to write novels just like me.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


If you've been fortunate enough to be in communication with Zoran Zivkovic on a regular basis, you're also likely to have received mysterious little books in the mail, wrapped in light cardboard and held together with twine. For years, Zoran primarily published his books through his Polaris Press in Serbia-Montenegro, or through other European publishers. In recent years, though, through the Ministry of Whimsy (The Fourth Circle and his Library stories in Leviathan 3) and others, Zoran has made a bigger impact with an American audience.

Now, his new novel, Hidden Camera, has been published by the prestigious Dalkey Archive Press. It is getting reviewed in many high-profile publications. For anyone who has read Zoran's short stories, the formula for Hidden Camera may seem overly familiar: a nameless first person narrator navigates his way through an anonymous setting whilst encountering various people with whom the cipher communicates in various ways. At its best, this approach is luminous, mysterious, and riveting.

Hidden Camera is a novel that may divide a great many readers. For those who are not familiar with Zoran's short fiction, it may come as a revelation. For those of us who have read a lot of Zoran's short fiction, that element of surprise is no longer an option. The question, then, is whether the ideas in the novel support a reader's interest in it, and Hidden Camera has many, many ideas.

Publishers Weekly writes:

Zivkovic surveys the shifting line between paranoid fantasy and legitimate threat in his mystifying novel. When the unnamed narrator, an undertaker, is invited to a private film screening, he's surprised to see that the movie is one sustained shot of himself sitting on a park bench. With this episode, a complicated dance begins between the protagonist and his anonymous puppeteers, who manage to send him careening from one wild incident to the next. Directed to a used-book store, he discovers a novel supposedly written by him years in the future; obeying another mysterious invitation, he ventures to the zoo, where he has a close call in a bear cage, and things get worse from there. "Undertakers primarily favor gentle, sentimental films," he says indignantly, but there's nothing gentle about his adventures. Readers are propelled along as effectively as the narrator is, but they may be just as confused. As the story progresses, the undertaker's increasing paranoia makes it impossible to say how much of the danger is real and how much is imagined. After making a name for himself as a fantasy writer, Zivkovic has stepped intriguingly into experimental prose.

This is an interesting and useful book, and a prophetic place for new readers to start. Those who have read Zoran before will read in him again and again and again the same things in different proportions. He seems most interested in reliving certain combinations but with different details. The generic nature of the prose and the setting tests the reader at the greater length of a novel, but it is the kind of test we all need to take from time to time. And the publicity for Hidden Camera will help Zoran's career immeasurably.

Zoran's been kind enough to take time out from his very heavy PR schedule right now to walk the plank...



Why should readers pick up your books as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's books?
Because what I write is different.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
My book primarily has literary and aesthetic qualities.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
Medicinally, some of my books could be slightly useful if you suffer a mild case of tennis elbow or have water in your knees. It was also scientifically established that they can be disastrous for mental stability of readers with hidden philatelist inclinations.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
My books are absolutely harmless for children as long as they don't read them. If they do, however, there is a high probability that they will become addicts.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
I would become a man who unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Poor Evil Monkey hasn't been home in years. He'd like to go home this year. And you can help send him there!

See how cute Evil Monkey is, him and his pal Skippy? Don't you want to send him home for the holidays?

(Not actual Evil Monkey, but cartoonist's rendition-under-protest, based on photos of other monkeys chimp-picked by EM.)

You can help by buying books! Yes, that's right--send Evil home and get some books in return.

Just check out our Hoegbotton Book Store for stock and terms and conditions, and take an additional 10% off. We also still have copies of The Troika ($14.99 plus postage for second editions, $20.00 plus postage for first editions) and of Leviathan 2 ($7.50 plus postage). Query me at vanderworld @ if interested in Troikas/Lev2s, or if you have any questions at all.

Also, I'm reducing the price on the Gorey (see Hoegbotton store) to $140--a real steal.

Please: send Evil Monkey home. I need a break!


(Evil Monkey: "I don't look like that!" Jeff: "I know--I said as much." Evil Monkey: "Why didn't you show them what I look like?" Jeff: "Because you look a little too much like this..."

Evil Monkey: "I do not!")


We're winding down to the end of 2005 and it's about time for some year's best lists. And you shall have them, Evil Monkey Junkies. You shall have them. But first, let's bring back, at Evil Monkey's request, my own personal favorite from my blog for 2005. Forgive the self-indulgence, but it's relevant--The New Yorker just ran a piece on the danger of wild pigs. Here's my personal experience with the subject, from January 28, 2005, original entry here.


So I was out at St. Marks hiking with a friend named Moshe. Moshe is a fascinating guy--he grew up running with gangs in Los Angeles, converted to Judaism, got a law degree and worked for former California governor Pete Wilson for awhile, then moved to Israel, joined the Israeli army, wrote a book about his life (a truly interesting account, which he's currently shopping around), and then moved to tranquil Tallahassee.

We were on mile three of a thirteen-mile hike when I saw something dark and large to the left side of the trail, way up ahead.

I stopped and looked at it with my binoculars.

"What is it?" Moshe asked.

"I thought it might be an animal, but it looks like it's just a large bush."

I put the binoculars down, and that's when the bush turned sideways and the dark blob, even from so far away, clearly became an animal of some kind. At first, a chill went down my spine, because it was so far away that it looked like it was something human but deformed traveling on all fours. Only when I looked at it again through my binoculars could I confirm that it was a pig.

"It's a pig," I said to Moshe. "A very large pig."

"Yes," Moshe replied. "It looks a lot like a very large pig."

"I've never seen a pig out here before," I said to Moshe. "I didn't even know St. Marks had wild pigs."

"Well, that's definitely a pig," Moshe said.

We stood there as the beast scented the air. Then, it began, from more than one hundred yards away, to run toward us.

"It's running toward us, Moshe," I said.

"Give me your walking stick. I need protection," Moshe said. Earlier, he'd told me this was one of the first times he'd gone out walking on a hike without a weapon, since all of his previous hikes had been in the Israeli army. So he must have felt somewhat naked.

So I gave him my walking stick, while I pulled out my blade--a wicked serrated-edged four-inch buck knife that was really the biggest weapon I felt comfortable carrying out there, but which gave me some sense of security.

And then we stood there, watching this thing charge toward us. It had started its charge from so far away that I had a chance to take a couple of blurry photos (they look creepy--a little like stills from a piggy Blair Witch Project.

Moshe and I also had the opportunity to discuss strategy. It occurred to me that perhaps we should do something other than stand there armed with a walking stick and a four-inch blade.

"Moshe," I said, "I know what to do if attacked by a bear, but not a wild pig. Have you ever seen a wild pig before? What should we do?"

To which Moshe replied, "Oh, I've come across wild pigs several times."

Which temporarily made me feel a little better about the situation, until he followed up with: "I was in the Golan Heights in a tank, though, so I never had to figure out how to defend myself against one..."


The beast came rapidly closer, and now it was making a noise like some kind of demon-spawn --a banshee growling that didn't sound like a pig at all and kind of freaked me out. Now I could see that it was almost the height of a large German Shepard, although twice as wide.

It never occurred to us to try to wade into the swamp to either side of the trail and climb a tree. It never occurred to us to run, I think because we didn't feel we could outrun the thing.

So instead we braced ourselves for impact, so to speak, and the pig charged closer, still making that god-awful sound. I could see its teats swinging by then, and later we figured it might have had piglets nearby. It was a dirty gray with that bristle-pad hair some hogs have. It looked like it had just come up from the seventh level of Hell.

Closer and closer came the pig. Fifty feet. Forty feet. Thirty feet. I swear, there was nothing survivalist about the instincts that let us stand there. It was just not knowing what else to do. Twenty feet, fifteen, and the something cracked in the pig, some mental loop that had sustained it during its long charge became uncoiled, it came to its senses, and with a mighty howl (I can only describe it as a howl--a most unpiglike sound) it aborted its charge and sped off into the swampy underbrush to our right, now making a gravelly wailing sound like a hundred banshees. Then it ran back down the trail and off to the left, out of sight.

Moshe and I just stood there, kind of wondering if it had really happened.

"Well, now we know that a pig's ass can look a lot like a big bush," I said.

"I wonder if those pigs are edible," Moshe said, brandishing his walking stick in triumph as if he were a ninja. "I wonder if they'd be good to eat."

"I'd rather not find out," I said.

But it was not over yet. First of all, we had to either turn back or hazard walking by the spot at which the pig had disappeared into the underbrush on our left.

The situation still seemed so unreal that we didn't even really think about the possible danger in continuing, and so, still brandishing our walking stick and our knife, we walked forward, alert for further sounds of wild piggery. Once we had passed the spot the pig had disappeared at, we relaxed a little bit. Moshe seemed more laid back about it than me, but, then, he hadn't had the experience of encountering either a jagarundi or Florida panther out there, as I had the year before. Still, I don't think it had really hit either one of us that we might've been in danger.

We continued on in our hike through the pine forest and swamp, successfully getting through the part of the hike I call "Southern Gothic" for its black water and cypress knees and sense of quiet foreboding. We then looped around to the area that's a precursor to the lakes and salt marsh, with its shimmering marsh grass (my favorite part of the hike--in the right light, especially in the winter, the plains of marsh grass, broken up by little islands of palmetto trees, look luminous and unreal, the quality of light unearthly--like something Turner might have painted had he come to Florida). In this precursor area, which is half-marsh, half pine forest, the trail curls around on itself.

So when I first saw movement on the trail ahead, it was with the relief that it looked like whatever the hell this new thing was, it was on the *other* side of the canal of water that lay on the right side of the trail.

I stopped and looked through my binoculars.

"What is it?" Moshe asked.

"I don't know."

And I really didn't. It could've been a deer, but it looked a little shorter than a deer.

"Is it a...pig?" Moshe asked.

"I'm not sure. But whatever it is, it's on the other side of the water."

Walking forward, with the path looping back to the right, it quickly became apparent that the animal was actually on *our* side of the water. It stood underneath a palmetto tree, and after another quick look, I could now tell it was a pig. A big pig with little tusks.

It just stood there, staring at us from about thirty feet away. Under the palmetto tree. It wasn't moving, and we had to get past it to continue the hike. At this point, it would have taken longer to hike back than to go forward, since we were in mile eight.

While deciding what to do, I took a quick photo that wound up looking like a tree with something that looked a little like pig hide wrapped around its trunk.

"Give me that," Moshe said.

"My camera?"

"No--your binoculars."

"It's definitely a pig."

"I know, but I need something else to defend myself. I feel vulnerable."

And so now Moshe stood there brandishing the walking stick and swinging the binoculars like bolos or a slingshot. I hurriedly put my camera back in my knapsack and got my knife out again.

The pig just stood there, sizing us up. This one wasn't making any god-awful noises, which somehow seemed more ominous.

The longer the damn pig stood there, the angrier I got, for totally irrational reasons. Certainly, the pig had more right to be there than I did. But Moshe had never gone on a hike in Florida before. I'd promised him alligators aplenty, and yet we hadn't seen one yet, even though we should have seen twenty or thirty by then. Instead, we just kept seeing goddamn wild pigs. I felt, in an odd way, like a rude host. Wild pigs were no substitute for that staple of natural Florida, the alligator.

"I can't believe it's another fucking pig," I said, my attempts at suppressing my usual sailor's diction shot to hell. "Another goddamn motherfucking pig. Never seen a pig out here in twelve years and now all we see are these goddamn fucking pigs. This sucks. Dumbass pigs." (Although, to be honest, this second pig was a beautiful russet color.)

"I think we should go forward," Moshe said. "Or maybe not."

"I think we should charge the fucking thing," I said, and, seeing a three-pronged huge branch lying on the trail beside me, proceeded to pick up this wooden trident-lance. It was heavy as hell, but carrying a small tree in front of me made me feel a lot better. My clothes and hands were smeared with ash; the branch had been the victim of one of the rangers' controlled fire burns. I had my knapsack on, was clutching the branch awkwardly, and still had my knife out, as like to cut myself now, with that hand also helping hold the friggin branch, as do the pig-beast any harm.

Then we heard a rustling down below us, near the water, and saw another couple of pigs, rooting through the underbrush. Fuck. It was *gang* of pigs.

"So let's do it," Moshe said. "Let's do it."

The beautiful deadly russet wild pig stood oblivious under the palmetto tree watching us with its little black marble eyes. The other pigs had scattered when they noticed us. But not this one.

So this was it.

"Yeah, let's charge this motherfucking pig," I said, and so saying, we ran toward the pig, yelling and making as much noise as possible, Moshe swinging the binoculars over his head and brandishing the walking stick while I hauled the Impossible Weapon like some kind of cut-rate lumberjack, confident that the pig would have to crash through four feet of sharp branches before he could get to me.

The pig stood its ground, and for a long moment, we thought it might charge us, but instead, when we were within ten feet, it let out a little squeak, and turned and fled, running down the dirt embankment, and into the water.

Once it was in the water, Moshe stopped brandishing his binoculars and I put down the small tree.

There was something about the pig in the water that made our efforts seem somewhat of an overreaction, perhaps even ridiculous. What was it exactly? What quality? I think it had to do with the way a pig swims--or, at least, the way this pig swam. Its whole body was underwater except for its ridiculously large, burro-like ears, and its huge electrical outlet nostrils.

I watched it swim away and thought that perhaps we had been driven to our Lord of the Flies moment too rapidly. Perhaps all of the wild pigs at St. Marks were cowards, bluffers, and buffoons, bad at poker and pool--full of bluster but not much else.

At the far side, the pig seemed to hesitate in its flight long enough to moon us with the shrubbery of its ass before disappearing into the long grass.

"Fucking pigs," I said. "Stupid fucking pigs."

"You are good at defending yourself," Moshe said. "You know how to defend yourself."

Yeah, I thought, it's always a good idea to pick up a small tree, even if it half wrenches your shoulder out of its socket.

The rest of the hike was anti-climax. We saw an otter and, scarred by our experiences thus far, I almost expected it to climb out of the water and come at us with a revolver or something. We also finally saw our alligators before, tired and sweaty, we made it back to the car.

Later, several friends who had had experiences with wild boar said we'd been lucky. And, certainly, when my friend Forrest Aguirre pointed out the deer-eating wild pigs of Wisconsin, it felt like maybe we had been lucky. But I'm more of the opinion that the goddamn motherfucking pigs of St. Marks are just cowards. And it's a good thing, too, because "eaten by wild pigs" is not a dignified thing to have etched on one's tombstone.


Simon Owens at Bloggasm has interviewed me and a ton of other bloggers about things, er, not related to blogging, at least directly, except for a question about recommended blogs. Check it out.


(Jeff: "Psst. Evil." Evil Monkey: "Yeah?" Jeff: "Who's your jackass of the week?" Evil Monkey: "I won't know until next week." Jeff: "Why not?" Evil Monkey: "Too many choices. Too many freakin' choices...")

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I won't be getting nearly as much work done during the holidays as I would like, mostly because of the college football bowl season. So, in that small sense, this post is writing-related. It's about how sports can seriously screw with the ability to get any writing done. It's also writing related because of Jeffrey Ford's win-picking bowl chicken. No, I'm not going to explain. I just suggest next time you see Jeff Ford at a convention, you go up to him and say, "What's with the bowl-pickin' chicken?" He loves it when people ask him about it.

So, without further preamble, here are my bowl picks, along with my reasoning. I realize that, especially in the rationale part, I might lose some of my non-US readers who may not be familiar with the intimate details of college football, but I promise this is the last you’ll hear of it, so your agony will be short-lived.


(From first played to last played...)

WYNDHAM NEW ORLEANS BOWL - Lafayette, Louisiana
Bowl Matchup: Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss

JV Pick: Southern Miss
Rationale: SM plays a tight 7-5 defense with a 3-2 pick split. This should befuddle A State’s standard fishbone offense.

POINSETTIA BOWL - San Diego, California
Bowl Matchup: Colorado State vs. Navy

JV Pick: Navy
Rationale: Half of Colorado State’s players have been sick with a stomach bacteria the past few weeks, contracted whilst visiting orphans at a meat-packing factory. Navy, meanwhile, has been feasting on grain-fed swordfish for weeks. Enough said.

GMAC BOWL - Mobile, Alabama
Bowl Matchup: UTEP vs. Toledo

JV Pick: Toledo
Rationale: UTEP’s coach is a blind alcoholic former private eye who hops on one leg due to an old shotgun wound suffered when he investigated Jerry Brown’s anti-familial flings back in the 1970s. Toledo’s coach hallucinates that hummingbirds fly out of his fingertips. So it’s basically a toss up

Bowl Matchup: BYU vs. California

JV Pick: California
Rationale: The number of “Dear John” letters received at some time by current BYU football players during their college stint is at an all-time high. Meanwhile, 90 percent of California’s players are married.

FORT WORTH BOWL - Fort Worth, Texas
Bowl Matchup: Houston vs. Kansas

JV Pick: Kansas
Rationale: Kansas is flat. Houston is rounded. The field in Fort Worth is flat.

Bowl Matchup: UCF vs. Nevada

JV Pick: Nevada
Rationale: The UCF mascot is the Fighting Paper Bag. The Nevada mascot is the Paper Shredding Three-Taloned Blood Eagle.

MOTOR CITY BOWL - Detroit, Michigan
Bowl Matchup: Akron vs. Memphis

JV Pick: Akron
Rationale: Lately, members of the Memphis football team have been working three jobs to support their coach’s crack habit.

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL - Orlando, Florida
Bowl Matchup: Clemson vs. Colorado

JV Pick: Clemson
Rationale: Colorado’s offensive and defensive schemes have been documented on cave walls and carbon dated to 3000 BC.

INSIGHT BOWL - Phoenix, Arizona
Bowl Matchup: Arizona State vs. Rutgers

JV Pick: Arizona State
Rationale: Arizona has seeded the Insight Bowl field with rutger-eating carnivorous pitcher plants.

Bowl Matchup: Boise State vs. Boston College

JV Pick: Boston College
Rationale: All year, Boston College players have been playing with blue-tinted glare protectors on their helmets, in preparation for the possibility of playing on the blue Boise field. This will negate any inherent home-field advantage, Boise State players’ ingestion of blue dye notwithstanding.

Bowl Matchup: Nebraska vs. Michigan

JV Pick: Michigan
Rationale: The University of Nebraska only recently discovered the forward pass, sex-on-the-beach, and the female orgasm.

EMERALD BOWL - San Francisco, California
Bowl Matchup: Utah vs. Georgia Tech

JV Pick: Georgia Tech
Rationale: Georgia Tech linebackers have killed 27 quarterbacks this season, maimed 12 receivers, and eaten the livers of 5 centers.

Bowl Matchup: Oregon vs. Oklahoma

JV Pick: Oregon
Rationale: Oregon coach Buckwaldo Mudthumper has been making many suspicious phone calls to the organized crime families, while Sooner coach Archibald Flapjack has been ordering flak jackets.

Bowl Matchup: Minnesota vs. Virginia

JV Pick: Virginia
Rationale: Minnesota has a long, proud history of abject fourth-quarter failure and naked ice-running.

Bowl Matchup: Northwestern vs. UCLA

Rationale: Lord Bloodstark, owner of the UCLA Bruins, has recently had the offensive line fitted with jetpacks. Northwestern has made no adjustment to this development.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL - Shreveport, Louisiana
Bowl Matchup: Missouri vs. South Carolina

JV Pick: South Carolina
Rationale: Never pick against the old ball coach.

CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL - Atlanta, Georgia
Bowl Matchup: Miami vs. LSU

JV Pick: LSU
Rationale: The Miami Bluebells and the LSU Daisies have a history of close games, with many fatalities on each side. In this case, Dugger Crydon III (LSU swerveback) will be the difference, with Miami’s Grutter Fryeball on the bench with a sudden extra groin.

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL - Charlotte, North Carolina
Bowl Matchup: NC State vs. South Florida

JV Pick: NC State
Rationale: Who the hell is South Florida?

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL - Memphis, Tennessee
Bowl Matchup: Tulsa vs. Fresno State

JV Pick: Fresno State
Rationale: Tulsa’s team has suffered outbreak upon outbreak of leprosy this season and may be unable to catch the ball.

EV1. NET HOUSTON BOWL - Houston, Texas
Bowl Matchup: Iowa State vs. TCU

JV Pick: TCU
Rationale: The Iowa State Wallflowers simply do not have the firepower to outscore the TCU Horned Mice.

OUTBACK BOWL - Tampa, Florida
Bowl Matchup: Iowa vs. Florida

JV Pick: Florida
Rationale: Florida’s armored personnel carriers have not yet arrived, whilst Iowa’s more classic tree camouflage kits were opened and practiced with ages ago.

Bowl Matchup: Texas Tech vs. Alabama

JV Pick: Alabama
Rationale: Although this game could be close, Alabama’s enigmatic elephant mascot should browbeat and masticate the Texas Tech comely rodeo clown prior to the festivities.

TOYOTA GATOR BOWL - Jacksonville, Florida
Bowl Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Louisville

JV Pick: Virginia Tech
Rationale: When Virginia isn’t playing teams hailing from a peninsula, they do just fine.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL - Orlando, Florida
Bowl Matchup: Wisconsin vs. Auburn

JV Pick: Auburn
Rationale: Wisconsin prides itself on its infamous passive-aggressive “Swiss Cheese” defense, whereby members of the opposing team score repeatedly and at will.

Bowl Matchup: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State

JV Pick: Ohio State
Rationale: I hate Notre Dame with a blind passion.

NOKIA SUGAR BOWL - Atlanta, Georgia
Bowl Matchup: Georgia vs. West Virginia

JV Pick: Georgia
Rationale: Georgia quarterback DJ Shockley’s discovery of matter displacement midway through the season resulted in shocking injuries, but stabilized into equally shocking victories. West Virginia, meanwhile, is arriving at the game via mule-cart and canoes with wheels on them.

FEDEX ORANGE BOWL - Miami, Florida
Bowl Matchup: Florida State vs. Penn State

JV Pick: Penn State
Rationale: My dad went to Penn State.

ROSE BOWL - Pasadena, California
Bowl Matchup: USC vs. Texas

JV Pick: USC
Rationale: The Trojans should easily cover the Long Horns and render them impotent. (“No applause, please—I’ll be here all week.”)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


A long time ago I posted the following list on Amazon. I still think it holds up. If you haven't encountered some of these books, you owe it to yourself to read them. Or gift them to others.

Also, Matt Cheney is telling me People of Paper is amazing.


Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore
Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet has few equals in modern literature--this, the second book in the series, is the best. All are worth seeking out.

The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

This novel is a joy for those who love fantasy and those who love mainstream realism as the book intercuts between realistic and fantastical scenes. A truly moving ending. An allegory. A love story.

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
Carter's first surreal novel, and one of her best. Amazing fabulist. All of her work is highly recommended.

Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray
This combination of gritty Glasgow realism and an underworld like no other is unique. The new edition with intro by Galloway well worth picking up.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov's classic. My favorite novel of all time--5th only because not as obscure as the other choices.

Arc D'X by Steve Erickson
America's premier surrealist. No one writes like him. No one ever will. This book will alter your brain.

The Troika by Stepan Chapman
Stepan Chapman's haunting and funny story about a dinosaur, a Mexican woman, and an automated jeep. Or is it? The great surrealist underground classic of the 20th century. (I still have some copies of this for sale - JV)

Riddle-Master by Patricia A. McKillip
I rank this so highly because it deserves it, but also because this trilogy is still underappreciated. Much better than Tolkien

Blood Meridian : Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac Mccarthy
If ever a Western qualified as horror or even fantasy, this was it. The author's best book by far.

The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake
Nothing really beats Gormenghast for sheer power of vision--prose from On High. Fantasy as it was meant to be.

The Master and Margarita (Vintage International edition) by Mikhail Bulgakov
This brilliant satire of Soviet writer groups also has great depth and vision. Some scenes are just laugh-out-loud funny.

The Luck in the Head by M. John Harrison
A gorgeous graphic novel adaptation of Harrison's great short story. Surreal and unsettling.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Logical illogic, begun with a wrong number in the night. Weird noir. Borgesian. Stunning.

The Book of Leviathan by Peter Blegvad
A collection of surreal cartoons--without a doubt as odd and yet wonderful as anything out there.

Already Dead : A California Gothic by Denis Johnson
Spiritual gothic, as one reviewer has put it. The ending scenes of this novel are as harrowing and brilliant as you'll find in fiction.

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque : A Novel by Jeffrey Ford
A painter must paint a woman's portrait without seeing her. The resolution of the mystery is secondary to the author's ability to surprise and delight on every page.

From Hell by Alan Moore
Moore's Jack the Ripper graphic novel is psychologically gripping and intense. Better than most novels.

Darconville's Cat: A Novel by Alexander Theroux
The use of language in this novel with a college setting is astounding--simply unmatched anywhere else. Hard to read, but worth it.

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
A lovely work of fantasy by the Italian master. Better, ultimately, than If Upon A Winter's Night...

The Monstrous and the Marvelous by Rikki Ducornet
This book of essays has the depth of fiction--rich and wonderful. I include it as one entry-point to the work of Ducornet, among our best fantasists

The Land of Laughs : A Novel by Jonathan Carroll
Carroll's first is still his best--a classic now back in print. Sharp, cruel in places, unforgettable.

House of Leaves : A Novel by Mark Z. Danielewski
A house that is bigger on the inside than the outside. A love story. A creepy thriller. Controversial. But brilliant in my book.

Possession : A Romance by A.S. Byatt
Still a brilliant novel, no matter what anyone says, and a rather strange one, at that. Ranked this low because relatively well-known.

The Divinity Student by Michael Cisco
This first novel by Cisco should not be overlooked--in its meshing of W. Burroughs and Kafka, it presages a brilliant career

Leviathan Three by Forrest Aguirre & Jeff VanderMeer
I co-edited this one, and am therefore biased, but if you like the recommendations above, then the work in this dark fantasy anthology is for you.

(Evil Monkey: "Hey, weirdo. Posting old lists from years ago? Shame on you." Jeff: "Well, it's not like you had any new content, dumb ass." Evil Monkey: "You seem on edge. What's up?" Jeff: "Too many deadlines. Too much to do. And too much other stuff percolating. It's like being stuck in traffic on the way to the airport to pick up a friend and not knowing what airline they're coming in on." Evil Monkey: "You're babbling again." Jeff: "Never mind." Evil Monkey: "You never tell me anything." Jeff: "If I told you, I'd have to kill you, as they say, and that would be like killing myself." Evil Monkey: "What if I just kill you for being cryptic? That wouldn't be like killing myself. That'd be kind of liberating." Jeff: "I'm a moderating influence on you." Evil Monkey: "Yeah, right." Jeff: "By the way--got any holiday plans?" Evil Monkey: "Yeah, kind of. I was going to meet with Michael Crichton and provide him with some information on global warming." Jeff: "Sounds pleasant enough, I suppose." Evil Monkey: I'm planning on administering it in suppository form." Jeff: "Oh.")

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Tim Pratt has achieved a high level of notoriety for his short fiction, including for a story from Polyphony reprinted in The Best American Short Stories. He also co-edits Flytrap, a cross-genre zine. Now he has a novel just out from Bantam Spectra, The Strange Adventures of Ranger Girl. I haven't read it yet, but what intrigues me is the range of reviews for the novel, from pans to raves. To me, that signals a more interesting novel than one that gets praise across the board, and I'm looking forward to it.

What's it about?

As night manager of Santa Cruz’s quirkiest coffeehouse, Marzi McCarty makes a mean espresso, but her first love is making comics. Her claim to fame: The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, a cowpunk neo-western yarn. Striding through an urban frontier peopled by Marzi’s wild imagination, Rangergirl doles out her own brand of justice. But lately Marzi’s imagination seems to be altering her reality. She’s seeing the world through Rangergirl’s eyes – literally – complete with her deadly nemesis, the Outlaw.

Two absolute scoundrels have blurbed the novel, which bodes well:

"Tim Pratt's The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl is a two-fisted meta-fiction of old west mythos and modern day – sharp writing, cool characters, fascinating ideas, and the courage to have fun. Readers of comics and classics and both will enjoy this novel." –Jeffrey Ford, author of The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque

"Rangergirl is a fine blend of imaginative and engaging – a tale well-told." –Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and author of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

I met Tim at WorldCon last year and I have to say that he's one of the nicest people in the business. He was kind enough recently to walk the plank...


Why should readers pick up your book(s) as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book(s)?
For that particular audience which craves a melange of Westerns, comics
coffeehouse culture, pretentious artists, non-pretentious artists, bisexuality, radical feminist golems, toy pistols, giant scorpions, skeletal buffalo, frustrated romances, and a love song to the city of Santa Cruz, I dare say my book is the only choice. All others should pick it up for the awesome cover by Michael Koelsch.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
It teaches readers that there are few problems which cannot be solved via the careful combination of caffeine and paintbrushes. For remaining intractable problems, six-guns are suggested.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
Several of the characters are mentally disturbed in various ways (obsessive compulsion; delusions of grandeur; schizophrenia; pyromania). In many ways, my novel could be seen as a fictional counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and as such, is recommended reading for students and practitioners of psychology and psychiatry, as well as their patients, friends, loved ones, enemies, and casual acquaintances.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
Based on the Charles Dexter Ward scale of Cosmic Horror, where 1 is equivalent to the horror of discovering that beloved pets may eventually die, and 10 is equivalent to the horror of discovering that your aged parents are ardent practitioners of a particularly depraved subgenre of kinky sex, I would say my novel rates a 4 (for animated violence and sexual situations). It will take approximately 3 years of therapy to recover from the reading experience (more if the reader's parents are
cowboys or pyromaniacs).

If your book were a kind of fruit or vegetable, what kind would it be?
A prickly pear.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
I hear good things about the booming service industry, so I guess I'd
become a barista (baristo?).

Monday, December 12, 2005


Leviathan 5, the black humor volume, will have an open reading period of Oct. 1, 2006, through February of 2007. Ann and I will co-edit it. It has a subtitle of "Smokin' Bunnies" right now, but that may change. I don't know the pay rate yet. It will be a joint Ministry-Prime project.

Leviathan 6 will be the sex volume.


Saturday, December 10, 2005


Of all of the sad news in recent days--Sheckley, Williamson, etc.--I think this one is the toughest to take. I always thought his stand-up was genius and his rather brutal sense of humor always inspired me.


Friday, December 09, 2005


Vinyl Fever, 6:00pm

Nothing terrible happens. I turn in my CDs for cash under the imperious gaze of my stepdaughter-manager Erin Kennedy and receive $50. I buy a This American Life CD and a copy of Spin with their Best of the Year section. Nothing weird happens. Everyone is cool. Employee Matt-with-the-Hat chats with us…wearing his hat.

Ruby Tuesdays, 6:15pm

2 salads.
2 soups.
2 crown-and-diets with a lime
2 beam-and-diets with a lime

Danger Point: As Ann tells me about her day driving to St. Augustine and back, Yahoo #1 in the booth behind her puts his arm across the divider, his elbow dangerously close to Ann’s head. I am trying to concentrate on her story, but I am more worried about the elbow and the possibility of Ann hitting the back of her head on Yahoo #1’s elbow. Should I tell Yahoo to put his damn arm back inside the invisible dotted line delineating our booth from his or should I concentrate on Ann’s story? I am concerned about Ann’s head in concert with said elbow. I’m about to go over and let Elbow Lad know just how rude it is to put your arm across into another group’s space when Elbow Lad and company move to a table instead. Crisis averted.

Shall we go to the movies? No. Borders. To find Cinefantastique with the listing of Veniss Underground in the top 10 books of the year.

Borders, 7:45pm

-No Cinefantastique. Bummer.

-Two bright, pig-tailed girls are wrapping books for people, for donations to their cause. “Do you need a present wrapped?” they ask cheerily. “No thanks,” most people say, except for the Weirdo.

Weirdo approaches them as I watch from the magazine section. He is wearing all denim—denim jacket, shirt, pants. Brown blocky shoes. Huge belt bucket. Pants shoved up above his belly button.

“What is your thing here?” he asks.

“We’re wrapping presents to raise money for ---- .” ---- being some conference/convention/band event.

“I might have things I need wrapped,” says Weirdo, “although nothing I’m getting here. But I have wrapping…needs.”

“Oh—great,” say bright, chipper girls, obviously trying to hide their distaste for Weirdo.

“Yes, I have many wrapping needs. But I will start with magazines. I will buy magazine for you to wrap. I will give you money to wrap me.”

Say again?!

“That’s great!!” the girls say, ignoring the odd syntax.

“I think it’s great you’re going to try to go to ------ in -----. I went to ----- on scholarship and it was a great honor.”

“Oh, that’s great,” the girls says, preserving chipper attitude in spite of odd conversation.

“It is simply too nice, what you are trying to do. I hope lots of people decide to wrap with you. To have you wrap for them.”

“Thanks!” they say.

Weirdo leaves.

I walk up and resist urge to say “I have things I need wrapped.” Instead, I say, “You’re basically looking for donations, right?”

“Yes!” they say, and I put $4.00 in their jar and walk off. Hopefully Weirdo will not return. Regardless, it’s the risk they run for pro-actively asking people if they need presents wrapped. This is 2005, after all.

-Lines read in books in the SF/F section of Borders, by just randomly picking up bright, shiny books and turning to a page…

“You are not so cruel as to wish me harm though you are the man who broke my heart.” – A Secret Atlas, Michael Stackpole.

“Kill that woman, Jane. She is part of the problem, she is a stinking, sweaty, rutting, spreading sack of scum, she’s mold with a mind.” – The Strange Adventures of Ranger Girl, Tim Pratt

“It was after getting into a drinking contest with a gang of Napoleon-era British sailors on shore leave in a dingy Burmese dive…that things began to get a bit hazy.” – Here, There, and Everywhere, Chris Roberson

“Donna beams at them enthusiastically. ‘Fascinating,’ she enthuses. ‘Tell me, what are these lobsters you think are important?’” – Accelerando, Charles Stross

“Now even the tugger woman seemed reluctant but she ordered Miguel to comply with a curt jab of her chin.” – Counting Heads, David Marusek

“Jenn sighed then rolled her head toward me. Which pretty much clued me in to what she thought of the whole demon story.” – Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, Julie Kenner

“ ‘Mind the bog sand,’ said Captain Raevsky. ‘I will shoot.’ Miranda stood up, yanked up her pants.” – A Princess of Roumania, Paul Park

Gill’s Tavern, Our Local Haunt, 8:45pm

- Drunk

4 beam-and-diet’s
3 crown-and-diet’s
1 shot of bailey’s
1 jager and red bull (disgusting)
6 glasses of water


Inappropriate, possibly fungal, facial hair (male)

Woman wearing all black vinyl, with no chance of breathing, but not here for Karaoke, just dinner.

-Overheard (one quote I said, but I’m not telling which)

“There’s nothing a sander can do that a weightlifter can’t.”

“Whatever happens has to be third person. So this guy within five seconds was throwing up chunks. And that made her mad.”

“I’m sure you have children to live with your dog in Sopchoppy.”

“At least I own what I am.”

“I’ve already had enough everything shiny to last a lifetime.”

“I get my marriage annulled today. The Pope’s representative said it wasn’t in the Catholic Church so it’s as if it didn’t exist in the eyes of the Lord.”

“Why are we still talking about this, lobster boy?”

“Red Lobster. I love red. I love lobsters. But tell the Catholics I said hello. It doesn’t mean we don’t make some good shrimp.”

“That’s kind of like a fishing pole with a bee’s nest.”

“My daddy represented Big Corn.”

“One day we will all be as famous as a fish sandwich.”

“If you’re bad, you need to be punished…I think that has possibilities, don’t you?”

“Are you directing a plane or blowing your nose?”

“They have a silencer on that Guinness draft.”

“And then the girl does this thing where she puts in the fake fern…but, wait—it was actually all real.”

“No mistake. He’s your child. But if that changes, I’d understand.”

“Is that seat taken, sexy?”


“That’s some sparkly looking cleavage on the semi-good poet…and some unbelievably foul and strong perfume.”

“Jagermisster and Red Bull tastes like cough medicine.”

“That’s a pretty exciting football playoff game.”

“I really wish Jeff Ford didn’t have a Bowl Chicken.”

-Notes for Fairy Tale Essay

“First Bear: I’ve been that bear—the one that doesn’t pick up after itself, the one that has trouble using English to communicate with others. My wife has never been the helpless girl, but she has, to my chagrin, been the one who picked up after the bear.”

“Second Bear: This second bear is not any more tidy than the first. It’s not that he’s messy—it’s that he carries his mess in his context. The solution to the problem is a problem in and of itself.”

“Third Bear: The third bear is problematic. It doesn’t want to be a bear. It doesn’t want to be in this essay. The third bear is waiting to be written. He lives in the deep forest. He has no truck with folktales per se. He lives rough and is all bear. No taint of human. He exists at the edges of the folktales about other bears.

…And back by 11pm.

All in all, a good night for me and the missus. Goodnight. Racquetball in the morning....