Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ordering Hidden Folk

This is where to order my new book. 20% off for preorders. A heck of a deal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


On the weather front, winter came suddenly in early November: a snow storm and low temps. The last leaves came off the trees. Today is gray and pretty cold. Right now it's 13 above F, with a wind chill of 2 above. This is the kind of weather you have to dress for. It's not a bitter cold. That happens below zero. But I have pulled my Ugg boots out of storage, also my Norwegian sweater. The red melton wool parka has not been deployed yet.

New Book

This is collection of stories based on Icelandic literature and folklore, which is due out this month.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

November Birdwatching

A crisp, sunny day with a clear blue sky. The leaves are almost all gone from the trees. Maybe I can convince Patrick to drive down to Alma, Wisconsin this weekend to see if the migrating swans are there. There are a lot of oaks on the river bluffs, and they hold their leaves.

I checked the Alma swan watch website. Turns out they get far fewer swans than they used to in Alma. 5-20 now, instead of thousands. Still, it might be worth a look. Or a drive to Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. 21,000 sandhill cranes there as of November 4. Their running count also lists a few trumpeter swans and two bald eagles for November.

The swans in Alma are the smaller tundra swans. Trumpeters are impressive.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Interview with George R.R. Martin

From an interview in the Wall Street Journal:
Your new book shows us countries in your fantasy world influenced by Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. In general, though, fantasy literature isn’t very diverse. Pretty much all the main characters in the TV version of “Game of Thrones” are white. Why is fantasy so monocultural?

It’s so monocultural because it’s mostly been written by white men. I’m a 66-year-old white man…. I do see evidence that that’s changing. If you look at the world science-fiction award, the Hugo, which is given every year, and the John W. Campbell award, which is an award that’s given every year at the world S.F. convention, more and more of them [award-winners] have been writers of different ethnic backgrounds, more women, women of color, women from other countries, of Indian descent, black writers like N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, Asian writers like Ken Liu …. If these books sell, publishers will publish more of them…. If they don’t succeed, though, and the books by the old white guys continue to succeed, then you’ll get more books by old white guys.
I mentioned the multicultural fantasy I wrote in the 1980s in a previous post. It's the one I've been proofing. One can write about people who are not identical to oneself. However, it's more stressful, especially if the people still exist. One is operating on someone else's turf.

The ultimate answer is to have more writers who are people of color, a term I really dislike. It sounds so clunky. More nonwhite writers. More writers from different cultures and different parts of the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


It has been a beautiful autumn. Now it's ending. The temps have fallen from the 70s to the high 40s. The trees in the nearby park have mostly lost their leaves, though there are still a few with bright yellow foliage. There is one red tree, a maple, of course; and one tree covered with lovely, rich brown foliage. It's an oak, of course.

I wrote this post last year in November:
This time of year I praise the oaks
That keep their leaves when other trees are bare --
Red, brown, orange, yellow-brown,
Like banners in the cold fall air,

Flaunting their persistence. They won’t give in,
Though snow flies in winter’s icy gust.
Their roots wait deep in the frozen ground
For spring to come, as come it must
A clunky little poem, but I like it, because I like oaks.

Writing the Other, Writing Oneself

I just suggested a panel for next year's Wiscon:
Writing the Other, Writing Oneself.

This is yet another cultural appropriation panel. I want to discuss the issue from the point of view of writers. Can one write about other cultures? How can it be done respectfully? Maybe it would be better and safer to simply not write about people different from oneself, if one is a member of the dominant culture. But this is constraining. One is denying oneself so much. There is also the question of minority members writing about dominant culture. Are there any problems in doing this? It's not cultural appropriation, according to the academic definitions, but it is writing outside one's experience. Is one true to oneself when doing this?
I didn't include another obvious topic: why does one write about the other?

When I was going over my third novel, I realized how much there was about nonwhite cultures: a black magical kingdom based very loosely on West African kingdoms and a group of Anasazi who escape the great drought into another world -- and then are preyed on by dragons. I wanted to write a fantasy that was not the typical faux Tolkien, faux medieval Europe mishmash. This was back in the 1980s. I wrote the novel more or less in a vacuum. No one was talking about cultural appropriation. As far as I remember, no one was complaining that the fantasy worlds were too white. (I'm sure someone was complaining. But not around me.) Now I want to think about the topic of using other cultures.

Having said the above, I now wish I had written more about the black kingdom and Father Lucien Dia, a Catholic priest from Senegal who discovers that he actually a magical creature from another world. And I wish I had done more research.

Monday, October 27, 2014


This is an essay in The Guardian on transrealism, a term made up by Rudy Rucker. It appears to describe a mash up of realism and SFF.

Here is my comment from facebook:
Realistic fiction into which intrudes something weird is a good description of much 1950s SF. Writers like Kornbluth, Tenn and Sturgeon could write painfully realistic slice of life stories with something truly strange in the middle. I remember the story about the property agent who rents the 13th floor of his building -- which floor does not exist, except it does. Sort of.

As the comments in The Guardian point out, we already have the term Slipstream. We also have Interstitial, a term I hate, because I can neither spell nor pronounce it.

I am slowly, grudgingly coming to the realization that SFF is probably not adequate as a term, because the boundaries around SFF are becoming increasingly fuzzy. Maybe Fantastika works.
Or maybe we should stick to SFF and realize that it is imperfect. Many terms are imperfect.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

This and That

More daily life trivia...

Last night was a live broadcast of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The first half of the program was two short pieces by Charles Ives and a Mozart concerto, all played by pianist Jeremy Denk, a new artistic partner at the SPCO. The second half was the Eroica, which was oddly thin and uninspired. Patrick said, "What are we listening to? We were supposed to be listening to Beethoven." I said, "This is Beethoven." Very strange. But the earlier works were fine.

I was thinking that there's a lot of fine music in the Twin Cities. But, in fact, almost every metro area has an orchestra and most have an opera company.

Also yesterday, I passed through the Farmers Market on my way to a coffee shop and was not able to pass a cheese vendor. I bought a chunk of cheese -- made from Jersey milk, very buttery and pungent -- and asked her about her farm and animals. Her cows are a mix of Jersey, Angus and Highland Scottish. I mean, the individual animals are a mix. I asked what they looked like. The answer was "Varied." The farm also has one Jersey, which I assume produced the cheese I bought.

I am trying to imagine an animal that is a Highland, Angus, Jersey mix. The farmer said the cows produce very rich milk.

Today is running errands. I need more paper and toner, since I still printing out my third novel and proofing it. The first has gone off to Aqueduct Press, with corrections made.

The most interesting part of this project is the afterwords I am planning to write. I want to put the novels in context: what was going on in my life when I wrote them. And I want to give my reaction to them many decades later. And I want to add interesting stories. For example, Patrick found himself in an unsafe neighborhood in Chicago many years ago, with five large, young men surrounding him. They wanted his belongings. It was night and pouring rain and there was no one around except the five young men. So he recited the prayer to the Great Fish in To the Resurrection Station, because it was the only prayer he could think of. A bus appeared out of nowhere and drew up next to him. The door opened. He told the young men, "This is my bus," and climbed on.

A genuine miracle. As far as I know, it's the only time one of my characters has performed a miracle. I told Patrick not to rely on the Great Fish in the future. You get only one miracle from the Fish.