Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Steampunk Revivified

Steampunk Reloaded is now available.  This contains my story “Great Breakthroughs in Darkness,” along with a number of other reprints, and a great deal of original work in the steampunk vein.  I was an admirer of the steampunk novels of Jeter, Powers and Blaylock, felt there was no way I could compete with them although I loved the circuitous sentences these sort of stories allowed, and only dabbled a little in imitation.  By the time Gibson and Sterling had published The Difference Engine, and Paul Di Filippo had put out his Steampunk collection, I figured it was all over.  Little did I know.

Pokky Mash

Now that Classics Mutilated is in print, Anna Tambour has posted a quite Tambourian look at “Pokky Man” at her blog, Medlar Comfits.  Anna was the first reader of the story, and a staunch champion who convinced me not to rewrite it into paste, but to leave some lumps in.  It is an honor to think she spent so much of her intense intelligence on this odd little story.  But Anna likes odd things.

PS: If you buy the Kindle edition of Classics Mutilated, you’ll get two extra stories that aren’t in the paperback.  But the bound volume is hefty and beautiful, and the illustrations by Mike Dubisch are fun in any event.

Text Trailers: Bullet Park by John Cheever

–“How is your horrid country?”

–“You can look all over the world but you won’t find neighbors as kind and thoughtful as the people in Bullet Park.”

–He possesses for a moment the curious power of being able to frighten himself.

–“Oh, I wish it would never get dark—never. I suppose you know all about that lady who was mistreated and strangled on Maple Street last month. She was my age and we had the same first name. We had the same horoscope and they never found the murderer…”

–I heard her swear and a moment later I heard the noise of falling glass, and why is this sound so portentous, so like a doomcrack bell?

–He turned on a light and saw how absorbed his son was in the lisping clown.

—society had become so automative and nomadic that nomadic signals or means of communication had been established by the means of headlights, parking lights, signal lights and windshield wipers. Hang the child murderer. (Headlights.) Reduce the state income tax. (Parking lights.) Abolish the secret police. (Emergency signal.) The bishop had suggested that churchgoers turn on their windshield wipers to communicate their faith in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

–The place had long ago gone to seed and had then been abandoned. The water traps were dry, the windmill had lost its sails and the greens were bare concrete but most of the obstacles were intact and on summer nights men and boys still played the course although there were no trespassing signs all over the place.

–“I was feeling good too but we have a problem here and we can’t evade it just because the veal birds smell good.”

–The man explained that he was after draft evaders because he had spent a year and a half in a POW camp in Germany, eating rats and mice. He wanted the younger generation to learn what it was all about.

–“Alchemy is, of course, the transmutation of base metals into noble ones and when an extract of beaver musk, cedar bark, heliotrope, celery and gum resin can arouse immortal longings in a male we are close to alchemy, wouldn’t you say?”

–She’d keep saying hello all through the preliminaries and then when we came to the main feature she’d keep on saying hello only louder and louder and finally she’d sort of yell hello, hello. Then when I got dressed and said good night she’d keep on saying hello.

–Rainwater had collected in one of the commemorative urns or ewers and he scooped enough up with his hand to get the pill down.

–“I suppose I’d drug him or poison him at some cocktail party. I wouldn’t want him to suffer.”

–Snowcapped toilet seats.

— It was the turtle’s lawn, the turtle’s sky, the turtle’s creation, and Nailles seemed to have wandered mistakenly onto the scene. He fired again and missed.

—looking through my handbag I found an invitation to spend a weekend with Robert Frost. Of course he’s dead and buried and I don’t suppose we would have gotten along for more than five minutes but it seemed like some dispensation or bounty of my imagination to have invented such a visit.

–Out of the window he can see his lawns in the starlight. HOPE, HOPE, HOPE, HOPE. Their voices sound like drums. His lawns and the incantations came from different kingdoms. Nothing made any sense.

–“Where’s the body?” “I don’t know.” “There’s his loafer. He was standing right there and the train came through and he was gone.”

–She claimed only last month that her windshield wiper urged her to invest in Merck Chemicals which she did, making a profit of several thousand. I suppose she lies about her losses as gamblers always do.

–Boarding a DC-7 one night in Innsbruck I distinctly heard the engines produce some exalting synthesis of all life’s sounds—boats and train whistles and the creaking of iron gates and bedsprings and drums and rainwinds and thunder and footsteps and the sounds of singing all seemed woven into a rope or cord of air that ended when the stewardess asked us to observe the No Smoking sign–

–“I would entertain in order to conceal my purpose.”

–That road and all the rest of the freeways and thruways were engineered for clowns and drunks. If you’re not a nerveless clown then you have to get drunk. No sensitive or intelligent man or woman can drive on those roads. They ought to sell pot and bourbon at the gas stations. Then there wouldn’t be so many accidents.

–He enjoyed maneuvering the howling, screaming engine and its murderous teeth.

–Had she gone mad? She watched the procession until it had wound out of sight. Shit was the last placard she saw.

–“I heard him talking to himself. ‘I can’t stand it any longer,’ he said. I still don’t know what he meant. Then he went out into the garden and shot himself.”

–They were merely acquaintances but the casualty had thrust them into an intimate relationship.

–We do not fall in love—I thought—we re-enter love, and I had fallen in love with a memory—a piece of white thread and a thunderstorm. My own true love was a piece of white thread and that was so.–

–I sat in a chair by the window feeling the calm of the yellow walls restore me.

–The woman who dreamed of a mink coat had more sense than the woman who dreamed of heaven. The nature of man was terrifying and singular and man’s environment was chaos.

–“Get out of here,” the swami said. “Get out of the Temple of Light.”

–“Mr. and Mrs. Hammer, may I present your neighbor Mr. Nailles.”

Modest Proposal #37: A Novel Kind of Trailer

I think book trailers are dumb.  Partly it’s due to the fact that most are badly done (although they seem to be improving), partly it’s that the experience of watching a trailer is nothing like reading a book.  A movie’s trailer at least gives you scenes from the movie it advertises.  A book trailer gives you nothing of the experience, which is that of reading a written word.  When I think about what attracts me to a book, it is usually a jumbled impression of fleeting sentences gained by flipping through the pages, catching sight of stray, disconnected sentences, and wanting to know more.  Since the books themselves already contain these sentences, what is needed is a way of simulating that experience of skipping through pages as you’re standing in a bookstore or a library.  As more of us buy from online dealers, and spend less time in bookstores, the act of riffling pages has become endangered.  So trailers seem like a decent form for catching the attention of internet readers–except for the fact that, for me, they just don’t work.

What I’d like to see is something closer to a written trailer–a heavily edited, chopped-up, artfully scattered and rearranged, breathless set of passages from the book itself.  Stray sentences, evocative names, intriguing set-pieces–spoiler free, or at least extremely misleading.  Something that gives you the flavor, the scent of a book; sentences that convince you that you’ve got to dive in and find them in context.

Someone, some publisher, should have a contest.  Encourage readers of some of your recent books to put together clever text-only teasers.  Use the winning entries to promote those books.

(I tried this in the preface for my novel KALIFORNIA, which seemed justified then because the book was about TV.  But really this approach, if it worked, wouldn’t need any meta-justification.)

Philip K. Dick Award Nominees 2009

2009 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2009 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, are pleased to announce seven nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:

BITTER ANGELS by C. L. Anderson (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
THE PRISONER by Carlos J. Cortes (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
THE REPOSSESSION MAMBO by Eric Garcia (Harper)

THE DEVIL’S ALPHABET by Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
CYBERABAD DAYS by Ian McDonald (Pyr)
CENTURIES AGO AND VERY FAST by Rebecca Ore (Aqueduct Press)
PROPHETS by S. Andrew Swann (DAW Books)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 2, 2010 at Norwescon 33 at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States.  The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.  Last year’s winners were EMISSARIES FROM THE DEAD by Adam-Troy Castro (Eos Books) and TERMINAL MIND by David Walton (Meadowhawk Press).  The 2009 judges are Daniel Abraham (chair), Eileen Gunn, Karen Hellekson, Elaine Isaak, and Marc Laidlaw.

For more information, contact the award administration:

David G. Hartwell (914) 769-5545.

Gordon Van Gelder (201) 876-2551

For more information about the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society,

Contact Gary Feldbaum (215) 665-5752

For more information about the Philip K. Dick Trust:

For more information about Norwescon:

Contact NorthWest SF Society: (425) 686-9737

World Fantasy Convention 2009

At the end of this month, I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention for the first time in many years.  I am scheduled for two events:

Friday, 5 P.M. – A Reading.  Location TBD.  I will probably read “Songwood,” before its appearance in the Jan.-Feb. issue of F&SF.

Saturday, 8:45 PM – 10 PM.  Crystal Room.  Group reading to celebrate the publication of Lovecraft Unbound, with Ellen Datlow and the following authors reading selections from their stories:  Laird Barron, Amanda Downum, Brian Evenson, Nick Mamatas, Michael Shea, Anna Tambour, and me.

Lovecraft Unbound – Dead Reckonings Review

Ellen Datlow sent along the text of a review of Lovecraft Unbound. It is will appear in a forthcoming Dead Reckonings.  We’re permitted to use excerpts, so I’ve dug out some that relate to my story:

More Than Just Tentacles

Martin Andersson

HENRIK SANDBECK HARKSEN, ed. Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales. Odense, Denmark: H. Harksen Productions, 2008. iv, 306 pp. €19.60 ($25.30) tpb.

ELLEN DATLOW, ed. Lovecraft Unbound. New York: Dark Horse, 2009. 421 pp. $19.95 tpb.


The two present volumes are among the latest additions to the jewels in Cthulhu’s treasury. Both anthologies share the ambition of highlighting the “Lovecraftian”—the nebulous quality of weirdness and mood that is so much more than monsters from Outside and strange little New England towns. Marc Laidlaw puts it best when, in his comment on his story in Lovecraft Unbound, he writes, “Learning from Lovecraft, without leaning on him, is the challenge.” And in this, both anthologies succeed remarkably well.


An adventurous mycologist looking for a missing expedition visits a certain Asian plateau in Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng.” This is one of the more subtly disturbing stories of the book in its depiction of bodily invasion and the subversion of self; certain properties of the unique fungus located by the mycologist remind me of Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Seed from the Sepulcher.” It is also a good example of how names from Lovecraft’s mythos can be dropped as part of the background for a story, not taking centre stage as in some pastiches of doubtful quality.

Of Mushrooms and Metroids

Game imagery is so pernicious that it is starting to invade science fiction novel cover art.  Here, from Jeff Vandermeer’s forthcoming FINCH, which almost certainly contains mushrooms galore, is some architecture that appears to have come straight out of Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom.  My kids saw only this much and thought these were Mario mushrooms:


Yes, that cover really is beautiful.

Meanwhile, from Ed Lerner’s forthcoming SMALL MIRACLES, a novel of nanotechnology gone awry, a bookjacket covered with a bunch of iconic Metroids:


Here is a real Metroid for comparison purposes.


And here is a mushroom.


Please do not rely on this guide in the field.  Speak to an expert before consuming any wild-caught mushrooms or Metroids.