Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Frankenstein Fest for Clarion West

In past years, I’ve been honored to be asked to speak to students at Clarion West, an excellent six-week writing workshop that takes place each summer in Seattle. This year, since I won’t be around for it, I decided to join the annual Clarion West Write-a-Thon in order to help raise funds for the workshop.

I am but one of many, many writers participating. If you find someone here that you like, please consider sponsoring their participation.

For my own project, I’m going to use this excuse to focus on finishing my ridiculous Frankenstein remix, in which I add more monsters to Mary Shelley’s somewhat monster-deficient masterpiece.

Here’s where I’m at, as of today. There’s a long way to go:

I know that some, perhaps most, will find this entire project unsupportable. But it’s for a good cause, I promise!

And Then The Murders Began

It might be time to say a bit about this.

Explaining a joke is bad form.

A couple points though:

  • Purists will want to cleave to its precise form. The rest of us don’t mind skewing it for the sake of humor. Change the tense if it works better that way. Slide it to follow the second sentence if that makes a huge difference. The only goal is to get a laugh.
  • I first noticed the phrase in relation to an article The New Yorker posted, a very tragic and disturbing piece which does not lend itself to any sort of humor. I would never link it in relation to the joke, but others have noticed and I want to be clear that it sparked my tweet. I do think adding “And” gives my use of the phrase an extra florid, self-important note that puffs it up just enough to be suitable for narrative frivolity. I just wanted to be very clear that The New Yorker was not picking up on a silly meme and using it inappropriately. The inappropriation was all mine.
  • Maybe all Twitter memes start this way: Someone cracks a joke, expecting two or three of their friends to laugh, and the next thing you know it’s had 7,000 Likes. I think what happened here is that Neil Gaiman was one of the two or three. Neil has two and a half million followers on Twitter. I have fewer than two thousand.
  • Thanks for playing along.

 

 

The Stillborne Opening

It occurs to me, after posting the opening paragraph of “A Mammoth, So-Called,” that I never put up the opening of “Stillborne.” You may recall this is potentially the last of the Gorlen Vizenfirthe stories, and will be appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction at some point in the nearish future.

The pilgrims Plenth had been hired to entertain crossed the desert of Hoogalloor in caravans made of enormous dried-out caterpillars, tossed about in the lightly ribbed interior with an assortment of carpets and cushions, peering out at passing cacti through portholes that had once been breathing spiracles. Other vehicles, more utilitarian and less appointed for comfort, had been fashioned from different stages of the same species’ lifecycle. These included a pupal land-barge full of cookware and stores, from which the cook emerged each evening and prepared a variety of dishes according to the complicated dietary regimes of the travelers; and a wingless chrysalis which the caravan’s guardians used as a mobile barracks, filling it with the racks of insect integument they’d fashioned into armor and arms. The beasts that pulled these hollowed-out vehicles of glossy chitin and dull husk were themselves a type of large, docile beetle, referred to as “Garden Variety” by Sister Quills, assistant to the caravan’s Drover-Abbess. Plenth had nightmares concerning the nature of that garden, from which she woke feeling thankful that her route across the arid northwestern wastes would take her nowhere near the humid southern quarters where such creatures freely swarmed. Quills, who spoke with a southern accent, retained the customs of her birthplace, which included smashing the flies that constantly beset the caravan and sucking them off her fingers with an ecstatic expression, confiding to Plenth, “The little ones are sweet!” Plenth understood that in this harsh environment, one must exploit every resource to survive; but one didn’t have to act so delighted about it. Thankfully Plenth had brought along her own food, which she ate sparingly, that it might last until they reached Wumnal Wells.

There’s lots more where that came from. (This is the longest Gorlen story, at about 19,000 words.)

That image, by the way, is Bob Eggleton‘s cover for the first Gorlen story, “Dankden.” I believe it was nominated for a Hugo the year it appeared (1995).

The End of Gorlen Vizenfirthe?

Perhaps for now…

I’ve just sold “Stillborne” to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This novella is intended to let me lay down the Gorlen Vizenfirthe series gently, and leave it in a good resting state, just in case I never feel inclined (or have a chance) to pick it up again. It doesn’t mean further adventures are out of the question, or that I might not go back and write some interstitial pieces from earlier in his life (the events of one night at Lake Vaug continue to defy telling, and I have been trying for years). The immediate result of having written this story is that I feel the tales so far are ready to be bound up in one volume, and, if read in sequence, might make for a satisfactory book. Not a novel! But still, a book.

To that end, with “Stillborne” as the final chapter, I’ve pulled all the stories together in one volume which I’m calling The Gargoyle’s Handbook, and set them out in search of a final home.

More news as I know it…

(“Rooksnight”: the last Gorlen story to appear in F&SF)

Philip K. Dick Award Finalists Announced

I have a soft spot for the PKD Awards. Several years ago, I served as a judge, and many years before that, my novel Neon Lotus was among the finalists. When possible, and I’m in town, I try to attend the award ceremonies. Many (most) years it’s the only formal convention activity I take part in.

This year’s finalists were just announced. The press release follows:

2017 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, are pleased to announce the six nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:

CONSIDER by Kristy Acevedo (Jolly Fish Press)
HWARHATH STORIES: TRANSGRESSIVE TALES BY ALIENS by Eleanor Arnason (Aqueduct Press)
THE MERCY JOURNALS by Claudia Casper (Arsenal Pulp Press)
GRAFT by Matt Hill (Angry Robot)
UNPRONOUNCEABLE by Susan diRende (Aqueduct Press)
SUPER EXTRA GRANDE by Yoss, translated by David Frye (Restless Books)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 14, 2017 at Norwescon 40 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, 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 during the previous calendar year.  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 winner was APEX by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot) with a special citation to ARCHANGEL by Marguerite Reed (Arche Press). The 2016 judges are Michael Armstrong (chair), Brenda Clough, Meg Elison, Lee Konstantinou, and Ben Winters.

Year’s Finest is Full

Paula Guran has put out the Table of Contents for the latest volume in her annual collection, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2017.

“The Finest, Fullest Flowering” made the cut, and is in some splendid company.

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2017

[Cover is not finalized]

Contents (in alphabetical order by author’s last name)

“Lullaby for a Lost World,” Aliette de Bodard (Tor.com 06/16)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” Brooke Bolander (Uncanny #13)
“Wish You Were Here,” Nadia Bulkin (Nightmare # 49)
“A Dying of the Light,” Rachel Caine (The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft)
“Season of Glass and Iron,” Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales)
“Grave Goods,” Gemma Files (Autumn Cthulhu)
“The Blameless,”Jeffrey Ford (The Natural History of Hell)
“As Cymbals Clash,” Cate Gardner (The Dark #19)
“The Iron Man,” Max Gladstone (Grimm Future)
“Surfacing,” Lisa L. Hannett (Postscripts 36/37: The Dragons of the Night)
“Mommy’s Little Man,” Brian Hodge (DarkFuse, October)
“The Sound of Salt and Sea,” Kat Howard (Uncanny #10)
“Red Dirt Witch,” N. K. Jemisin (Fantasy #60)
“Birdfather,” Stephen Graham Jones (Black Static #51)
“The Games We Play,” Cassandra Khaw (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
“The Line Between the Devil’s Teeth (Murder Ballad No. Ten),” Caitlin Kiernan (Sirenia Digest #130)
“Postcards from Natalie,” Carrie Laben (The Dark #14)
“The Finest, Fullest Flowering,” Marc Laidlaw (Nightmare #45)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com)
“Meet Me at the Frost Fair,” Alison Littlewood (A Midwinter Entertainment)
“Bright Crown of Joy,” Livia Llewellyn (Children of Lovecraft)
“The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch,” Seanan McGuire (Lightspeed #72)
“My Body, Herself,” Carmen Maria Machado (Uncanny #12)
“Spinning Silver,” Naomi Novik (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales)
“Whose Drowned Face Sleeps,” An Owomoyela & Rachael Swirsky (Nightmare # 46/What the #@&% Is That?)
“Grave Goods,” Priya Sharma (Albedo One #6)
“The Rime of the Cosmic Mariner,” John Shirley (Lovecraft Alive!)
“The Red Forest,” Angela Slatter (Winter Children and Other Chilling Tales)
“Photograph,” Steve Rasnic Tem (Out of the Dark)
“The Future is Blue,” Catherynne M. Valente (Drowned Worlds)
‘‘October Film Haunt: Under the House’’, Michael Wehunt (Greener Pastures)
“Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left,” Fran Wilde (Shimmer 13)
“When the Stitches Come Undone,” A.C. Wise (Children of Lovecraft)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers,” Alyssa Wong (Tor.com 03/16)
“An Ocean the Color of Bruises,” Isabel Yap (Uncanny #11)
“Fairy Tales are for White People,” Melissa Yuan-Innes (Fireside Magazine Issue 30)
“Braid of Days and Nights,” E. Lily Yu (F&SF, Jan-Feb)

 

@lantis…and Others On the Way

Rudy Rucker and I have been writing stories of surf-jerks Zep and Delbert since the mid 1980s, beginning with “Probability Pipeline” which appeared in George Zebrowski’s Synergy series in 1988. It’s a series, but we treat them like episodes in a comic strip, so not much carries over from one story to the next, other than the characters. They have changed over the years, but not much.

(Above is Jeremy Bennett‘s awesome Asimov cover illustration done especially for “The Perfect Wave.”)

This summer we had the chance to hang out together for a couple weeks, and started talking about doing another. Each one of these seems a little crazier than the last, and we had a lot of fun writing it. The end result just sold this week to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (which published the previous two, “The Perfect Wave” and “Watergirl”).

It’s called “@lantis.” I will post more when I know the publication dates. (For the complete series, don’t forget “Chaos Surfari”…the only one to have a band named after it!)

I also finally finished the latest tale of Gorlen Vizenfirthe, the bard with a gargoyle hand. I wanted to do one substantial story that would round off the series so that I could put it aside, maybe collect all of them in a single volume, give those who’ve been following the series over the years a sense of closure. I might come back to it eventually, either to continue Gorlen’s story or plug some gaps in between the existing tales, but for now it seems a good time to put it aside and make room for completely new ideas. This one is called “Stillborne.” No news yet on where or when it might appear.

And finally, a very short story called “Vanishingly Rare,” emerged almost out of nowhere. Well, not exactly. I spent much of last year going through my papers, preparing to pack them up for donation to UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection. Out of that mass of notes, I pulled one self-contained fragment that had been intended as a piece of a longer work to be called (at last retitling) The Secret War of Photographs. I doubt I’ll ever do the long work at this point (the fragment was dated 11/26/90, so it’s probably past its expiration date), but I did hit on a way to turn the fragment into a complete short story. I will post when it has found a home!

 

…let me just…catch…my breath…huff!

It started with scanning my old stories, posting them here on the site, a week or two basically stuck at the scanner forgetting there was an outside…then the discovery that using Abbyy FineReader on a set of old PDFs led to far cleaner OCR versions than similar software had generated a few years ago, making the task of converting my old novels to ebooks seem no longer insurmountable…and stumbling upon a method for generating my own cover art…then, just over a month ago, I uploaded the first of my old books to the Kindle store.

The process is a blur now that it’s behind me, and most of the weight of task-dread has been lifted. My books are back in print. Sort of. They are available for Kindle only at this time, and will probably remain that way for a while. Kindle offers a free app that allows them to be read on your PC, iPad, iPhone, etc., but I understand that some people simply prefer a nice bound book, and others refuse to pitch a dime into the Amazon slot.

The process of learning just the basics required to produce a reasonably professional, clean and readable Kindle ebook was exhausting and frequently frustrating, especially when it came to getting the logical Table of Contents working–and especially because I changed from PC to Mac halfway through the project. There are still some tweaks I’d like to make to the current editions, but I’m going to let them (and myself) stabilize for a bit. There are typos to track down, and some formatting I’m not very happy with. Eventually I will add more stories to 400 Boys and 50 More. Eventually I might give The 37th Mandala another light pass to touch up some prose that bugged me (the first time through, I wanted to simply reproduce the print editions without doing any revisions). But I have to think about whether it would really be worth the time and energy necessary to tackle the learning curve for Nook, Kobo, and other forms of ebook. Since I don’t read on those platforms myself, I am hesitant to offer editions that I haven’t fully checked for quality. I have several Kindle-kin devices and was able to inspect my books a few different ways, and on each one I discovered unique problems. I can’t imagine what might go wrong on devices I’ve never used.

As for print editions, my reluctance about shipping a product in a form I haven’t mastered is heightened multifold. At least I can patch an ebook if I detect a flaw. Do I really want to subject paying readers to my clumsy first attempt at print on demand? I feel like the low price for the ebooks reasonably reflects the amount of craftsmanship that went into their production, quite apart from the issue of whether the stories themselves are worth the cost. But a bound book is another matter.

Perhaps the presence of these editions will catch the attention of an actual publisher at some point, and there will be interest in bringing them out once more (or, in the case of the collection, for the first time) in a print edition. Or perhaps when I’ve recharged a bit, I’ll get motivated to tackle book design myself; although I think I’d rather use that energy to start moving forward again with some new projects. You know…ones I don’t necessarily have to self-publish.

If you have picked up any of these books, I am grateful and gratified that they have found homes again, and an audience. As aways, if you spot any typos, please use the contact form and let me know!

 

400 Boys and 50 More

My first collection, the final entry in the Laidlaw Self-Rediscovery Series, is now available for your Kindle or Kindle app for $3.99 (that’s less than 8 cents per story, some genius mathematician informed me).

400 Boys and 50 More!

A few people have told me they didn’t know they could read Kindle books on their phones or tablets, as well as on their PCs. I’m here to inform you that you can. It’s a perfectly pleasant experience however you manage it!

I am posting the introduction below.

marc_laidlaw_cover_400_boys_tinted_full

INTRODUCTION: 400 + 50 = 51

This collection contains 51 stories, well over a quarter of a million words, written over approximately 40 years, and assembled by the author, which is to say me, a fan of commas, and also afterthoughts. Most have been previously published, but apart from the occasional appearance in an anthology, they have never been collected in whole or even in part. Recently I made them all freely available at my website, marclaidlaw.com, rescuing numerous texts from paper and various obsolete electronic media; therefore it should be considered that this ebook exists mainly for the convenience of those who don’t particularly enjoy reading from a website and prefer the traditional, old-fashioned electronic book experience just the way Nikola Gutenberg intended it.

 
The decision to choose 50 additional tales to accompany the titular “400 Boys” is largely but not entirely based on my desire to have another zero in the title. Who doesn’t love more zeroes? I could have (and probably should have) included fewer stories; and with a bit more wincing I could have added several more. At the moment I’m on the verge of talking myself into 400 Boys and 40 More, a far more felicitous arrangement of numerals; or maybe I’ll settle in for another viewing of The 400 Blows (a title a much younger me once suspected a much older Truffaut had stolen from him). But no! My resolve is firm. 50—I mean 51—it is!

 
For now anyway.

 
Since this is an ebook, and essentially software, I intend, laziness permitting, to continue patching the collection, adding more recent stories without altering the title (though I will append a changelist). I suppose it’s possible that someday the title may have to be changed to “60 More” and then “70 More”; and in some distant future, provided I remain productive into a rich immortality, “Infinitely More.” But for now I’m sticking with 50. Which is to say, 51. I already have some ideas about 52 and 53.
Since my goal was to collect most of my stories in one place, and to exert thereafter very little editorial judgment, I decided to group them more or less in the order they were written and/or published. I have no particular thesis or argument to advance that would be strengthened by presenting them in any other sequence. The weakness of this approach is that the early stories are naturally weaker than the later ones. I have made no attempt to hide this structural defect. I trust that by arranging them by decade, I’ve provided a hint to the reader of what they are likely to find when they wade in at any particular point of their own choosing.

 
I include here no collaborations, since those have mostly been available in the collected works of my partners. I include no tales of Gorlen Vizenfirthe, the gargoyle-handed bard, since I intend to collect those separately as The Gargoyle’s Handbook (“Hello, publishers! All serious offers entertained!). Nor will you find any stories I can’t bear to reread. While I had initially planned to present a “Compleat Laidlaw,” ultimately I could not bring myself to exhume a handful of lackluster stories which well deserve their current obscurity. A few I am not especially fond of were spared excision on account of kind words spoken in their defense by others over the past few decades, but no one has ever stepped forward in favor of “Buzzy Gone Blue” or others nearly as embarrassing. There is one very recent story, “Roguelike,” which I had intended to include; but it depends on typographic gimmickry, and given my limited self-publishing skills, I could not ensure it would hold up on various devices.
While providing a bit of context for each decade, I have mainly refrained from commenting on the individual stories. On my website, where these stories also appear, I have been adding occasional notes as anecdotes occur to me. You might look there for further illumination.

 
May you find here whatever it is you expect of me. If your minimum expectation is a quarter of a million words, most of them legible, prepare to have your expectations exceeded!