Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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)
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.

…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.


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,, 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!

Incipient eBooks

I have started seriously tackling the work of turning my old novels into ebooks. Spent all day on Dad’s Nuke, and got far enough along that I carried on in the first pass of reformatting Kalifornia in the evening. My only plans at the moment are to do Kindle editions. One format has enough headaches, considering how many devices run the app. I might consider doing other versions at some point, depending on how fast I get at the work and how much interest there is in the Kindle versions. If there is little to no interest in the Kindle editions, then I probably won’t be spending a lot of time on versions that reach even fewer people.

The biggest headache I’m having at this point is around any kind of novel formatting. This will strongly discourage me from doing any adventurous type or layout experimentation in future self-publishing endeavors. On the other hand, when I’ve left this sort of thing to actual type professional, I’ve sometimes been disappointed in their work as well. Done well, typographic experiments are thrilling. They are rarely done well. (See my story “Roguelike” for an example of graphic designers doing the absolute minimum amount of work necessary to bring a typographic idea to life, so that something intended to be fun and funny just…lies there. (I have definitely been spoiled by my years of working in close collaboration with visual artists at Valve.))

Bless Me, Ray Bradbury


Sometime in early 1976, Ray Bradbury came and talked in the Laguna Beach High School auditorium. Afterwards I went down with my friend Robert Gillespie to meet him. We peppered him with questions, and Bradbury commented that he had corresponded with Clark Ashton Smith, at which my enthusiasm must have overcome me, as he reached out and sort of gave me a noogie. Robert never let me hear the end of it: “Oooooh, Ray Bradbury tousled your hair!” Gillespie tortured me with this embarrassing information for quite some time. In the end, I prepared this card and sent it to Bradbury, who kindly signed it. I carried it in my wallet for quite a while.


Covers of Books I Never Read

1972. Seen in a book rack at the Grand Canyon Gift Shop during a summer car trip with my grandpa Laidlaw. I picked it up, gawked at the cover, put it down because it was time to get back to the car, and thought about it for the next hundred miles, regretting that I hadn’t pleaded for the funds to buy the copy. Although I collected and read many, many, many DAW paperbacks, I never acquired this one and never read it. I think it’s probably awful but I have never forgotten that title…or the weird cover that went with it.

The Sliming of James Joyce

In honor of the published works of James Joyce entering the public domain as of midnight on New Year’s Eve, let the mash-ups begin:

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to slime again. He watched sleepily the blobs, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: slime was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly globbed on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the slime falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the undead.”

There’s nothing like having the freedom to screw up one of the finest stories in the English language.

Next Up: Cthulhulysses!

Text Trailers: The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington

–Turning in the doorway, she yelled at the crypt, “You stay in there until you behave!”

–It had been years since Awa was genuinely terrified, but she fell back into it easily enough.

–For an instant he considered going back for his charcoal and planks but then the monster begged for help with the voice of a little girl and he advanced with his weapon.

–“Morality, eh?  The shakiest fuckin word I ever ‘eard.”

–The shriveled cadaver jammed her blackened digits into her mouth and began to chew, faint whines slipping between the sharp teeth and wet meat and crackling bones as she ate her own fingers.

–“Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” said the ugly little man as he bowed. “But you may call me Doctor Paracelsus.”

–Fuck.  Paracelsus?  Fuck.

–“If you mean to ask why I sleep inside a giant, monstrous beast instructed to rend apart anyone who might disturb my rest I would ask what happened to your previously acceptable wits.”

–The rays of sunlight punching through the smoke cloud would have formed the shapes of skulls to the artist if the vapors had not blinded his eyes, and the mud squeezing up between his fingers as he climbed the earthen wall would have looked like worms. Instead everything looked like a blur, and he thought veil of tears with a giggle.

–She reached the wall of the cemetery, and the girl’s song abruptly ended just before Awa’s hoof crunched down into the snow.

–Getting the corpses fitted with hat and draped with cloth was easier than having them hold the instruments properly, but a cadaver that had somehow kept its mustache in the grave while losing its lower jaw seemed more adroit than its fellows, so Manuel gave him both the flute and the drum.

–“He was slinging chicken bones, trying to pass them off as old popes!”

–She was surprised to see the man’s spirit had not drifted away to wherever they went, nor had it stayed in its skull, but had somehow come loose and settled in the wet lump of muscle Awa held in her hand.

–“Bruja, warlock, wizard, sorcerer, witch, necromancer, diabolist, all the same—I can raise the dead, Niklaus Manuel Deutsch of Berne, and I can command them to do my will. I can parlay with spirits, with demons, and I can kill any man that lives with only my touch.”

“Fuck,” Manuel squeaked.

–The circles of blood were bubbling, burning, the stink like scorched hair only sweeter, sharper, and a column of smoke rose from the puddle of blood in the second, empty circle. The shape was indistinct, swirling, and the voice was a strange warble, closer to an insect’s than a person’s, yet Awa was sure she had succeeded, and the pleasure at this victory was only surpassed by the pleasure of seeing her mother again, no matter how dimly.

–There was the problem, a thick mold clogging the poor girl’s mouth.

–“So your house is on top of a warren of bloodthirsty monsters, your summer home is next-door to a warlock, and to top it all off you’ve been letting your undead witch girlfriend call the shots. You’re a credit to your profession.”

–The hammer came down again, a beatific grin on her face as the tool struck home, the handle gripped in both hands. The shrouded body underneath her was convulsing now, and the hammer went up a third time.

–“Vivisection.  A lovely word, don’t you agree?”

–…and there, in that cold, miserable cave, their nightmare began in earnest.

(Texter by Marc Laidlaw, based on The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington:  Orbit, March 2011.)

Facebook Meme, Ready for Pasting into Your Notes


Have you read more than 100 of these? If not, you must take at least 15 minutes to add 100 more or you will break this chain and everyone on Earth will die (eventually). Bother your friends and complete strangers too. No tag backs. Tag all your friends. Tag no one. Some will regret friending you, as you have me. Facebook may collapse under the weight of this astonishing venture, but I think it will agree that is a small price to pay for having friends.

1. Frittering Haights
2. Gone to Be Slaked Now
3. Sophy’s Curse
4. The Complete Wharfworks of Wharfham Wharfsphere
5. The Great Gallumphrey
6. Prude and Pruneface
7. Lay It on Thickly, Roofer
8. To Kill a Mockingjaywalker
9. The Bibul
10. I Walked with Jayne ‘Ere
11. Wharfhamlet
12. The Miserable Lesbian
13. Charles, Chuckles, and the Chocolate Chippendale
14. L41N14L
15. The Bed-Springs of Bed-Stuy
16. The Dunderbluss Hat
17. Down Boy!
18. Facts About Wasps
19. Li’l Prin’ess an’ the Ol’ Bu”ery B””
20. The Darkest Dark of Darkness
21. Adventures (all)
21. Five Books You Must Never Have Read
21. Wed, Wed, Charlotte You Must Wed
22. Van de Camp’s Ovaries
23. Finely Fairly Foully So
24. Whatever’s Left’s 4 U
25. The Cladded Clapboard Claddagh
26. I Spose
27. Germinal Faire
28. Whither Vanity?
29. Wither, Vanity
30. Chastity Intact
31. Christ and Carroll, Lewis
32. Makepeace Tanqueray
33. Odysseus Swallowed
34. Stoatula Unbound
35. My Terwilliger
36. The Morbid Hick
37. The Jarring Bell
38. Dimbulbs at Dawn
39. Jonesin’ for Dairy
40. Jub the Preferable
41. Soft Shoulder
42. Count on Monty
43. Floyd in the Time of Sclera
44. Curious J in the Night Kitchen
46. Same Old Same Old
47. Two Tales of A City
48. Mouse on Man
49. Dunny Brook-No-Harm
50. Sensible Pets (sometimes published as Sensible Pest)
51. Pilot Life
52. Manteca: The Lard Files
53. Atonally Intoned
54. A Sensitive, Handwrung Boy
55. We Didn’t Mean It, Said the Mob
56. Grable’s Stables
57. The White Women’s Wilkie
58. Perfectly Mercurial Albacore
59. War and More
60. You’ll Wonder Why
61. The Hype Handler
62. Shotgun Memories
63. A Very Small House
64. Wife Travelling Time
56. The Robbit
67. The Baby-Proofed Nightmare
89. Great Scott, Fatso!
90. A Little Slumming
91. Trendsong
92. Darken Not My Door, Darling
93. A Wind in The Hind Quarter
94. Angry, Angry Waters
95. A Case of Canned Karenina
96. Copperfraud’s Caseload
97. The Comicles of Norn (all)
98. The Comicles of Norn (vol. 3)
99. The Master’s Masterpiece
100. Lay I Mean Lie with Me