Still not dead yet

And in fact I have a new story coming out soon in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Titled “A Theatre,” it’s about espionage and counterfeiting and prophecies and prophets (true and false) and 18th-century medicine and the American war of revolution (you know—the one with George Washington et al.) and bodies changing into other bodies. Among other things. Most of all, it’s about making the world better—or not—and how one might do that, and why.

I can’t say more than that for now because I don’t know more than that.

UPDATE: The story will be published in the issue of August 12, 2021 (No. 336). It’s available now by subscribing to the e-book edition.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The story is available to read now.

Not dead yet

No, I am not dead yet. I can’t blame anyone for thinking so. (Did anyone wonder? or notice?—likely not.) In the traditional first-blog-post-after-a-long-hiatus, the blogger apologizes, sometimes offers an explanation, and always promises never again to allow such a lapse. You, O Hypothetical Reader, will find here no so such apology, nor explanation, nor promise. We all know that they’re lies.

I’m not sorry for the gap. It happened—unfortunate things happen all the time—; and on any rational scale of misfortune, my blank blog is not so much as a blip.

I won’t explain. Because there’s nothing to explain.

And I certainly don’t promise not to let postings slip again. In fact, inevitably I will, if only due to my actual death (long may it delay).

So here we are again, you and I, H.R. and feckless author. Anyone want a drink?

George & Frank Tarr, Boy Avencherers, in ’Beeyon the Shours We Knowe!!!!’

Like most writers, I suspect, the last piece I finished is always my favorite. So it’s great to announce that my favorite story, “George & Frank Tarr, Boy Avencherers, in ‘Beeyon the Shours We Knowe!!!!’” is scheduled to appear in that epitome of publications, that model of magazines, that acme of anthologies, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by the nonpareil Scott H. Andrews.

New issues are available to subscribers before the rest of the sluggardly world gets a chance to cast eyeballs at pixels, so why not subscribe today?

More soon, including the smash-hit that’s sweeping the nation, “Notes & sources (III).”

Balticon 50

I’m going to Balticon on Memorial Day weekend. Are you?

I’ll be presenting a workshop:

Typography: Beyond Microsoft Word and CreateSpace templates
(Sunday 8–9:20 a.m.) Type is the dress our words are clothed in, someone said (could it have been Beatrice Warde?). Just as saggy sweatpants are fine for walking the dog, nobody cares how your email is formatted. But your books, now — wouldn’t a neatly tailored suit, or a sweeping ball gown, or natty plus-fours, or what-have-you — wouldn’t your books look better well and carefully dressed? Type has a five-hundred year history (not to mention the history of all the lettering arts), during which thousands of artists have developed methods, standards, and strategies for best presenting printed words to the reader. Every detail matters!

And I’ll be sitting on three panels:

Poetry in prose (Friday 5:30–6:20 p.m.) The mantra for modern stories seems to be simple, straightforward writing. Is there room for poetry and craft when audiences seem to prefer to skip to the action?

Cover it! The dos and don’ts of book covers (Sunday 5:00–5:50 p.m.) Panelists discuss elements of successful book cover design, what not to do, and offer tips and advice on how to make the packaging sell your work.

Positive, utopian and optimistic SF (Saturday 5:00–5:50 p.m.) Given the recent saturation of dystopian, post-apocalyptic and grimdark F&SF, what new directions stand to be opened by examining positive futures?

If you see me, be sure to stop and say hi. I’m not as unpleasant as I look.

“Or I Wil Harrie Them Out of This Land”

My new story, “‘Or I Will Harrie Them Out of This Land'” (yes, the double + single quotation marks are correct) is available today at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

I say “new” but its gestation is actually older than that of the earlier BCS story “Sinseerly A Friend & Yr. Obed’t” (q.v. by all means). The series of stories that I’m currently working on — six planned, four completed, one in progress — all grew out of genealogical research.

I’m not your average genealogist. I prefer to think of myself as a scholar of ancestry. I’m not interested so much in who married whom and who begat such-and-such as I am in what can still be gleaned of how their lives were — how they felt, where they lived, what they loved. Most of that is lost, of course, irrecoverable irrevocably, since we lack time machines, which probably can’t exist; and we’re left with scraps and facts, brown-edged ledger books and lichened gravestones, locks of hair and page-shedding family bibles, deeds and plats, wills and censuses. Dust and grease. But I refuse to set any limits on the power of compassion and imagination. So I invent, I fib furiously, I conjure and conduct.

I discovered Henry and James early on in my research, although it took a while to prove the line of descent. As I turned the facts over like troweling a flowerbed, churning up rocks and roots, the fascination never quite jelled into narrative. Then another story demanded my attention, like a ventriloquist flapping his dummy’s jaw up and down; and as the rejection notes for this new story piled up, I thought: I just can’t write commercial fiction, I don’t have it in me, I should just give it up and do whatever I want. So I did.

I started (working title: “James” then “A Wethersfield Tale” then “A Witch” then “Concerning the Peculiar Incidents…” and so on) with the formal restraint that the story consist of twenty long paragraphs, each exactly five hundred words long. Each paragraph would in turn comprise five one-hundred-word sentences, for example, or ten fifty-word sentences, or what have you, in intricate patternings. Traces of this procedure still survive in the final version: dialog is preceded by an em-dash and has no other punctuation than commas and semicolons because at first the scenes were all run together into single paragraphs, and the numbering reflects the original structure of five-hundred-word chunks.

But then Scott H. Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, that prince of editors, that paragon of publishers, bought the other story, and I thought: Well, maybe, I might after all, perhaps…?

Let’s do this thing.

I relaxed all the constraints to just one: each (now numbered, with free paragraphing) section must be exactly five hundred words. Finished, the story tipped the scales at twelve thousand words, precisely, not counting a long epigraph.

Since it was written expressly for Scott, I sent it to him. He wrote back a month and a half later, asking for more time to consider it. Two months later, I queried its status, and a week after that we began exchanging long emails about my intentions and his reactions, culminating in a request to revise the story and resubmit it. I spent about two months doing so, pulling it apart, remolding the pieces, discarding and rearranging and supplementing, but still keeping to the five-hundred word rule. And it was now 14,500 words (exactly). I sent it back.

Two and a half months later, we had another spell of long emails, then Scott offered a contract. Don’t, beloved reader, count each section, because a month of adding and subtracting words saw a net loss of three hundred of them, making some sections a trifle longer, others a little shorter. And so here we are.

A story.

It’s surprising how much of it is true.

I can document that’s it true! And I even have some facts left over, like a handful of baby teeth.

(But all that’s for another post.)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

It’s time again for that most pleasant of tasks: announcing the publication of a new story. A new historical fantasy, “‘Or I Wil Harrie Them Out of This Land,'” will appear in the April 28 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies (No. 198).

It’s a modest little tale of two brothers in colonial Connecticut, and their two very different characters and fates. As before, I’ll provide copious notes on the historical and genealogical sources for the story when it appears.

Now we must wait. Hurry up, time! Faster!
UPDATE APRIL 22: The e-book version is now available at Weightless Books and Amazon.

The Galaktika controversy

A surprising magazine cover
A surprising magazine cover
I kicked a hornet’s nest a week or two ago. Galaktika is a Hungarian SFF magazine, highly regarded there, with a substantial print circulation. Don’t feel uninformed; I’d never heard of it either until it showed up in a Google search on my name (vanity, vanity; yes, I know). Turns out, they’d translated and published my story, “Sinseerly A Friend & Yr. Obed’t,” as “Tisztelltel szolg’, egy barát” — without my involvement, permission, or even knowledge.

Well, I emailed the publisher to complain (still no response after almost three weeks and multiple resends). I contacted another author whose name appears on the same cover — his story had also been pirated. I posted about it on an online writers group I belong to; other writers reported their experiences; and now a Hungarian journalist has weighed in. The article is in Magyar, but there’s an English summary at the end.

It’s a big mess, for sure. But I hope that, in the end, Galaktika will reform — although the comment from the editor-in-chief suggests that that may be unlikely. But I can still hope, right?
UPDATE 31 MARCH: The Hungarian Globe website now has an English version of the original story, plus an update at the end.

Up and coming!

Hey boys'n'girls, be the first in your neighborhood to get one!
Hey boys’n’girls, be the first in your neighborhood to get one!

So there’s this new book out. Up and coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-eligible authors. There’s over a million words of fiction in it, and a bit less than 8000 of them are mine.

The John W. Campbell Award is for the best new SFF writer; it’s presented at the same ceremony as the Hugo awards, although it is not itself a Hugo. “New” is defined as making one’s first professional sale in the last two years; in this case, 2014 or 2015 — so this is my first year of eligibility. “Best” is defined by however nominators and voters choose to define it.

The anthology includes work by most of the eligible authors, some 100-odd of them. (For a complete list, see Writertopia.) It’s the result of a colossal, generous, and heroic effort by S.L. Huang and Kurt Hunt, and is available, free of charge, from now until March 31, the deadline for Campbell nominations.

And the reviews are in

Some readers have been kind enough to post their reactions to my story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

First up is a short notice from Michelle Ristuccia at Tangent Online. Thanks, Michelle!

Then we have Charles Payseur at his site Quick Sip Reviews. I appreciate your kind words, Charles.

And the latest is from the estimable Lois Tilton at Locus Online. And hey, she likes it! She really likes it! Enough to give it one of the two “recommended” tags allotted in this batch of eighteen stories. Thank you, Lois. I am beyond thrilled.