I’ve been asked to join the faculty of the Iron Springs Writers’ Retreat (next June on the Olympic Peninsula); an interview with me has been posted on the Nebula Awards website; my bio has been posted on the website for Wordstock, so I guess my participation there is official; and Danny O’Brien, blogging about my SF in SF reading, referred to me as “The Ted Chiang of Toontown,” which is a mighty fine epithet if you ask me.
Archive for September, 2008
Word count: 6050 | Since last entry: 2841
The above word count actually represents 4543 new words and 1702 anti-words, because the first draft of the werewolf story wound up at about 7700 words and the maximum for this market is 6000. I completed the story, got a real quick critique, and handed it in person to the editor, Esther Friesner, at Foolscap last weekend. It’s not a guaranteed sale, but the reactions the story has received so far make me cautiously optimistic.
We’d waffled until quite late about attending Foolscap, but I’m glad we went. Many friends were there, some of whom we hardly see at any other cons, and the new location had a lot to recommend it (in a hotel inside one of those “streets”-type shopping malls… corporate, yes, but a wide variety of dining options within walking distance). I did a reading of my just-completed werewolf story, and got a good crowd and a good reaction; my reading was followed by Esther reading her werewolf story (not for the same anthology) about a six-year-old werewolf who lives in the Plaza Hotel. Hilarious. Other highlights for me included portraying the alien bartender Asteroid Al in the radio theatre production of Buck Godot: PSmIth (adapted for audio by Phil Foglio himself, who was sadly not at the convention) and helping out with the auction. It was the first time I’d been an auctioneer since back in the Midwest mumbledy years ago, and I was a bit concerned, but I had a blast.
The previous weekend we attended the annual West Coast Gay Advanced & Challenge Square Dance Weekend, which went very smoothly and was a lot of fun. We skipped out Saturday night for my SF in SF appearance at the Variety Club downtown. It went really well. The small theatre was comfortably populated with about 30 people, including both new friends and old (and four square dancers). And it was recorded for Rick Kleffel’s “Agony Column” podcast. You can hear it in 3 parts: Nick Mamatas reading his Carver/Lovecraft mash-up, me reading “Charlie the Purple Giraffe”, and the following discussion between us and Terry Bisson. The podcast is also available from iTunes.
The bathroom renovation has turned our house into a miniature third-world country. It’s noisy and dirty and the power and water are unpredictably intermittent. But the tub’s in and we have the mosaics in hand — it’s going to be gorgeous. Kate has pictures over on her blog.
Lots of other stuff happening. A few highlights: Bento 20 is now online in HTML and PDF formats; my story “Sun Magic, Earth Magic” will appear in the premiere issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which is scheduled to go live on October 9; and Space Magic will be available soon from the Multnomah County Library system. My book’s in the library! I’m somebody!
One lowlight: novel #1 was rejected again and I haven’t yet managed to contact my agent about where we want to send it next.
October is my month to finish novel #2 and get it in the mail!!
Strangers entered our house some time during the day Wednesday. They came in through the front door with, apparently, a large crowbar, and really made a mess of the place. However, nothing seems to be missing except the tub, sink, and several walls, which are now piled in the front yard. At least they left us the toilet.
Having your only bathrom renovated is remarkably stressful. For the last couple of days I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to take a proper breath (or a shower).
Word count: 3209 | Since last entry: 1660
A thousand words today on the werewolf story. (Did I mention I’m working on a werewolf story?)
A sale! “Galactic Stress” to Mike Brotherton for Diamonds in the Sky, an online anthology of stories demonstrating astronomy concepts. It’s not the most literary story I’ve ever written, but I hope it helps some students understand just how freaking big the galaxy is. Thanks again to Elise for the title.
An email from Wordstock, “Portland’s Annual Festival of the Book,” acknowledging that I will be a speaker this year. According to the Oregonian, this year’s festival will have a focus on popular genres such as SF, mystery, and graphic novels.
A Google search reveals that “Titanium Mike Saves the Day” has been translated into Czech, in the Summer 2008 issue of the Czech edition of F&SF.
We attended a delightful Al Stewart concert, which Kate has blogged about.
I attended a workshop (well, it was more of a talk with extensive Q & A, but still worthwhile) with monologist Mike Daisey. He had some interesting things to say about how and why he does what he does, and some of it was applicable to writing, especially the four questions he asks himself when he’s creating a new show: Is it essential? (Does it cut to the essence of what you mean to say?) Is it disruptive? (Does it shake up the status quo?) Is it cathartic? (Does it take the audience to a place they could not have reached on their own?) Is it broken? (Art should be broken; if you polish off the rough edges it is no longer compelling. Don’t be a good student.) We also talked a bit about Nikola Tesla, and I went to the library after the workshop and checked out a book on Tesla. I feel a Tesla story trying to sneak up on me, but it will have to wait… after I’m done with the werewolf story I must must must edit novel #2 and get it out the door.
I’ve been reading an old Pogo collection. When I was a kid I hated it, but I know a lot of Pogo fans, so I thought I’d give it another try. Turns out I just wasn’t sophisticated enough for it. It’s sharp, witty, topical, and yet humane, with a keen ear for dialog, and just tons of fun to read. I’d thought it was a surreal strip like Krazy Kat, but apart from the boat (whose name changes from panel to panel) it’s extremely linear; even the little bugs and worms in the background have their own consistent stories (and some great little side gags) from panel to panel.
And one bit of bad news for balance: the lenses of my glasses were getting kind of scratched up, so I had new ones made (covered by the warranty on the anti-scratch coating) and I just got them today. Unfortunately I think there is something wrong with the left one: an area of distortion and bad focus like a tiny black hole just a little below and to the left of center. I hope they haven’t sent the old lenses back yet.
“Titanium Mike Saves the Day” has been translated into Czech, in the Summer 2008 issue of the Czech edition of F&SF. I also just learned that the same magazine translated “Tale of the Golden Eagle” back in 2006.
I sold short story “Galactic Stress” to online anthology Diamonds in the Sky.
Word count: 1549 | Since last entry: 1011
Kate was off at a knitting workshop most of the day (and also succeeded in getting a third iPhone — this time for sure!). I stayed home and wrote. I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked (AIM is seductive) but I did get a thousand words down. More tomorrow.
Word count: 538 | Since last entry: 538
We’ve seen some amazing things at this year’s Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival. This is TBA’s sixth year and the first year I’ve attended. In the past I looked at the glossy, over-designed festival program and figured it was too artsy. I was partly right, but partly wrong. Friend Janet Lafler explained to me that it is, in effect, the Portland Fringe; it’s full of amazing theatre, interesting lectures on architecture and urban planning, and hands-on workshops. There’s also weirdo performance art, tedious ballet, and strange art-like installations, but you don’t have to attend those. I’m sorry I waited this long to try it.
Here’s what we’ve seen so far:
MONOPOLY!, a monologue by Mike Daisey (probably best known for 21 Dog Years, a monologue about his time staffing the tech support phones at Amazon). This performance wove together the game of Monopoly, filming a training video with Bill Gates, the life of Nikola Tesla, one town’s surrender to Wal-Mart, and trying to create a one-man show about Tesla featuring a giant Tesla coil. Not all the pieces really fit together, but it was absolutely hilarious. At one point, when Daisey was describing Microsoft Word as being like a neurotic ex-girlfriend, the audience was laughing so hard we couldn’t even hear him, but his waggling fingers as he described how Word fiddles with your text just made everyone laugh harder.
A lecture by historian Carl Abbott and architecture critic Randy Gragg about the history of Portland’s South Auditorium District, which is simultaneously an urban renewal horror story (54 blocks of Italian and Jewish neighborhoods were torn down in favor of office parks and condos) and an urban renewal success story (three of the world’s finest parks were created). Lots there I didn’t know, much to think about.
The Portland tour of Tilburg. Okay, picture this: lay the map of the town of Tilburg in the Netherlands over the map of Portland. Now take a group of 30 tourists across Portland on a walking tour of Tilburg, hitting all the major historical and artistic sights, pointing out interesting features of the cityscape, and discussing the impact of urban planning and new development — all without leaving Portland. Our guide Khris Soden started us off with a brief lesson in Dutch, then led us at a brisk pace across “Tilburg.” He described a sculpture while gesturing at a parking meter, then opened an invisible door to allow us into a Tilburg shopping mall that in Portland was an ordinary street. (We were provided with booklets of photographs so we could see the Tilburg streets we were walking along, but they were optional.) It was a fascinating exercise. It was like watching one movie while listening to the soundtrack of another. It was a unique way of getting a real, physical understanding of another city, including its size, the relationship of its parts, and its overall “feel.” And after TBA winds up, he’ll be jetting to the Netherlands to present The Tilburg Tour of Portland! See Khris Soden’s web page for more on this fascinating tour. Note that the pictures in the “Greetings from Tilburg” postcard are actually pictures of Portland and vice versa.
On Saturday I’ll be attending an extemporaneous autobiographical monologue workshop with Mike Daisey, and on Sunday we’re going to an Al Stewart concert, which isn’t part of TBA but should still be very cool.
- The wordcount above is for a new story about werewolves in suburbia, which I should really be spending much more time on than I have been.
- Bathroom remodel planning is all done. We have obtained almost all the pieces it is our responsibility to obtain. Demolition begins September 17.
- I’ve decided to try this “instant messaging” thing that all the hep kids are talking about. My AIM screen name is my email address (dlevine at spiritone dot com). I’m not online very much, but if you see me online feel free to chat.
- Kate dropped her two-month-old iPhone and shattered the screen. The “repair” (a replacement phone) cost $200, which is exactly what the phone cost in the first place (better than buying a new phone over the counter, which is $400 if your two-year contract is not yet up). But the replacement phone seems to have a problem with its accelerometer and will be going back to the Genius Bar tomorrow. Argh.
- We’ve decided, at about the last possible minute, to attend Foolscap.
- Don’t forget that I will be giving a reading in San Francisco on September 20, part of the SF in SF reading series. Nick Mamatas will also be presenting.