Thursday, November 30, 2006

Because Things are Stacking Up... has gone and given Chris Roberson his own author page, and uploaded an online profile as well. The online profile is really a (fairly bizarre) questionaire and I don't quite understand why Roberson's fiction is reminiscent of books by Alexandra Fuller, but it leaves me very curious to know about Chris' four hour employment by Wendy's fast food chain!

Meawhile, Space Archaeology have uploaded an interview with Sean Williams. More discussion of his science fiction than his fantasy, so the end result is that I am even more eager to read Geodesica and the upcoming Astropolis than before. Of the latter, he says, "I can tell you that the first novel is a fast-paced picaresque journey through the ruins of a galactic empire (lots archaeology there) with a structure vaguely reminiscent of the classic Gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer. The second novel concerns the middle years of a new empire, one that's trying to fill the shoes of the one that's gone (expect expeditions to contact old and deeply isolated post-human minds for reasons I won't go into here). The third book is a chase through various environments, one of them based loosely on the Twentieth Century--which certainly qualifies as an archaeological experience for those inhabiting that future." Oddly, the quote reminds me of the quest for the last of the Old Ones and makes me realize for the second time this week how underated Babylon 5 is by our side of the cinema - literature fence. I am feeling the need to rewatch it soon, as well as the rise of the oft-contemplated wish that Straczynski had written it all as five massive tomes, rather than as five years of television.

Finally, I see there's a new group blog of note, No Fear of the Future. Contributors include Zoran Živković, Jess Nevins, Alexis Glynn Latner, Stephen Dedman, Chris Nakashima-Brown and Jayme Lynn Blaschke. With blog posts already about the real Doc Savage and ancient Greek astronomical computers, I will definitely be checking this one out on a regular basis.

Monday, November 27, 2006

PodMan & Lou Dog

The new, and most impressive Adventures in SciFi Publishing, has uploaded its fifth podcast, an interview with Yours Truly. I won't get to listen to it until tomorrow, so I have no idea how I come off. The interview was conducted by the wonderful Shaun Farrell during the World Fantasy Convention weekend, who was quite the professional, but I was practising my new "diet" at WFC, which consists of basically not eating and drinking only copious amounts of cappuccino. I suspect that listeners will get a pretty high words per minute rate. Meanwhile, I am honored to be in such illustrious company as Ray Bradbury, Paul Levinson, R. A. Salvatore, Jamie Levine, Sam Enthoven, and L. E. Modesitt Jr. Not bad at all for a brand new site either. Hence my "most impressive."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction

I'm a big fan of anthologies. Works like the Science Fiction Hall of Fame volumes constituted my primary introduction to the field, and I like the fact that in the space of one novel, I can be acquainted with the work of 15 to 20 different writers and be explosed to 15 to 20 different mind-blowing ideas. I don't expect to like every story in an anthology when I read it. In fact, if I do, the anthologist is doing something wrong, because that means he's collecting only birds of a feather and not challenging me enough or pushing the envelope, and when you have 15 - 20 stories and writers to play with, it's okay to take risks with a few of them. Anthologies also have their own character, and, like the mix tapes of the pre-iPod era, there is a certain artistry to putting them together.

As an ocassional anthologist myself, I'm also pretty hard on them. I'm not a fan of frivilous themes - Even More Stories About Vampire Cats, etc... - and my preferences run to anthologies that illuminate some particular facet of the field or which shine a spotlight upon some specific subject in the ongoing dialogue that is science fiction. Yesterday, I finished reading an anthology that answers a very specific question that I image I share with a lot of people right now, namely "What is this new Solaris Books imprint all about?"

This coming February, by way of introduction to their new line, the imprint will release The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, edited by George Mann. It's an unthemed collection of science fiction stories which includes writers like Neal Asher, Peter F. Hamilton, Mike Resnick & David Gerrold, and Brian Aldiss. My criteria for endorsing anthologies is that I have to appreciate more than 50% of the stories inside, so I'm happy to report that I enjoyed 12 of the 16 stories in this volume, or 75%. Enough that I can heartily recommend it here.

Standouts for me include Paul Di Filippo's "Personal Jesus," which introduces us to the perfect combination of spirituality and technology, the godPod, "Zora and the Land Ethic Nomads" which returns us to Mary Turzillo's Mars of indentured homesteaders, and James Lovegrove's absolutely briliant "The Bowdler Strain," about which too much said could give the game away, but which I will say was $#!+ fantastic! I also admired what Tony Ballantyne was doing with his "Third Person," laughed out loud at Mike & David's PKD pastiche "Jellyfish," and was quite taken with Jay Lake & Greg van Eekhout's "C-Rock City." I'm still contemplating the ending of Neal Asher's "Bioship," and wish that the Wakowski brothers final Matrix film had looked a little more like Keith Brooke's "The Accord," a very interesting little piece that strikes me as an attempt to justify the ways of Agent Smith to man. So, all in all, certainly enough here to get the Lou endorsement, and I recommend checking it out. Meanwhile, I understand a Solaris Book of New Fantasy is planned and I look forward to it enthusiastically.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Cylon God: How Special is your Revelation?

With the caveat that I think Battlestar Galactica is brilliant, that it is doing great things for SF television - and for SF in general - and that it has raised the bar for all time in terms of production quality and viewer expectations for what is possible...

Here's what bothers me about the Cylons. When they spoke of God in season one, with their talk of being God's Chosen People and God's Plan, etc..., they very clearly seemed to be doing so out of some form of direct experience. You don't, after all, just decide to commit genocide on a dozen planets on a hunch or a feeling. Their rhetoric very clearly implied that they were acting on what was - or what they interpreted as - Special Revelation, i.e. "that burning bush told me to do it."

But at the end of season two, and particularly in the "occupation" portion of season three, when we learned more about the Cylons and their religion, we don't see any signs of any special revelation. They bicker among themselves, they have doubts, they change their plan completely, some of them even have doubts that God exists. No indication of special revelation at all.

Okay, that's realistic and in keeping with our own world. Only, Battlestar Galactica exists in a universe where special revelation of some sort definitely exists. I mean, Roslyn's visions have lead them directly to Kobol, the Arrow of Apollo and the path for earth, and a Human Priestess, with knowledge of her dream, fortold that D'anna would find the child. This is a show where the ground rules establish pretty clearly that some sort of supernatural is operating from the sidelines, at least where the humans are concerned.

Ergo, it's a fair assumption the when they talked of knowing God's will and being his children, the Cylons had some concrete interaction with divinity - or something they perceived as divinity - before formulating their great plan. And I, for one, have been eagerly anticipating seeing what that would be when the writers revealed it.

Only they didn't. And it's painfully obvious sometimes how the writers are making it up as they go along. Which is okay, and is how most television, even good television works - and these writers are great writers - but man, don't hammer it in one way then shift gears. It's really thrown me for a loop.

Then, a couple of episodes ago, I saw a way out. After all, between "yes" and "no" the universe always contains a "maybe."

The Hybrids, folks!

Cylons who plug themselves into baseships, and in so doing experience the universe more completely or from a different altered state, who may go mad as a result but who, in the opinion of other Cylons, may be touching the face of God.

A-ha! This is how you can have special revelation and yet get the details fuzzy - so you think God's really telling you to wipe out all the humans one week and make nicey-nice with them the next. They have oracles - and oracles aren't always clear even if what they say seems divine.

That satisfies my problems, rationalizes the shift in their agendas, fixes everything perfectly. Problem solved!

Except for the fact that the writers themselves don't seem to have realized the potential of what they've introduced. We haven't seen the hybrids again, and now D'anna is shooting herself repeatedly to try and conjure her own Special Revelation between death and resurrection. Which makes me worried that even when they get it right, Ron Moore and company don't know they've got it right.

I don't watch Lost, but I hear it's starting to wear out its welcome with some viewers who are upset that the show isn't working to more of a plan. I'd hate to see BSG go that route as well. I don't think it will. For my money, it's still the best damn SF series ever in terms of the execution of its individual episodes and its character development, but how it all comes together in the end - and it does need to come together one day and it does need to end- will determine whether it's a show you watch over and over again when it's all said and done, or just something you enjoy in real time while its unfolding, but don't go back to with the same level of enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I continue to be impressed with Heroes, which clearly does have a plan, and while few individual episodes ever rose to the level of a good DS9 or BSG, its still Babylon 5 - for all the unanticipated plot and casting twists and turns Straczynski was forced to take out of necessity & network interference - that ranks as the best series ever when it comes to having a clear story to tell from the beginning and then telling it. And thank God Rome is based on, well, Rome. I'd hate for them to run out of material and have to do a boxing episode. Didn't Moore promise us none of the usual cliches? We've seen that on Oz, the short lived Untouchables series, maybe even Gilligan's Island. Talk about being lost....

The 50 Most Significant SF&F Books

This is the Science Fiction Book Club's list of the fifty most significant science fiction/fantasy novels published between 1953 and 2002.

The Key:
Bold the ones you've read.
Strike-out the ones you hated.
Italicize those you started but never finished.
Put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert*
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein*
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison*
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card*
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon*
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven*
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien*
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock*
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

So I've read 22 of the 50, 6 of which I've not finished, 16 of which I have. I tended to love almost everything I did finish and didn't hate anything (though I was underwhelmed by the Bradbury).

Some explaination on how I can not complete JRR's work and yet put it down as a favorite. As a child, I saw the Bakshi film, fell in love with it, started the books, but quit before Return of the King to read 1/2 of The Silmarillion but quit that when it got boring to read The Tolkien Companion and paint pewter figures. But I had a five by three foot table top covered with a battle between the Riders of Rohan and an army of Orcs in my room for years, and I ruined my eyes painting the little guys, so how canI say I didn't love it?

As for not having read PKD's greatest - both my college film teacher and my post-graduate history of theatre teacher were of the type who felt "I don't want to show you the classics you can see anywhere, let's look at the obscure works." So I'd seen all the lesser known works from the great directors like Hitchcock, Polanski, etc... before I'd seen their major ones. The attitude/approach apparently rubbed off. Galactic Pot Healer is my favorite PKD.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Top 10 Books I'd Be Reading Now If I Weren't Reading Other Books

The title of this post isn't as wonky as it probably sounds. I'm not a fast reader by any means, and I just worked out this morning that I have exactly fourteen manuscripts that I need to read between now and, oh, five minutes from now. And this doesn't count the 6 or 8 manuscripts I agreed to consider at WFC which are now winging their way through the post to my P.O. Box. Comes with the territory and I'm not complaining. I'm in this business because I love books, but it does mean that reading outside my own submission pile is a rare activity, becoming rarer as Pyr grows in size and reputation. And thank god for books like Ian McDonald's River of Gods, because I'm starting to realize that the only way I'm going to be able to keep up with the "talked about" books is if I have the good fortune to have published them myself. Nonetheless, I still buy books at a rate ridiculous for someone who gets a lot of them for free, in what can only be seen as some insane urge to fill up every square inch of my house with pretty artifacts that taunt me from their shelves. But there is a lot of really interesting work being done right now that I wish I had time to consider, and which I hope to somehow miraculously get to between coming up for air from my submissions pile and playing with my not-yet-two year old child. So, here it is, for all of you to tell me what I'm missing out on, my:

Top Ten List of Books I'd Be Reading Now If I Weren't Reading Other Books:

10. Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan. First, Hal is just the greatest guy. Second, Chris Roberson has been telling me what a genius work this is for months. Third, this book is burning up the charts. Forth, Hal is just the greatest guy. (So great I said it twice). And fifth, I'm so damn curious to see what the fuss is all about. I read the first page already and that was enough to give me a taste - like giving a coke addict one pinch and then telling them they'll have to wait till next year for another fix. Oh, and I've carried the book around with me all weekend at WFC, since Hal handed it to me to look after for a minute on Friday night - "There's this fookin' dinner I have to go too, right?" - and didn't take it back until Sunday afternoon.

9. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. Finally, a novel by China that isn't 700 pages long! I'm a huge Mieville fan - his Iron Council will probably emerge as my favorite work of the fantastic in over a decade - but it takes me a long time to read his books because I'm a slow reader and when the prose really hits my buttons I slow down even more, staring off into space to consider what I've just read or backing up and reading a single paragraph over and over. It took me ages to read The Scar for this latter reason, so when Iron Council came out, I managed to finnagle an interview commission at the Believer with China, so that reading the book became work - not play - and could be prioritized. But Un Lun Dun is a YA, shorter, and I have an advanced copy. I'd love to be able to actually read it before it comes out for once! But don't place any bets to that affect.

8. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. When Brandon's first novel, Elantris, came out, I was very curious. No way I could get to it, so I recommended it to my brother, an avid fantasy reader, who had good things to say. Then I met Brandon on a panel at World Con this past year, and was very favorably impressed. So I picked up a copy of Mistborn there and had him sign it, just so he knows I've got it, and therefore I'll have to get to it sooner rather than later. And I'm very excited to do so. Just look at that amazing Jon Foster cover, incredible illustration from an artist that's at the top of his game right now.

7. Anything by Michael Moorcock, but especially the new Elric Trilogy, The Dreamthief's Daughter: A Tale of the Albino, The Skrayling Tree: The Albino in America , and The White Wolf's Son: The Albino Underground . Recently, it has been my privileged to "have" to read a lot of Mike's fiction for "work," while collaborating with him on putting together the forthcoming book The Metatemporal Detective, a collection of stories featuring Sir Seaton Begg and Count Zodiac (sometimes known as Elric of Melnibone). And well, truth is that nothing makes me hungry for more Moorcock like Moorcock. I'm getting all geared up for Del Rey's upcomingg reissue of the original Elric saga, while enjoying some of Mike's more sophisticated works of the last decade or so - and the recent trilogy seems like the perfect blend of both worlds. Of course, blending worlds is what you expect from the creator of the multiverse.

6. Counting Heads by David Marusek - I've been digging David's short fiction for a long time, and I really wanted to read this book back when it was the "hot" just released hard SF novel. Missed that boat, but Counting Heads is still calling out to me from its place of honor on the book shelf. Fortunately, Marusek is a slow and careful writer, so hopefully he won't accumulate a Charles Stross-sized backlist before I can read this one.

5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - I started this on the plane out to World Con, hoping to have read enough of it there and back that I could justify another day afterwards finishing it up. As it was, I found out that traveling in the sky with a 14 month old baby is not the same as traveling with a six month old. So, as it turned out, I only read 50 pages. Sadly, with all the books I have in my to-read pile, it's going to have to wait until I get more than a day's break, and when I do get back to it, I'll start over from the beginning. But what I read was fantastic and has me itching to dive back in. And I feel pretty safe saying that this is the kind of fantasy I like.

4. Snake Agent: A Detective Inspector Chen Novel (Detective Inspector Chen Novels) by Liz Williams. I just can't get over this cover, another Jon Foster. I've showered so much love on it on this blog and in person - both in private and on convention panels - that I need to find out if the contents are worth their exterior. I bet they are.

3. The Ghost Brigades (Sci Fi Essential Books) by John Scalzi - I really loved Old Man's War, and since meeting John in person, I love him too. Plus, OMW was a fast-paced enough read that I did it in a record (for me) two days, which means I stand a reasonable chance of reading The Ghost Brigades sometime in the next six months. I'd like to get to it before the third book in the series comes out, and before I feel hopelessly left out by all the praise for The Android's Dream. Plus, I really want a copy of The Android's Dream too, but I'm not going to let myself buy it until I've read the Scalzi I already have. At least, I've resisted so far.

2. The Charnel Prince (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 2) and The Blood Knight (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 3) by Greg Keyes. The first book in this series, The Briar King, is still my favorite epic fantasy that I've ever read and my personal metric for judging works in the post-Tolkien tradition. I'm going to count these two books as one, since I can't very well read book 3 without first reading book 2. Meanwhile, Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself - which Pyr will be bringing out in the U.S. next year I'm happy to report - may very well have recently tied with The Briar King in the race for my affection, but Joe and I have never been thrown out of a party for drunken wrestling on the floor (yet), so I'll let Briar King hold onto the title a bit longer before declaring it unseated.

1. Geodesica: Ascent and Geodesica: Descent by Sean Williams and Shane Dix. I am just chomping at the bit to read these books. They sound like, both from their descriptions and the reports of trusted friends, just the sort of wildly imaginative, post-human space adventure I'm craving, but here's the deal: As slow as I read, it's very, very hard for me to justify reading multiple books by a writer I'm already very familiar with when I could devote that time to filling in holes in my education by reading the work of writers I've yet to experience. And, since I've worked with Sean Williams on multiple Pyr books, his brilliant sci-mystery The Resurrected Man and his Books of the Cataclysm fantasy quartet, the Geodesica duology would really be a guilty pleasure indeed. But I suspect I'd be shouting the praises of these works if I'd read them. As it is, they'll have to wait a long time. On the other hand, it occurs to me that I'm not familiar with Shane Dix's work at all. So maybe there's an angle that can bump this forward after all...

World Fantasy Convention Report

Austin has impressed me every time I've been in the city, and this time was no exception. I understand there were probably a lot of problems behind the scenes that I didn't hear of, and I know the dealers and artists weren't happy being crammed in a too small space together, but from the moment I saw the tote bags - which were the first I've ever really wanted to keep and had pockets for cell phones and water bottles and actual zippered & velcroed compartments - I knew it was a class act. A lot of conventions have debuted special anthologies, but how many of them have given them all away for free to every member? Or had such a nice buffet outside the signing? (The Parmesan-stuffed artichokes were amazing!) Although it was far enough into the suburbs that I didn't make it to downtown Austin this trip, the Renaissance hotel was wonderful, and featured a perfect example of my theory of good convention bars - one that is perfectly placed in the center of everything, spacious, patio-equipped for the cancer stick aficionados, and visible from all parts of the lobby. Really, a good convention starts from the tone set by the bar, the World Fantasy doubly so. And my son loved the birds and bells suspended from the ceiling too.

But rapidly: Highlights for me included meeting with the very friendly Tim Holman and Devi Pillai of Orbit, getting to spend some real time with Morgan Burns of Borders Books (making his convention debut), finding a kindred spirit in discussing theories of science fiction with Donald Maass, whiling away several late nights in interesting discussions with Ted Chiang, bumping into Karen Miller at the internet kiosk, and talking fantasy with Gollancz/ Orion's Jo Fletcher.

I was also overjoyed that I got to spend real time with old and dear friends - John Picacio, Chris Roberson, Allison Baker, Alan Beatts, Irene Gallo, Jen Heddle, Karen Jones, Joe McCabe, Jess Nevins (pictured with wife on left), David B. Coe - as well as with newer (and relatively newer) ones - Paolo Bacigalupi, Greg Manchess, Tim Akers, Deanna Hoak, to name only a few. I was honored to be on a panel about cover illustration with the likes of such giants as Gary Gianni, Charles Vess and John Jude Palencar - all very nice folk - and grateful that Irene Gallo, who was sitting in the audience and eminently more qualified to be on the panel than I, was a good sport about being roped in. And the Sharyn November-moderated panel, Will Somebody Please Explain This Book? was a riot - and a damn site better than a panel with that title had a right to be, largely due to Ms. November herself. People I got some but not enough time with include - but certainly aren't limited to - Alexis Glynn Latner, Marjorie M. Liu, Jay Caselberg, Jeff Vandermeer, Hal Duncan, and Graham Joyce. (And my own patient wife, Xin, who I saw maybe once the whole weekend.)

But working my way through the above list of shout outs and name drops - which is ludicrously long even as it is woefully incomplete - really makes me think about what I love about this business most - and that is being part of such a community of wonderful people. Every convention is an opportunity to meet up with dear friends from all over the world, even as it is an opportunity to make new ones, and every convention leaves me feeling regretful that for everyone I got to catch up with, there are two more people I wish I had. The longer I'm in this business, the more friends I make, and the more poignant this happy/sad feeling is, with the only solution I can think of being to extend WFC from a four day occasion to a month long event. (Just think about it.) There are just so many good people in our business...

...and speaking of good people, the skinnier, fuzzier, and somehow inexplicably younger looking John Meaney blew my mind with his demonstrations of NLP technique, and after the ten minute trance he put me in right before the awards banquet, I'll never look at my left arm the same way again. Cause that wasn't my conscious mind doing the lowering, I swear. John is one of the most interesting and intelligent people I know - really one of my favorite people in the world - and at a convention full of interesting and intelligent people that's saying something. Seeing him once a year is certainly not enough either, so, mate, I don't know what my wife is going to say about this, but you and Yvonne are invited to come live permanently in my guest room. You two don't eat much, right?

But WFC is a professional con, and on the professional side, I was also happy to see that not a single copy of Scott Mackay's Tides or Charles Coleman Finlay's The Prodigal Troll -which we donated to the tote bags - ended up on the returns table. There are always stacks of abandoned books at the end of the con where people have sorted through their bags and rejected the ones they don't want - but not a single copy of either was on the table all weekend that I saw. Not a one! (Provided they actually get read, and don't end up on eBay, I'd love it if readers would come here and tell me what they thought.)

But with so many free books, the only book I actually bought myself all weekend was Glen Cook's Sung in Blood, brought back into print by the wonderful guys at Night Shade Books, which I have wanted ever since I saw the gorgeous cover by Bob Eggleton on their website. (Check out the full jacket spread!) Jeremy and Jason have been doing good work for a long while now, but they seem to have really taken it to the next level somewhere in the last year, an observation that is brought home every time I see their table display at a convention. I find myself drooling at a dozen recent titles and going "I want! I want!" This is in part due to the caliber of works they have begun to put out, but also due to the amazing efforts of their new designer Claudia Noble. Whatever the reason, the end result is that I am just so impressed with their line these days. Meanwhile, I've never read Glen Cook before, so the fact that Sung in Blood is a slender volume means I actually stand a chance of discovering a new (to me) author and reading it before Hell freezes...

Finally, Sunday night was a dinner with Mike & Linda Moorcock, John Picacio, Chris Roberson & Allison Baker. I've known Michael professionally via email and phone for 5 years now, but haven't been in the same city with him since we first started working together, so it was nice to actually sit down and talk without technological aid. Had a delightful dinner, and he handed over the hardcopies of some of the stories we're aggregating for The Metatemporal Detective, but after dinner was a bit of an unexpected kick. Now, I read his Eternal Champion stories obsessively when I was a pre-teen, but Mike is Mike and I'm not a drooling fan boy, right? Only we finish dinner and he says, "Oh, Lou, I've got Stormbringer in the boot of the car if you'd like to have a look. I didn't bring it in because I didn't think they'd want us swinging it around in the restaurant." Turns out that a European armory made a few hundred limited edition swords with his blessing and consultation, which all sold for around US $8,000 each, and Mike has the prototype. So in the street outside the restaurant, I swung a four foot black broadsword by its two-handed jewel encrusted and talon-clawed grip. I don't geek out for much these days, but this was some powerful childhood mojo in the palm of my hand(s), let me tell you. Hardest thing I did all weekend was giving it back. Roberson got a little close too, so apologies to his family if he's not the person he was last week. If you know what I mean.

But all good things must come to an end, mustn't they? For my part, the con ended on Monday morning with breakfast burritos and good conversation from Elizabeth Bear, she who embodies the combination of intelligent opinions and genuine warmth which underscore perfectly what makes the WFC community such a wonderful place to be. And thanks to the free copies in the aforementioned tote bag, I had plenty of reading on the plane home. (Aside: why do you say "on" the plane and not "in" the plane? Because I'd much rather ride in a plane than on it.) But on the way back I read two selections from Cross Plains Universe, Chris Roberson's "The Jewel of Leystall," which takes place in the counter Earth of his recent novel Paragaea, and Michael Moorcock's "The Roaming Forest," one of his tales of Rakhir the Red Archer. I also read Paolo Bacigalupi's "Pop Squad," a novelet in the Oct/Nov issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. A chilling tale in the tradition of Fahrenheit 451 and Logan's Run - the sort of dystopian narrative where a protagonist policeman who previously hasn't questioned his society wakes up to the knowledge that he is doing very bad things - the novelet is screaming for a Hollywood option and subsequent screenplay adaptation. I am not kidding. This one has "film me" written all over it. In a good way.

And now I am home, still playing catch up on Wednesday morning, with a long con-less stretch of months ahead of me, way too many manuscripts in my submissions pile, and, thanks to such a stimulating weekend, oh so many plans.