UnCommonwealth

The online journal of speculative fiction author Christopher Rowe.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Humor is contextual...

...and a lot of y'all won't be familiar with the context for this joke. Feel sorry for those of us who are.

But, without further ado, wacka wacka wacka!

What do you get when you cross a coelacanth with an ostrich?

A living fossil with its head buried in the sand!

Thank you! Thank you!

What's it about, David J. Schwartz?



The woman in the traffic copter, the sales rep, the anthropomorphic tortoises who staff the toll booths at exit 46, QTYPY22. These are some of the people around you while you're happily stuck in the traffic of David J. Schwartz's poem, "Jam."

Here's a few lines:

He's got accounts
from N'Orleans to Kalamazoo,
Bowling Green to Boulder.
He's thinking about the
snowplow in the next lane.
He wants it all to be over.

David J. Schwartz's fiction has been appearing on the backs of subway posters for nearly seventy years now, which has led to speculation that he is either a sandhog, a rat, or an electrical conduit. The truth is far more terrifying. Recently his fiction has appeared in more reputable publications such as Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Talebones and The Third Alternative.

David keeps a web journal called Mumble Herder. You can read some of his work online, such as Iron Ankles at Strange Horizons and The Colossus Vignettes at The Fortean Bureau.

When I asked him what this poem is about, David elected to answer with nothing less than the truth, unvarnished and unadorned. The poem, he said, is:

"[a] series of human interest pieces written for the short-lived cable news channel Spoken Word News. The anchors recited their copy from stools in a smoky bar while a trio of local high school kids played wank jazz in the background. All the reporters were required to wear berets and drink vermouth. My beat was Interstate 13, which runs between Zirma and Palomar. Interesting side note: the head meteorologist for SWN was a malevolent spirit from the lower planes who delivered the forecast in limerick form. It needed bodies to inhabit, though, so we went through a lot of on-camera temps. After the network folded it went back to its old job at Fox News."

"Jam" appears in the new 'zine, Say...have you heard this one? which you can purchase via the PayPal links at the right. Thanks, David J. Schwartz!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Any day on a bike...

...is a good day.

Yesterday morning Gwenda and I met up with our friends Nathalie the actress and Bill the conductor for the Bike Lexington event I mentioned a couple of days ago. We rode our hybrid Treks, while they were on their very sweet tandem that even the local hammerheads and bike shop guys were drooling over. It was a good ride, a lot of fun for everyone except that we eventually discovered that the reason that Gwenda couldn't really get going was that her rear brake was engaged and dragging for the first five or six miles. "Hey, that's just like what happened to Lance Armstrong on the Col du Telegraphe/Col du Galibier double climb in Stage Eight of the 2003 Tour," you say. Which is funny, reader, because that's exactly what I said.

It was all made up for, though, by the fact that in the raffle after the ride, Gwenda won a new bike! Actually, they just gave her a coupon, which worked out great since the sponsor of that particular giveaway was the other very cool Local Bike Shop we frequent, and Wendy (one of the owners) told us to just come out to the shop and Gwenda could pick the color and style herself (I refrain here from pointing out that it did not turn out to be me who made this a six bike household, or that I still think we need mountain bikes). Oh, and Nathalie won a pair of cool cycling sunglasses--pretty good luck for our group given that there were several hundred people there.

Then we rode around the corner for brunch at Alfalfa's, then Bill and Nathalie wanted to check out the sales at Pedal Power, then we went to our main LBS, Scheller's, so they could fix Gwenda's brake, then we went to a tasting at Wines on Vine, then finally we rode home. After I mowed the lawn, we went out to Pedal the Planet to pick up G's new cruiser, a Phat Sea Breeze in aqua that I'm sure she'll post pix of later, then home to watch yesterday's epic Giro d'Italia stage.

After all that, I spent a few hours laying out a special limited edition chapbook for Gwenda, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier and Ysabeau Wilce. They're going to be giving away one copy of it at their reading next weekend at WisCon, and since we're only producing six, that'll be a rare prize indeed. It contains a short story by Ysabeau and the first chapters of upcoming novels by G, Scott and Justine. The swank cover for "Pretty Magic Butlers of Roanoke" is by the same mad and madly skilled rock goddess that did the cover for the latest issue of Say...

Speaking of WisCon readings, I suppose I should now write something for the one I'm doing. Any ideas?

Friday, May 20, 2005

All afire, all atwirl

1. The person (or persons) who passed the baton to you.

Shezah mah wife now!

2. Total volume of music files on your computer.

Whatever the total volume of the songs you can download from Lipkandy is. Ask, and it shall be given to you.

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.

Um. Um. The last Mountain Goats record, maybe? Gwenda buys the music.

4. Song playing at the moment of writing.

Nada. But the last music I heard was the the score behind the trailer for the Narnia movie that I just downloaded. December 9th, baby!

5. Five songs you have been listening to of late (or all-time favorites, or particularly personally meaningful songs)

"Tour de France Etape 1," Kraftwerk
"I Ain't Ever Satisfied," Steve Earle
"I'll Fly Away," traditional (preferred version by the Rich Family)
"Goin' Back to Harlan," Emmy Lou Harris
"Shower Medley," Christopher Rowe


6. The five people to whom you will 'pass the musical baton.'

Alice B. Toklas
Professor Moriarty
R5-D4
The First Slayer
The Pirate Jean Lafitte

Bicycling Entry! (With Gilmore Girls tie-in)

Because it's been too long...cycling links!

First of all, for those of you who follow the Gilmore Girls and the apres Gilmore Girls discussions over at Shaken & Stirred, you should know that the bicycle "race" that was a feature of the season finale Tuesday night was a nod to the real deal Tour of Connecticut, one of the bigger stage races on the domestic cycling scene. The real race starts today with a 70 kilometer crit in New Haven. In cycling, as opposed to writing, crit is short for "criterium," the fast, twisty, spectator-friendly circuit races that are the backbone of US competitive cycling.

One of the many domestic pro squads competing in Connecticut over the next few days is Team Subway. I mention that only because one of their riders, Nate Cornelius, actually works at our LBS. More vocab! The LBS is your Local Bike Shop, and the excellent one that Gwenda and I use is Scheller's. (So, New Havenites--and I'm looking at you, Taaffe--head out to the race and whenever you see a guy in a Subway kit zoom by yell "Go Nate! Lexington represent!" Hopefully that won't cause a wreck).

Bringing it down from the heady heights of Division III pro cycling to what you can do in your town, check this out. Our fair city is hosting their annual Bike Lexington event, at which ten miles of city streets are closed down and hundreds of people like Miss G and I get to mosey 'round the town velocipedical like. Helmets are required, but a local sponsor is giving away 500 for free before the start. How cool is that?

And finally, it would be an absolute shame if those of you who have the technology didn't take a few minutes to check out the coverage of the Giro d'Italia on OLN this weekend. Yesterday's initial mountain stage was absolutely breathtaking--the Dolomites are beautiful, and with the new Pro Tour structure in place, this race is the most competitive it's been in years. (OLN's also taping in Connecticut and will broadcast a highlights show of that race on June 5th.)

Stay tuned here for a few more "What's it about" featurettes and maybe even some stuff about all the new sci fi that's getting composed up in this joint.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What's it about, E. L. Chen?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What's it about, Janni Lee Simner?




"Practical Villainy," Janni Lee Simner's instructional tale of life on the other side of the fairy tale, is one of the highlights of Say...have you heard this one?

The narrator explains himself:

"The first thing I want you to know is that I drowned those kittens for a reason. Villains rarely do anything without purpose, and I'm no exception..."

Janni tells us that her story is about "the challenges of being a single parent, and also the proper use of sinister eye patches."

She's published more than 30 short stories, including recent appearances in Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales, Cricket magazine, and on the labels of Story House's coffee cans. Her next novel, Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer, will be published by Holiday House. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Larry Hammer.

Janni keeps a LiveJournal called Desert Dispatches and a website devoted to her writing. She also has a line on a supplier of sinister eye patches.

Thanks, Janni Lee Simner!

By now you know to look over to the right for the PayPal buttons you need to subscribe to Say..., right?

We have a winner...

The "My Day Job Destroys My Will and Soul at a Faster Rate than Your Day Job Destroys Yours" contest was fought out on the green playing fields of the UnCommonwealth comments section over three hard days. What we lacked in quantity of entrants we more than made up in quality, as what I'd long suspected was proven: y'all are some miserable people.

But none of you more miserable than one Scott, who wrote:

I had a job in a lead soldier factory. There were big hot machines that spewed out rings of lead soldiers. I was a "picker," who had to pick off the little soldiers from these rings and trim the "flash" (molten lead that has leaked into the mold joins) from them. This was a highly stupid task--repititious, boring, and the whole while I was breathing lead fumes. But the soul-destroying (as opposed to lung-destroying) part was that ocassionally at the end of 1000 or so soldiers, I would realize that the suspiciously similiar bit of flash I had just trimmed from all those lame-ass hats of the Prussian Fucking Light Guard was in fact a FEATHER.

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THERE! Didn't I KNOW that the Prussian Fucking Light Guard had feathers on their hats?

I had accomplished nothing. My lungs had been coated with lead for nothing. The men who ran the melting machines hated me, for they had accomplished nothing. And all those steadfast little tin soldiers would all be dumped back into the big garbage can to be remelted, never to make a little boy smile.

This happened quite regularly.


Scott, if you're still with us, please drop me an e-mail with your address so I can send you your fabulous prize.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

What's it about, Craig Gidney?




The first thing you'll come to when you begin paging through Say...have you heard this one? (after the TOC and traditional informative front matter, of course) is a story called "The Safety of Thorns." Writer Craig Gidney rings some changes on an old story when a young man in the American south considers a deal with, well, with a person who looks like this:

"His fingernails were black and slightly curved. He was crowned with a black silk top hat that boasted a white feather. There was no mistaking him. His skin was as black as tar, a color that glistened, but did not reflect."

Craig lives and works in Washington, DC. Previous stories by him have appeared in Riprap and Spoonfed. He keeps a LiveJournal called Treasure Hiding, helps illuminate the post industrial underground with music reviews at Heathen Harvest, and writes articles like this one about Tanith Lee.

As I did the other contributors to the 'zine, I asked Craig what his piece was about. He replied, "It's a story about love and loyalty. About rebellion and futility. It's an homage to Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Angela Carter, and Tanith Lee. It's about the safety of thorns."

Thanks, Craig Gidney!

To subscribe, please find the PayPal buttons to the right.

The Fountain Award

The second annual Fountain Award, given to a "speculative short story of exceptional quality" has been awarded by the Speculative Literature Foundation. This year's winner is Jeffrey Ford for his "The Annals of Eelin-Ok," a great story from last year's best anthology, The Faery Reel.

The jurors also published a short list of honorable mentions, and the list of stories, publications and writers included make up a pretty good snapshot of where the exciting work is in genre fiction these days, I think. Of special note on that short list is David J. Schwartz's "The Lethe Man" from the last issue of Say...

Congratulations to Jeff and Dave, and to all the other finalists. Go read all about it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saturday this 'n' thatz

  • Love your day job? I didn't think so. There's still time to scroll down to the next entry and play My Day Job Destroys My Will and Soul at a Faster Rate Than Your Day Job Destroys Yours! Looks like the first few entries are all by men. I guess that means any women who read this have enjoyed fair, supportive environments throughout their working lives, just like Anne Coulter always says.
  • This morning has been a lot of fun, because digital printing is breezy easy and the internet always works. The super-cool and talented Melissa Mas, who designed the cover for Say... #5, managed to beat Adobe Illustrator into submission long enough to get her files burned onto a cd which was in turn couriered to us here at the Fortress of Words under cover of darkness.
    Then it was a simple matter of typing a few commands and hey presto! Everything the printer will need to produce our stylish 'zine was on their computron machines down there in Tennessee. Yep, that's what happened. Nothing at all involving the downloading and discarding of four GUI ftp applications for OSX occurred. The printers servers couldn't possibly have a conflict with the OSX built-in ftp client, either, right? Surely nothing so complicated as uploading the files to the fortressofwords.com server hosted on the South Island of New Zealand could have been required, could it? A web bunny in Raleigh didn't have to be rousted out of bed to move the files from New Zealand first to a UNIX box in Charlotte then finally to the printer in Nashville, did he? Surely not!

    It'll all be worth it, readers. I know you're tired of me reminding you about those "subscribe now" buttons at right, but it don't cost nothing to read me reminding, and it won't cost much to get to read this:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

It's time to play!

Hey everybody! It's time to play My Day Job Destroys My Will and Soul at a Faster Rate Than Your Day Job Destroys Yours!

The playing field is defined as the comments of this blog post. The big prize is a copy of the next issue of Say... if you're not a subscriber, and a one issue extension of your subscription if you are. Winner will seemingly be determined by a whim of the contest organizer. The little (indeed) prize is the knowledge that you have somehow found the strength to grimly soldier on.

(Um, this is for fun. If you work at an animal shelter or for a Republican administration or something, use your old job).

Entries should be formatted in a structure parallel to that of the first entry, unless you don't like that format, in which case entries must be formatted in a structure more clever than that of the first entry. If there are zero comments when you read this post, congratulations! That means you've been chosen to post the first entry.

Contest closes when contest administrator wakes up and checks the internet on Sunday morning, so get those entries in!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What's it about, Sonya Taaffe?



"White Shadows," Sonya Taaffe's tale of a mysterious girl named Fetch, begins on page 52 of Say...have you heard this one?

Sonya describes the story's central character:

"Her hair was white as flour, opaque as though powdered, and her skin had the solid pallor of chalk. Only her eyes had color; they consumed her face, vivid as a snowman's chunks of coal, and did not blink often. If she had been at all given to introspection, it might have made her smile: laquered ivory shadow, blanched past albino, and she never stood out in a crowd. She did not look inward..."

In her biographical notes, Sonya reminds us that she's been here before, as she's contributed to three earlier issues of Say... She's also seen work in Realms of Fantasy and Flytrap. She has two books forthcoming this year from Prime Books: Singing Innocence and Experience collects fiction, while Postcards from the Province of Hyphens offers many of the best poems of this Rhysling Award winning poet.

She keeps an online journal called Myth Happens, is a contributing editor to Not One of Us, and was recently interviewed by Geoffrey H. Goodwin at Bookslut.

I asked Sonya what her story was about, and she replied with this exchange from George Gershwin's Crazy for You.

"Look, I'm depressed."
"Oh, you're depressed? I'm just not myself today..."

Thanks, Sonya Taaffe!

See earlier entries here and here for subscription information, or find the PayPal links at right.

Pretty pretty

Hey, somebody's been refurbishing my blog. I like it. You'll like it too when I continue the series of posts I started last night highlighting individual contributors to the new issue of Say..., because I'll no longer have to paste in those PayPal buttons. It's all about the art from here on out, baby, and commercial concerns are relegated to the sidebar. Over to the right. Down towards the bottom. See? Right down there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What's it about, Peg Duthie?




On page 21 of Say...have you heard this one?, you'll find a poem by Peg Duthie entitled "The nty-nth Coming." Here's a taste:


Now refusing to race toward revelations
no longer eager, evidence having evaporated
faster than the foam of fragile faith
no matter how tantalizing, how true-seeming
we've heard it before, and it's hell to behold
this mane of absence mightier than Abaddon

When I asked Peg for a biography, she wrote simply that she works as a calligrapher and copyeditor in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find out more at her professional website, NashPanache, or by reading her LiveJournal, chrysanthemum.

Peg's had several poems published at the No Tell Motel website; here's one called "Journey's End."

I asked Peg what "The nty-nth Coming" is about. Her answer?

"Slouching towards a slug of single malt Scotch."

You can read Peg's poem in its entirety, along with stories, book reviews, a comic and another poem, by subscribing to Say... today.

Despite what the buttons read, you don't have to have a PayPal account. Just click the button appropriate to your country of residence and you'll be able to use your credit card. Thanks readers, and thanks, Peg Duthie!


In the United States:





In Canada:





In the rest of the world:



Authentic Blog Entry!

This is the real deal, right here folks. I'm going to point to an entry on somebody else's blog, which itself consists of a link to and extracts from an article at still a third site, then add a pithy sentence designed to be the equivalent of me standing there nodding my head and saying "So true." With links!

So, check out this entry over at the Conversational Reading blog. Nothing in the article under discussion quite so quotable as Ben's observation that the literary world is shaking off "the long cold sleep of realism," but still pretty interesting.

Man, I am getting this stuff figured out.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

PayPal:

Okay, after being mocked by a Canadian, I've decided to try to figure out if I can add little buttons so that interested folks can subscribe to Say... from this journal for now, until the fortressofwords.com site goes live anyway.

If I'm doing this right, this should be a button that lets domestic subscribers send ten bucks for a two issue subscription:







This should be a button that lets Canadians, even mocking Canadians, send eleven bucks for a two issue subscription:







And this last one is for people in the rest of the world who'll need to send twelve bucks for a two issue subscription. In all cases, I'm using "bucks" to mean "US dollars."







Theoretically there'll be a place for you to enter your address and all that stuff. Let me know if it doesn't work. If it does work then I suppose I'll know by getting messages from PayPal.

Once Gwenda is up and around I'll have her figure out how to put these buttons over on the side so they won't scroll down off the page as I continue my white hot pace of blog updating.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Yes, it's all so crassly commercial, isn't it?

On the other hand, it's only ten bucks.

"Only ten bucks?" you say. "That sounds like a great deal! What are you talking about?"

See how the web of my viral marketing scheme so easily ensnares you!

Actually, this entry is just me telling all y'all about the new issue of Say..., the magazine I edit with Alan DeNiro and Gwenda Bond. Every issue is themed around a question and the stories, poems and comics that we publish aim to answer, deny, rebuke or otherwise address that question. This time around, the question was "have you heard this one?" and these fine people have answered it with your needs in mind.

Hannah Wolf Bowen
Stephanie Burgis
E. L. Chen
Peg Duthie
Craig Laurance Gidney
Larry Hammer
Karen M. Roberts
Sandra McDonald
Catherine M. Morrison
David J. Schwartz
Janni Lee Simner
Sonya Taaffe

Hey, slow down there, reader! I know you're already writing out that subscription check, but don't you want to know who to make it out to (Christopher Rowe and/or Gwenda Bond) and where to send it (PO Box 1304, Lexington, KY, 40588-1304, USA)? Don't you want to know what you get for your ten dollars (that's US $10 for a two issue domestic subscription, Canadians add US $1, rest of world add US $2 to cover shipping, we can only accept checks or money orders in US funds drawn on US banks, sorry, if that's a problem e-mail me and we'll explore the alternatives)? Don't you want to know if you can just order this single issue (sure, just make that US $5 with additions and provisos noted in previous parenthetical remark)? Folks who want to use credit cards and so on please follow this link.

So, in summary, Say...have you heard this one? will soon spring fully formed from the brow of a Xerox Docutech in Nashville, Tennessee. This 60 page, perfect (not to say perfectly) bound magazine features a full color wrap around cover, ten short stories, two poems, one comic and a review column penned by your favorite member of the LitBlog Co-op. It'll have a stylish debut on borrowed table space in the dealers room at WisCon 29 over Memorial Day weekend, but if you're a member of that portion of humanity who won't be in attendance at that grand event, then your best bet is to subscribe now!

Man, this is exhausting.

Two Things to Remember

One: if you happen to be at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin on the afternoon of Sunday, May 29th, you--you especially--are invited to attend this here:

Adequate Science Fiction (Readings)
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. in Conference Room 2

Because frequently, adequate is more than enough. Featuring readings by: Christopher Rowe, Lauren Ann McLaughlin, Alan John "Call me AJ!" DeNiro, Richard "Call me Richard!" Butner.

----

Two: this is your reminder that even as we speak, smallish men with impenetrable accents are riding extraordinarily expensive bicycles made of space age materials real, real fast in the opening Prologue of the 88th Giro di Italia. If you have the OLN or Eurosport channels on your television machine, take a few minutes this afternoon to have a look. I've said this before--and if you're a new reader here you should be aware that I'll say it again--bicycle racing is one of the really great things people have come up with.

Today especially would be a good day to watch, because the organizers have asked the recently retired Mario Cipollini, surely one of the great sports personalities of the last twenty years, to take what's essentially a career victory lap by riding the course alone before the start of today's time trial. He deserves a few minutes of your attention for his extraordinary achievements. Plus, you never know what that cat is going to wear. See here and here and here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Miss Gwenda...

...did not technically make me take this quiz and then post this graphic, but since that just means she hasn't gotten around to making me, I went ahead and got it over with. Did I intentionally skew my answers to get the result I wanted? Naturellement.





Your Inner European is French!









Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Congratulations

...to the writers of the last big Hobbit movie, of whom there are three, and to Lois McMaster Bujold and Walter Jon Williams, who have three names each, and most especially to Ellen and Eileen, for their Nebula wins this past weekend. Deserved, all.

The highlight of all of these conventions and so on we attend is always spending time with our friends. Beyond that, my two biggest moments were when Janis Ian (yes, Mama, that Janis Ian) came up to tell me how much she enjoyed a story I'd written and the once in a lifetime chance I had to be of some small service to Anne McCaffrey. I was genuinely surprised, by the way, at how starstruck Ms. McCaffrey left me.

In other news, I've been told by the editors of the Twenty Epics anthology (who would get my vote for the Nebula for Best Guidelines if there was one on offer) that they're going to be including a vignette of mine in their book. The piece is called "Two Figures in a Landscape Between Storms" and it represents a closure of sorts to me. It's the last of the stories I wrote in the summer of 1996 for the Clarion West workshop to see publication, and while it's seen some changes since then, I've always liked it.

More to the point, it's very nearly my last piece of unpublished fiction period. So I suppose I should be typing into something besides my blog, eh?

Oh, one more thing, super-artist John Picacio writes to let me know that he's spotted my name on an updated list of Worldcon programming participants, which I take to mean I'll be participating in programming at Worldcon. See you there.