Lots of stuff is happening behind the scenes even if the site itself seems a little abandoned. The Kickstarter for Tales From the Magician’s Skull is nearly ready to launch — there will be an announcement in the next several days. Just this morning I was looking over a proposed membership card for the Legion of Skulls, the fan club for the mag.
Work continues on the novel revision. I’m getting closer all the time. I also saw the near final cover and I love it — I hope to share it with you soon.
And I’ve been reading something a little outside my wheelhouse and enjoying the heck out of it. That’s Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers, which posits a reality where mediums were real, and in World War I were used to communicate with dead soldiers to gather intelligence. That, at least, is where the story starts, and it quickly develops into a compelling mystery that’s well-plotted and surprising. I’m about two thirds through and I’m still not sure who’s behind it all. Additionally, as always with Mary Robinette Kowal’s work, there’s intelligence and kindness threaded through her prose, with none of the self-indulgences I see in too much modern fantasy. As any of my frequent visitors know, I’m tired of unrelieved darkness and naval gazing and destined greatness. It’s a pleasure to read of believable characters determined to do the right thing.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m mentioning it again because there are only 26 hours left as I type this, and the Guilds & Glaives Kickstarter is about 2 grand short of its goal. The anthology is going to feature a whole slew of sword-and-sorcery fiction, including a new tale from yours truly, so I have all kinds of reasons for wanting to see it hit its goal.
Add in that if the Kickstarter funds, it will have a few slots open for submission as well, and that might be even more incentive. If you’ve been on the fence, or been meaning to join in but forgot about it, I hope you’ll take a look and think seriously about pledging.
Work continues behind-the-scenes with Tales From the Magician’s Skull as Joseph finalizes the Kickstarter preparations. I can hardly wait to point the way, but you’ll have to wait just a couple more weeks. There are many things about working with Joseph that I like, and one of them is his careful preparation.
I haven’t been reading nearly as much the last month, as my wife and I discovered Parks & Rec, and have been watching it in the evenings. We don’t usually binge watch television like this, but it’s nice to have a positive show about people you like. It kind of feels like the 2nd-5th seasons were the best, but we’re watching to the end. In the shortened 7th season I’m finding myself laughing out loud several times an episode again, even if some of the main plot lines feel a little forced and sometimes indulgent.
But that’s not heroic fiction. I wanted to share something that was, and that’s the Blades books by Kelly McCullough. I’m most of the way through one of them, Bared Blade, and it reads something like Zelazny and Chandler co-writing a fantasy detective story in ancient China. Except that by “detective” I mean that there’s a problem to be solved and a sort of professional trouble-shooter who’s a former assassin for the goddess of justice. That means that, unlike so many other blokes in cloaks, he was only offing the bad guys. Aral is a force for good, or at least strives to be, the fantasy equivalent of Chandler’s knight in the battered trench coat working his weary way through a corrupt but beautiful city.
One evening this spring while I was finishing up some yard work I spotted a fox slinking through our pasture. If you don’t keep chickens you might not know that foxes love chickens. When we first got started raising chickens we lost a number to clever foxes, who are in on the secret that chickens are delicious. Our birds are free range, but we keep a dog in part to protect the chickens, and we keep the birds inside a coop in the barn except when it’s full daylight.
As it happened, though, dusk was on the way and I hadn’t yet done anything with the chickens because I’d been trying to finish some work on the fence. The dog was inside because she hadn’t been keeping far enough away from the mower. My wife ran to get the dog and I sprinted to find the chickens, only to discover that our rooster was already rounding them up and herding them into the barn.
Roosters really only have one job, and that’s to watch over the chickens. Most roosters don’t manage even that. They just stand around crowing, constantly, and just as constantly mating with the hens. Big Red, though, actually took pride in his job. In my experience there’s not a whole lot of personality difference between chickens, and I haven’t really formed many attachments with them. Big Red was far and away my favorite. You can’t help but respect someone who’s good at their job, even if he’s a chicken. I saw him herd the chickens several times when stray dogs wandered onto our property.
A while back I talked about one of the questions I ask myself to make sure I’m on the right track, and that’s the Doctor McCoy test.
Sometimes I think about another one, though, and that’s the “Grandparent at the Fireside” test. The idea is that the grandparent is at the fireside telling a story. As he or she is telling the story, there will be questions from young listeners. Sometimes, of course, young listeners have an agenda or want to take over the story, so for the sake of the test I pretend that the questions are coming from an intelligent listener.
Hocking pointed me towards something of a celebration of Leigh Brackett the other day on a site titled Glorious Trash. Seems like it’s a pretty cool site to poke around at, too. Joe Kennedy sat down to read both versions of “The Secret of Sinharat,” which is something I always meant to do, and then compared them in an essay, which is something I always meant to do. And he loved them, which is something I’ve always done.
Even if you haven’t fallen in love with the work of Leigh Brackett, you can get a sense of what a great writer she was if you swing by for a visit. And poke around a while there, because there’s other cool stuff to be found as well.
Behind the scenes work on the first issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull continues, and continues to please me. I can hardly wait for the Kickstarter to launch, but there are a few pieces still sliding into place. I’ll keep you posted.
Work continues on the book, and I’ve seen the initial draft of the cover, and boy am I mightily pleased. It’s so good I will one day change my site header.
Bill Ward and I are finally starting work on our Corum re-read, so if any of you regular visitors want to get in on the read with us, I hope you’ve found your copies of Michael Moorcock’s first Corum trilogy. As busy as things are here I’m still not sure when we’ll start that read through, but it will be soon.
Also, watch out for sleestaks. Lately they’ve been sighted on the edge of my property. Sometimes they send spam offering to write articles for my site that will link back to theirs, but who wants to be involved with that, right? In the end they’ll just want my pylon crystals, or maybe they want to devour human flesh. I was never entirely clear on that.
And now, I must away. Those words aren’t going to write or edit themselves.
Many moons ago, back when I blogged as BG_Editor (that’s Black Gate editor), I took a little trip to Universe R. I talked about that trip in an article I wrote for Steven Silver, but I’ve never mentioned it on this blog, and I thought it time.
When it comes to the parallel universes we visit in speculative fiction, some of my personal favorites are the ones where Rome never fell, the one where Spock has a goatee, and Universe R.
I imagine a lot of you have thought about it. It’s that place where great artistic works were never lost. It’s the land where overlooked, forgotten, or under appreciated poets, playwrights, authors, and artists were encouraged and celebrated and lived on to craft more work. I don’t mean the egoverse where you’re the top of the charts or have written a chain of bestsellers – this universe is for the artists you wish had gotten a better deal. Universe R can’t be completely logical, of course. For instance, I’ve been lamenting the destruction of the Library of Alexandria since I first learned of it – and especially after I saw Carl Sagan walking through it in Cosmos – but if the Library of Alexandria had survived, we’d probably be further along with a lot of developments and some of the later artists who prospered in Universe R might not ever have been born. You can’t worry about Universe R making that kind of logical sense or the whole thing falls apart.
Last week, at the bottom of a post announcing a Kickstarter (which you should totally back if you like sword-and-sorcery and especially if you dig my stories) a number of us started chatting about the strange problem with short stories vs. novels in today’s market place.
Novels simply sell better. Anthologies, even if they’re all about a popular character from, say, a series of novels (like Harry Dresden) don’t sell as well. I’ve often thought that strange; busy as we are these days, with so many distractions, it seems counterintuitive that people aren’t more interested in sitting down with a short story right before bed.