Tag Archive for peeps doing cool stuff

Peeps Doing Cool Stuff: February 2014 Edition

Somewhere along the line, I got out of the habit of posting about peeps releasing cool stuff into the world. I’m not sure why, ’cause I got some pretty awesome peeps and they’re doing some very cool stuff, but my blogging habits are arbitrary these days despite my best intentions.

With that in mind, lets rectify this oversight, and allow me to recommend the following:

RAF_VOL9_ISS_3Review of Australian Fiction, Volume Nine, Issue Three

The concept behind the RAF is actually pretty cool – they grab an established writer, get them to pick an up-and-comer to work with, then produce an issue that features (generally) novella or novelette length work that would be hard to sell elsewhere.

This issue features the always impeccable prose of Angela Slatter as the established author, paired with emerging Brisbane fantasist Linda Brucesmith.

The upside of Angela publishing here is that I now know that RAF has finally abandoned the god-awful Book.ish ebook platform it used in its early days, so it’s actually become something I’ll subscribe to instead of purchasing as a one-off.

everything-is-a-graveyardEverything is a Graveyard, Jason Fischer

This is old news for the Australian SF fans who follow this blog, but for the gamer types who follow the blog and really liked Jason’s zombie novellas (and there are a few), I’m going to mention it: Everything is a Graveyard is Jason’s first short-story collection, brought out via Ticonderoga Publishing.

I haven’t picked up a copy yet, but I know Jason’s short fiction well enough to appreciate his off-beat blend of Australian themes, craziness, and off-beat world-building. Also, I’m off to Adelaide tomorrow, so I’m largely planning on picking up a copy while I’m in Jason’s home town, whereupon I shall track him down and force him to sign copies.

And badger him about the number of awful puns…

ASunsetFinish_200A Sunset Finish, Melinda Moore

I can argue that I’m fashionably late mentioning Jason’s collection, but there’s no excuses here: Melinda emailed me about her first novella getting released back in June of last year, and I’ve been meaning to offer public congratulations for…wow, eight months now.

I first got to know Melinda when we frequented the same gaming forum, way back in 2003 or so, and she frequently blew me away with short-stories she wrote for one of the semi-regular writing jams that happened there. Since then she’s been rocking it with a bunch of short story publications, and I’ve just loaded a copy of A Sunset Finish onto my kindle to read while I’m travelling over the next week.

WebThe Memory of Death: Death Works 4, Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson has just released the forth installment of his Death Works series, which is a very good thing. Mostly ’cause I like Trent, and it would be unfortunately if I had to kill him for leaving the series at the end of the third book, which was one of the most HOLY-SHIT-YOU-DID-NOT-JUST-FUCKING-DO-THAT-YOU-BASTARD-FUCK-FUCK-FUCK cliffhangers I’ve ever seen.

I would have killed him, too. I’m not a guy who takes things well when good narratives are left half-finished, and there was a very definite sense that Steven de Selby’s journey wasn’t done yet. Out now via Momentum Books, who are doing gorgeous stuff in the digital realm these days (I mean, hell, I love the cover of this book; I have mad cover envy), and worth picking up.

Walking and Book Buying and Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato Soup

Yesterday I caught a train out to West End, walked to my friendly local independent bookstore, unexpected caught up with Trent Jamieson while he was working there, bought a copy of the new Michael Cunningham novel alongside a few other books (Hell’s Angels, A Fairwell to Arms), walked from West End to Anzac Square Arcade in Brisbane city, bought more books from Pulp Fiction – my favourite bookstore in the world, bar none – and then caught a train home whereupon I collapsed on the couch and watched old episodes of NCIS until I fell asleep.

And really, that was yesterday, and we call it a win. Exercise and books are an unbeatable combination.

‘Course today I’ll be dead on my feet at the dayjobs, forcing myself to stay awake, but these are small problems and entirely worth it.

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My friend Laura Goodin is an American ex-pat living out in the Australian wilderness (well, Woolongong), writing stories and plays and, if I remember this correctly, the occasional opera or symphony  cycle (I can’t remember which, specifically, because it occurs me that  know too many people writing such things, which is one of those odd things to realise about your life).

She also cooks many tasty things, including this Sweet Potato and Peanut Butter soup recipe she’s just posted for public consumption.

I got a copy of the recipe not long after Laura and I met in Clarion South back in 2007, and it’s one of those meals that you occasionally make for people and they say you know, this is rather good, can I have the recipe please? and you have that lovely moment where you can be either magnanimous or cackle like a comic book villain and say no, it’s a secret.

The latter can make you look cruel, but it will also prepare you for the hard decisions and harsh realities of eventual global domination.

But the Peanut Butter soup really is a nice meal, one that’s become a staple of my winter diet and one of my sister’s default shift-work meals, and since I tend towards magnanimousness I give you the link to try for your own self.

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Got one of those pleasant do you mind if we reprint this story? emails today, which also conveniently ticks off one of the entries on the secret list of writing goals I very rarely speak of.

I’m always caught by surprise when people want to reprint things. Especially since it’s rarely the things I  expect people to want to reprint.

Posts of a Random Sleep-Zombie

Very random attack of insomnia last night, especially since there wasn’t any of the usual triggers that set off my sleeplessness. In the old days I used to welcome such things, since I could just wander off and do other things and sleep in the day afterwards, but I am now a working man with a dayjob that starts in the wee hours, and insomnia has become a thing that I no longer care fore.

Things I should post about today, and would do so in more detail were I not yawning:

Jason Fischer’s short story collection, Everything is a Graveyard, scheduled for release by Ticonderoga Publications in October 2013. The collection’s slated to revolve around Jason’s post-apocalyptic and zombie-themed work, which is the kind of news that makes me extremely happy, if only because it’d be damn handy to have all those stories in the one place.

– The May issue of the Edge of Propinquity is up, including Sabbath, the fifth story in the Flotsam series. I suspect I’ll do a “what I’ve learnt from six months of Flotsam” post sometime in July, whereupon I’ll try and nail down exactly why writing a serial short story series on a monthly deadline is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and this story may well be the poster-child for both why it’s hard and why it’s been worthwhile.

Un Lun Dun, which has slowly re-insinuated itself into my readerly affections after the hiccup I mentioned yesterday and become, more or less, the kind of book I was hoping it would become when I started reading it a few months ago. Really, you should read it, especially if you’re unlikely to get as caught up in the concept of the binja as I did.

– Getting the dates wrong on my Daily SF story in yesterday’s post, since it’s coming out on the seventeenth rather than the sixteenth. So, yes, sometime tonight there will be a new story in the world, and it will be my last non-Flotsam story in a while.

– Something else, I’m sure, although I can’t really remember it. Oh, wait, I know: starting a new draft of Claw, the third Miriam Aster novella, that throws out a large chunk of what I’d written in the period known as last-year-before-my-life-exploded and substitutes something, well, good instead. I found myself unexpected scribbling notes for this last night, and suddenly the beginnings of an entire scene fell out of my head, and I looked at it for a long time and thought, “okay, sure, we’re going with this.”

‘Tis a busy type of day today, so I’m going to just ramble on about things for the breif period I’ll be home between the first dayjob and the second. Plus there are several workmen helpfully digging up the road out the front of my house, ostensibly to lay down something or other involving pipes large enough to crawl through, which inevitably means my power or my internet or my phone line will go out at some point in the very near future.

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On the list of conversations I never expected to have with my father, the one that starts with do you have any Warhammer 40k novels I could borrow? is pretty damn high on the list. I also never expected the answer to be yes, but you can’t borrow them right now, but you can have the short story anthologies if you like. Yet, somehow, we had that conversation yesterday, and my copies of Tales of the Heresy and Let the Galaxy Burn are bundled together so I can hand them over next time I see him. He can have the novels in April, after I’m done reading them and making notes for the next interview I’m doing for Auscon.

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I threw out a lot of words yesterday. It started with all 2,311 that I wrote in Tuesday’s write-club and ended with the 8,000 or so words that I’d put together for the great-lovecraftian-ghoul-swashbuckley-wahoo! novel draft since the beginning of the month. Instantly all the Sturm und Drang of the last few days went away, and I could finally figure out how to write things that I didn’t actively dislike while I was writing them. They may not be great, but the out-of-control feeling that’s accompanied the act of writing seems to have abated a little.

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A happy birthday for the Galactic Suburbia crew, who just had their celebration to mark one year of podcasting. I’ve been listening less regularly these days, primarily because the dayjob eats time that I used to spend drinking coffee and pondering the state of SF, but I still make a point of catching up with GS when the opportunity presents itself. I recommend listening to the current episode with cake nearby, otherwise you may find yourself pausing the podcast to bake.

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I’ve started a new undertaking – reading the entirety of Federico Lorca’s The Poet in New York aloud, a few poems at a time. I’d forgotten how much I liked Lorca’s poetry – the last time I read him was back in, gods, 1999 or so, back when I was doing my honours thesis in poetics. After I’m done I’ve got his essay, In Search of Duende, to keep me company, but I suspect it’ll be a week or two until I finally get around to it.

These are the kinds of things you do, when you don’t have a television to amuse yourself in the evenings when the writing’s done.

Shadows

So there’s a  shortlist for the 2010 Australian Shadows horror awards available online, which includes Bleed in the Long Fiction category alongside such brilliant works as Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands and Other Stories and Kirstyn McDermott’s Madigan Mine and a handful of books I haven’t yet come across but I’m sure are excellent ’cause, really, once you start with Madigan Mine and The Girl with No Hands I’m inclined to just trust the judges tastes – those books are freakin’ great.

So it’s a happy sort of day, even if it feels a bit odd to be on the short list because Bleed isn’t really a horror story.

The complete short-list looks something like this, and it’s full of names that I’m very happy to see on short-lists. Congratulations to all who made it.

LONG FICTION

  • Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott (Picador Australia)
  • The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healy (Allen & Unwin)
  • Under Stones by Bob Franklin (Affirm Press)
  • Bleed by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)

EDITED PUBLICATION

  • Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, edited by Angela Challis & Marty Young (Brimstone Press)
  • Scenes From The Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall (Morrigan Books)
  • Dark Pages 1, edited by Brenton Tomlinson (Blade Red Press)
  • Scary Kisses, edited by Liz Gryzb (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Midnight Echo #4, edited by Lee Battersby (AHWA)

SHORT FICTION

  • “Bread and Circuses” by Felicity Dowker (Scary Kisses)
  • “Brisneyland by Night” by Angela Slatter (Sprawl)
  • “She Said” by Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes from the Second Storey)
  • “All The Clowns In Clowntown” by Andrew J. McKiernan (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)
  • “Dream Machine” by David Conyers (Scenes from the Second Storey)

The winners of the Australian Shadows Award will be announced on 15 April 2011.

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Next week I start tutoring for one of the University of Queensland’s writing subjects. It’ll be the first time I’ll have stepped into a university for about two years, and the nerves have already set in. I can tell because I keep having nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night, unsure of what’s going on but unable to get back to sleep.

This isn’t unusual. I always have nightmares the week before I start teaching. Occasionally they involve teaching Hamlet being performed by Gnolls, and being unable to explain exactly why this is brilliantly post-modern to a group of students. Thankfully, they  goes away once the classes actually start.

Storms & Minotaurs & OMG, Sleep

You know how you're writing a story about the end of the world?

On the evening of my dad’s sixtieth birthday we were all sitting on the thirteenth floor balcony while a storm rolled in. If we were in a movie the rapidly moving sheet of clouds would have been the special effect that signified the end of the world is nigh, so we all unearthed our mobile phones and digital cameras to take photographs.

About fifteen minutes before I took the  shaky, blurred mobile photo featured in this post the view from the thirteenth floor was all clear skies and blue ocean, and it was pretty enough that even my jaded-towards-beaches approach to life acknowledged that it was a pretty good place to celebrate someone turning sixty.

I gave my dad a book – the Collected Stories of Gabriel Garcia Marques, ’cause everyone should read A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings – and a CD/DVD of Leonard Cohen’s 2009 tour ’cause we were meant to go to Cohen’s show last year, but dad’s heart-attack derailed those plans. Then the family collaborated to get him a kindle, ’cause it seems the thing to get a man whose using retirement to catch up on reading. Given my dad’s taste in fiction, and the existence of Project Gutenberg, he may never have to buy a book again.

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The inimitable Jason Fischer released a free ebook version of his story House of the Nameless, which won one of the quarterly contests in the Writers of the Future competition and scored him both publication and a trip to California to further workshop his writing skills.

A dinner at a minotaur’s house brings an unwelcome intruder. Raoul Mithras, a godling both old and new, is forced to pursue an old foe across a surreal landscape, hoping to prevent the awakening of the One-Way-World – if he is not destroyed first.

So yes, free e-book goodness, distributed to familiarize people with his work prior to the Ditmar vote closing since the Writers of the Future anthologies are hard to find in the Land of Oz. Hopefully, if enough people download it, he’ll put the rest of his Raoul stories online as well.

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Last night was a particularly low-key kind of night. I arrived home from work late, I did some paperwork for the second job I’ll be taking up in March, then I proceeded to rearrange my trip to  Swancon due to the fact that the money I’d earn for working the new job that day far outweighs the costs of messing about with re-booking flights and accommodation.

So I’ll be hitting Perth on Friday afternoon  rather than Thursday afternoon, and missing the first eight hours or so of the con, and hopefully I’ll still have the time to catch up with all the people I’d like to catch up with.

After that it was nine o’clock, so I went to bed with a notepad and scribbled Flotsam-y things for a bit, and then I fell asleep. This wasn’t what I’d planned, but tired writer is tired and all that, and I’m trying to get better about managing my sleeping patterns these days.

This afternoon I’ll probably add some more things to the big list of novels I’d like to write, a document that is already far to long given that I’m still working on the first entry, and I’ll rethink my stance on this sleep thing all over again.

Let There Be Cake

I Can Haz Cake

Last night I felt like cake, so I climbed into the car and did up my seat-belt and drove out to the store to acquire cake. Then I proceeded to curl up on the couch with a coffee and a fan and the first season of Gilmore Girls on the DVD player.

I got to remember all sorts of things about the series I’d forgotten: the stilted way they initially delivered the dialogue, back before they got used to its rhythms; a really young Jared Padalecki in his pre-Supernatural incarnation, who is tall and not quite so filled out and in possession of the kind of haircut I look at and think “yes, children, the nineties really do deserve to be mocked like the eighties and the sixties for its fashion choices”; the little things that get retconned out, like Mrs Kim having a Mr Kim whose ostensibly around, even if he’s never seen, and Kirk showing up as someone who isn’t Kirk, and Kirk not knowing Miss Patty despite the fact he’s known her since childhood and been one of her star pupils.

The woman at the store was worried I’d picked up a cake with cracks in the icing. I convinced her it wasn’t a big deal, and the uncracked cakes should probably go to people who worried about such things.

I threw that bit in there for people who don’t watch the Gilmore Girls at all and thus have no idea what I’m talking about.

Just in case they’re weren’t satisfied with black-and-white camera-phone photographs of the cake, though I have no idea who wouldn’t be satisfied by that.

I mean…

Cake!

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There’s a getting to know angela slatter feature over on the Black Static website, an adjunct to the reviews of her *many* short story collections that appear in the latest issue. Allow me to lapse into my usual refrain at this point: Angela Slatter is awesome and you should totally go read what other people are saying about her, her work, and then you should even go read the work itself.

Go on, it’s okay. I’ll still be here when you get back.

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So according to the unionized troll laborer the Spokesbear hires to keep the back end of the website running, there are new readers of the blog floating about.

Possibly some of them are robots, which is fine, ’cause I like robots as much as the next guy.

Possibly some of them are not, which is also fine, ’cause writing for other flesh-and-blood people is kinda why people get into writing in the first place, and likely will remain so until such time as there’s a market for art selling to the AI crowd.

Still, if you are new, feel free to stop by the comments and say hello. Or nab my email or facebook details or twitter and say hello there, although it’s worth noting that I’m slow to respond to email due to well, just being bad with email really, and even slower to respond to facebook messages since I tend to log onto facebook with my phone and the keypad is teeny-tiny.

But the internet is made for talking to people, really, for all that we try to convince ourselves it’s made for computer games or silly cat pictures or porn.

And I do have all this cake leftover, should anyone want a slice.

It’s caramel swirl, and delicious.

The Lady of Situations and Moby Dick

A book, a book, a spokesbear, a bed

I’m always a bit ish-ish about recommending books to people. Giving books to people is fine – there are few things I enjoy more than randomly giving friends books they might enjoy – but asking people to trust my taste and spend their hard-earned money on something is…ish-ish.

This doesn’t mean I don’t do it.

And after slinging stones in their direction last month about some writer’s guidelines I thought I’d take a moment to recommend a few of  Ticonderoga Publications publications, especially since they’re running a sale that takes  10% off pre-orders and 20% off direct orders of their existing fiction until the February. The former, for instance, would include Bluegrass Symphony by L.L. Hannett in both Hardcover and Softcover, while the latter would include Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands and Other Stories, and ordering work from either of these fine writers would be a worthwhile use of your hard-earned discretionary cash.

I’d also point out that aspiring writers could do worse than ordering a copy of Stephen Dedman’s The Lady of Situations, which is the book I reach for when I contemplate short story collections and how they should be put together. The writer David Jauss once put together an essay, Standing Stones, on the various ways short story collections become a unified whole, a brilliant read in and of itself, and every single thing he identified is at work in The Lady of Situations; the hand-offs from one story and the next are beautifully coherent without being obvious, there are liaisons between the stories in the form of words and image being reworked from different angles, there are contrasts and mirrors and occasionally there are motifs rise to the surface without becoming heavy-handed. Stephen Dedman as a short story writer is brilliant – the story From Whom All Blessings Flow alone is testament to that but the collection as a whole…

Well, as a whole, it’s something to aspire too. Reading Dedman’s collection with Jauss essay (available in the collection Alone with All That Could Happen) may have been one of the most educational things I ever did as a writer. If you’ve got the cash to purchase both and you’re interested in the short story collection as a form, I highly recommend it.

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As we amble towards my thirty-fourth birthday, I’m slowly discovering things I should no longer do.

Order prawns on a pizza, for example.

Stay up all night working on a story when I need to go to work at 8 AM the next day.

Guess which of these I did last night, and exactly how much I’m paying for it today? It would be nice to say I regret nothing, but mostly I regret the pizza.

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Over on twitter Tansy Rayner Roberts noted that the current explosion of Australian SF podcasts doesn’t actually include a podcast that interviews Australian writers, and the general consensus seems to be that everyone thinks this is a very good idea, but no-one really has the time to do it. Or they have the time, but lack the technical know-how.

It’s a good enough idea that I expect someone will break eventually. Had I an adequate microphone for the task of recording, a fiendish partner in crime, and the free time to edit audio files into listenable form, it probably would have been me.

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I’ve started reading the unabridged Moby Dick, mostly because of Jeff Smith’s Bone comics. It’s not the book I was expecting it to be, but mostly in a good way. Mostly, when I pick up copies of Moby Dick, I read the chapter on the Whiteness of the Whale and read it aloud for the pleasure of reading it aloud and then put it away again.

I blame Bone for my tendency to do all these things, right down to the choice of chapter, for it’s mentioned (in the introduction, I think) of the same collected volume that contains the Great Cow Race, which is really the volume of Bone you want to own if you’re only going to own the one, if only so you can figure out why comic book people laugh at the phrase stupid, stupid rat creatures. And occasionally giggle at quiche.

Moby Dick is a stranger book than you’re expecting, if you’ve never picked it up before. It’s also intimidatingly large, should you find yourself pressed for reading time. I like it, though. It’s the product of a time when the concept of the novel wasn’t quite so formed, and it’s a massive  tangle of words, but it’s intriguing in its bizarreness.

Ditmar, Etc

So about six months ago I won the Best New Talent Ditmar, and I have to admit that I’m rather fond of the trophy. It’s a clean design and it’s got a nice weight to it, and it makes for a nigh-perfect book-end on the brag shelf in my living room. Plus its not made of glass like the Aurealis Award, so it’s somewhat easier to photograph with the camera in my mobile phone.

I didn’t really expect to win it, so it was rather nice when it happened, even if I was so convinced I wouldn’t win that I wandered off to have dinner with friends instead of going to the ceremony. At the time my name was announced, I was tucking into a particularly good hamburger at a nearby restaurant.

Oops.

On the plus side, at least I was surprised.

I mention this for two reasons. The first is that my dad’s health problems hit not long after Worldcon last year, which means I’m not entirely sure I got around to thanking all the people who actually put me on the ballot to begin with and then voted for me. It’s further complicated by the fact that I have no idea who they might have been, ’cause I was quietly believing that no-one actually read what I wrote at the time.

To those people, whoever you were, thank you. The trophy is both shiny and useful and it’s always rather nice when someone says “hey, good job.”

The other reason is so I can mention that the Ditmar awards are fan-run, fan-voted, and fan-nominated and the online nomination forms are over here, plus instructions for doing things the old fashioned way if you’re so inclined.

Should you be stuck on some categories, allow me to throw out some names.

  • Best New Writer: Christopher Green, L. L. Hannett, Thoraiya Dyer
  • Best Collected Work: Angela Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories
  • Best Fan Writer: Robert Hood for the Undead Backbrain.

There’s more, of course, but that’s a taste of where my nominations are going. Three brilliant writers, one absolutely gorgeous short fiction collection, and a blog that feeds my love of giant monsters and zombies. You are, of course, encouraged to make up your own mind. Just close your eyes, ask yourself what work you’ve read in 2010 that truly blew your mind, then put the answer in the appropriate spot. It’s actually pretty easy.

And for what it’s worth, I don’t regret the hamburger. It really was amazing.

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The latest issue of the Edge of Propinquity is out, including part 2 of the Flotsam series, Warnings. The brief goes something like this:

Keith Murphy needs information about his boss and the seer Bruce Mim is his best bet for getting it. Unfortunately Mim is one of the Other, native to the Gloom, and a deal must be struck before Keith learns what he needs to know.

Feel free to go read, or go back to the start of the series. Then send scholars who know what they’re talking about to scold me for my blatant mishandling of myth.

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Wait a second. I’m off to make coffee.

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If you haven’t been following Hark, A Vagrant lately I suggest you duck over and take a look at the Young Ada Lovelace comic and the Crazy Nancy Drew valentine’s day sketches. It remains the smartest webcomic I follow at the moment, and the most willing to make the audience work to get the joke. The Ada Lovelace wikipedia page may help, but if you’re anything like me you’re going to finish reading and wonder why no-one has yet done a steampunk story about the unrequited love between Lovelace and Babbage, their passion ultimately thwarted by her vampiric father, Lord Byron.

There’s a reason I don’t mess around with history much when I write. Leave me alone with a wiki for five minutes and I’ll have John Flamsteed prostituting himself to aliens before you know it.

And since I’m on a roll, another link – a while back I used the sneaky back-channel of email to convince my friend Laura Goodin to write a blog post about juggling in response to a post by Seth Godin about juggling. She’s also admitted I was right: A Princess of Mars is complete pants.

It’s also been pointed out that the youtube clip I put into yesterday’s post have some issues playing, so I’ll provide a directly link to the How to Be Alone video and trust you all to defy conventional netwriting wisdom and follow a link purely because I said it’s one of those beautiful pieces everyone should see. Rather than risk embedding a second non-functioning youtube clip I’m also going to post a direct link to a clip of Bad Wine and Lemon Cake, the Jane Austen Argument song that finally broke me and convinced me I could buy MP3s instead of CDs.

My neighbors, of course, have no need to follow the link. They’ve probably been hearing the song bleed through the walls for a week now.

Finally, there may be signs that I will achieve my teenage ambition to be notorious over in the final thirty seconds of the Salon Futura interview with Weird Tales editor Ann VanderMeer. My inner Oscar Wilde is greatly appeased.

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I really did make coffee, btw. I’m also really fond of this particular mug.

Coffee, Keyboard, Thumbtacks, Pizza Voucher