Books and Cats and Books and Cats

The week leading up to ConFusion 2020 was packed and chaotic, full of kitten hijinks, shenanigans and tomfoolery. And also a few books.

The top two, Half Way Home and the Principia Discordia, I picked up at ConFusion from the stack of free books.

The bottom row starts with Franco Berardi’s Breathe: Chaos and Poetry from Semiotext(e), a publisher for whom I have re-developed a profound love. Next is This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I picked this one up hoping that Mohtar would sign it at ConFusion but alas! she did not attend this year.

Third in the bottom row is Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade which I DID get signed at ConFusion, and next to it is Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, likewise signed. I will talk more of ConFusion and books and signing in an upcoming blog post.

For reading, I managed a couple of short stories, but was too busy for much other than the usual half-hearted browsing of random internet pieces.

Yeah, ConFusion was a lot of fun.

Poe Try Poetry

I would say this past week was another quiet one here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey, but with a new kitten nothing is ever quiet. I did manage to get Poe to sit still long enough to enjoy Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson, the only new book to arrive in the past week.

My reading schedule is waaaaaay off for this time of year, thanks to Poe, who is distracting in the very best ways. I am reading a lot of short fiction, as I planned, and loving it! My subscriptions to Pulphouse, Amazing Stories, The Paris Review, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, etc., are finally paying off.

I have also been closely following the 2020 State of the World conversation over at The Well. Sterling, Lebkowsky and company are touching on some interesting and deeply concerning topics, as well as pointing out that the unease (to put it mildly) that Americans are feeling right now is basically how most of the rest of the world has felt for decades, and to a large extent how things have been for us for a long time, though we do tend to take pride in our ability to live in denial. Food for thought as well as loads of writing fodder.

My next literary update will likely be a little late and will certainly be loaded down with books from ConFusion 2020, which starts in FOUR DAYS!

 

My ConFusion 2020 Schedule

ConFusion 2020 will take place from Thursday, January 16 through Sunday, January 19, 2020. I am participating in two panels this year:

Title: Collaborating With Your Publisher On Book Promotion
Day/time: Friday January 17, 5:00 pm
Room: Maintou
Track: Pro
Panelists: Annalee Flower Horne (M), John Winkelman, Yanni Kuznia, Suzanne Church
Description: Most writers don’t know what book promotion is going to look like when they sign that first contract. What will the publisher do? What are they responsible for doing themselves? How do they best collaborate with their publisher on promotion to get the most out of their joint efforts? Is spending part of your advance on promo ever worth it? Do you need to worry about a publisher pulling back on promotion if they see you doing your own? And is it even possible for author promo to turn a book that’s not a lead title into a breakout success, or is that all just down to luck? Our panel of authors and publishing pros discuss the best ways for an author to drive sales of their trad pubbed book.

Title: Great Lakes and Inland Seas In Secondary Worlds
Day/time: Sunday January 19, 12:00 pm
Room: Isle Royale
Track: Literature
Panelists: Anthony W. Eichenlaub (M), Marissa Lingen, Phoebe Barton, John Winkelman
Description: It’s hard to really get a sense of the scale of the American Great Lakes if you’ve never stood on one of their shores. Those of us used to thinking of lakes as more akin to very large ponds are often surprised by the dunes, the waves, the wind, the distant horizon. Writers who know the lakes offer advice on how to incorporate great lakes and inland seas into our fantasy worlds–as a narrative setting, what separates lakes from oceans? What unique or surprising storytelling opportunities do lakes provide?

Damn It’s Cold Around Here

Cold weather has settled here on West Michigan and I can feel it yea unto my very bones. I have to remind myself that I am 50 now, and the physical discomfort which in past years would have dissipated in a flood of angst and testosterone now lingers like the uncomfortable memories of actions performed under the influence of angst and testosterone. Thus there is symmetry in the universe.

Only one addition to the library this week – the latest issue of the excellent New Ohio Review. I bought a subscription when I submitted a few poems to them, around this time last year. Obviously they didn’t accept the poems or I would now be rolling in money, as poetry is one of the most lucrative form of writing.

In reading news I am almost halfway through Black Leopard, Red Wolf and still loving the hell out of it. Just a damn good book.

I just started reading Tobias Buckell‘s It’s All Just a Draft. This was another Kickstarter reward and already it has paid for itself. I opened it to a random page and there was Buckell’s system for systematically submitting stories to venues arranged in a spreadsheet according to a sophisticated (to me anyway) algorithm. Start at the top, and as rejections arrive, work your way down to the bottom. If you reach the bottom, archive or bin the story.

This approach had never occurred to me, though it was obvious from the submissions we received at The 3288 Review that something like this was standard operating procedure for a number of submitters. The methodical approach is, in the long term, more successful than the haphazard. Once NaNoWriMo is over I will put together a list and a few packages of poems, and hit the internet.

I also just started reading J. Michael Straczynski‘s memoir Becoming Superman. I am only a chapter or so in, but already it is quite compelling and I can see it taking reading time away from the Marlon James book.

This past Friday I hit the halfway point in my NaNoWriMo project – 25,000 words in nine days. I didn’t add to the total at all yesterday and have only added about 200 so far today. I hope to hit 35,000 or more by end of day Friday because this upcoming weekend will be exceptionally busy and I want to keep my momentum going. I am sorry to report that the neighbor who is the central piece of this book keeps giving more material to work with. At this rate I could easily complete a trilogy.

A few hours ago I delivered the latest templates for the schedule page for ConFusion 2020. Two months and one week until the convention, and I am counting the hours. This will be my sixth time attending, I believe, and I regret all of the ones I did not attend after the first. I do sincerely enjoy volunteering for ConFusion. I have a set of skills they find useful, and it is so much more fulfilling (if not quite so profitable) than using those skills at work.

The Passive Acquisition of Reading Material

And just like that, the year is half over. Moderately more ups than downs at this point, which is entirely reasonable.

This was a slow but interesting week for the acquisitions department at Winkelman Abbey. Two Kickstarter fulfillment packages arrived, as well as two journal issues. On the left is Frozen Hell, the newly-released deluxe hardcover version of the John Campbell story which inspired The Thing. On the left-of-center is The Writer’s Book of Doubt, an anthology of encouragement for writers, by writers. Center right is the new issue of the always excellent journal Reckoning, and on the right is the latest issue of Poetry. These all just kind of appeared at my doorstep and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

In reading news, just before midnight last night I finished the book which I have been beta-reading for the past two months. It was superb, but I need to let it sit for a month before I offer my feedback to the author. I am also about 20% through the book of essays for which I will be providing a blurb in a few week. For pleasure reading I picked up Ken Liu‘s novella The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. I quickly realized that, while a beautiful story, it’s a terrible story, if you follow me. Or, as Tom Waits would put it, “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things”. I’ll likely finish it this evening if time permits.

June 30 was the last day of submissions for the October 2019 issue of The 3288 Review, and I am hard at work sending out acceptance and rejection letters and contracts and other various communications on behalf of Caffeinated Press. After an extended bout of self-inflicted FUBAR around the previous issue, this one is coming together nicely, which makes me very happy as I finally have some breathing room in my life, so I can enjoy the summer with my wonderful girlfriend. Maybe I’ll even do some writing. And maybe it will even be good. And with a whole lotta luck and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease, I’ll get something published by the end of the year.

 

I Got Nuthin’

For the first time in many month, I have endured a terrible week where no new reading material arrived at the library of Winkelman Abbey. At this rate I may end up reading as many as 50% of my books before I die of old age, and that thought makes me feel oddly claustrophobic.

In reading news, I finished Ours is the Storm by D. Thourson Palmer, and have just opened The Nine by Tracy Townsend. This is another ConFusion acquisition, as was the Palmer book and several others from earlier this year. I love being able to read and enjoy the works of people I know personally (if not well). ConFusion is wonderful like that. I am also progressing through Jessica Comola’s poetry collection everything we met changed form & followed the rest. I hope to have both books complete by the beginning of June, as summer looks to be extremely busy.

The photo for this post is one of over five dozen fish in a mural created at 555 Monroe Avenue here in Grand Rapids. The specific fish was created by local artist James Broe.

Appropriate Cover Art

Books acquired week of April 20, 2019

Spring is in full bloom here in Grand Rapids, which means we need to pull plants indoors overnight on account of random catastrophic snowstorms. Fortunately I have enough books in my house to keep us insulated in the event of an April snowpocalypse.

The May 2019 issue of Poetry is the only reading material to find its way to my house this past week. Fitting, I suppose, for the last full week of National Poetry Month.

In reading news, I have been burning through poetry collections as fast as I can turn the pages. In the past week I completed Wyn Cooper’s Postcards from the Interior and CJ Evans’ A Penance. I am now about halfway through the superb Gestures by Artis Ostups, published by Ugly Duckling Presse. I should have it completed before the end of the month, just two days away.

Three days ago I finished Laurus, and am still processing my emotions. I can’t describe the book without running out of superlatives. It is magnificent. I would put it on a shelf with Eco’s Name of the Rose, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, any of the fiction of Borges, and probably (and of course) Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Vodolazkin’s particular use of the holy fool (юродивый) characters blurs the edges of reality and moves Laurus well into the real of magic realism. I will certainly be reading this one again in the years to come.

With Laurus done, I have just begin D. Thourson Palmer‘s Ours is the Storm, which I picked up at ConFusion this past January. Though I am only about twenty pages in I am already hooked. It’s a good one so far.

Over at The Ringer, Brian Phillips has written a wonderful remembrance of Gene Wolfe.

Acquisitions and Losses

It’s been another quiet week for literature here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. The only book to make its way into my collection is the above, It’s All Just a Draft by Tobias S. Buckell. This book is a Kickstarter reward.

I met Buckell a few years back at the ConFusion science fiction convention. He is a semi-regular guest and panelist, and a fun person to talk to at the bar in between sessions. He writes some excellent books, of which my favorites are his Xenowealth series, Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose.

In reading news, I am most of the way through Postcards from the Interior by Wyn Cooper, who I almost met a couple of years ago at the Lost Lake Writer’s Retreat. Almost, because though Cooper couldn’t make it to the retreat, his books did, and I bought some of them. I didn’t have much time or brain-space for reading, so my poetry intake is languishing. I should be done with it today, and then on to the next one! I am also almost finished with Laurus, and should be on to the next evening read by the end of the week.

The “loss” referred to in the title of this post is, of course, the legendary Gene Wolfe, who passed away last weekend at the age of 87. I have been an on-again, off-again fan since the mid-1990s, when I first read his superb Shadow of the Torturer. I met Wolfe briefly at a science fiction convention (probably ConFusion but also possibly a different one) back in the early 2000s. I still regret not having got a book signed.

Here is a brief list of remembrances and appreciations of Mr. Wolfe.

Remembering Gene Wolfe, Valya Dudycz Lupescu
Gene Wolfe Was the Proust of Science Fiction, The New Republic
There Are Doors Everywhere, CSE Cooney
Valar Morghulis, George R. R. Martin
The Bureaucrat has Left the Planet, Michael Swanwick

Big Books for Cold Weekends

The first full week of the year brings four new bound piles of printed pages to the library at Winkelman Abbey. On the left is Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov. I heard of this one when The Paris Review published “Forty-Five Things I Learned in the Gulag“. Finally ordered it. Apparently this is the first of two volumes to be published (the second to be released this year). I will probably dive into it after I complete the current few books on my “currently reading” shelf.

The next one over is the December 2018 issue of Apex Magazine which, if I have my dates correct, is the last to be published in physical format. From now on the magazine will be digital only, which is fine, as it is well worth the cost of subscription in any format.

The last two are The Uploaded and Fix by the excellent Ferret Steinmetz. I hope to get them signed at ConFusion 2019 next weekend.

In reading news I am still working my way through Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning. I’m in the home stretch and should be through by the time I leave for ConFusion.

Selah!

ConFusion 2019 Schedule

Next week I head across the state to attend ConFusion 2019. This year I will be participating in three panels, all on Saturday, January 19. Here they are:

  • AI for Better or Worse – There’s no doubt that Artificial Intelligence will play some part in our future, but is it good, bad, or both? Panelists will discuss the future of AI, some of its uses, and some of its dangers.
    • Time: Saturday, 19 January, 2019 – 13:00
    • Room: Warren
    • Panelists: Anthony W. Eichenlaub (M), John Winkelman, Derek Kunsken
  • Let’s Talk Season 2: Computer Science! – A lighthearted talk on a hard science topics with smart and funny people. Let’s Talk: Computer Science will chuckle through the collapse of society as we know it. Come hear how silicon makes better decisions than carbon, protons as data, why you don’t need to be Slytherin to study Python, and what we are going to do with the leisure time we will have in 2025.
    • Time: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 16:00
    • Room: Warren
    • Panelists: Daniel Dugan (M), John Winkelman, Anthony W. Eichenlaub
  • If you liked that, try this! – Our well-read panel will give you personalized book recommendations based on things you’ve read and loved.
    • Time: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 18:00
    • Room: Dearborn
    • Panelists: Merrie Haskell (M), John Winkelman, Andrea Johnson, Karen Osborne, Sarah Hans

Between now and then I am spending my free moments gathering books I hope to have signed by other attendees, and getting everything around home squared away so I can focus on enjoying the experience. Hopefully one year I will be able to sign books of my own.