Shifting From Third to Second

Poe in her perch

No new reading material this week, so here is a photo of Poe in her element.

In reading news, I just finished Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, and it was magnificent. I now feel compelled to seek out the rest of the books in the series, as well as the rest of her writing in general.

I have also found myself thoroughly sucked into a re-read of R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels, which I first read as they were released in the early 1990s through early 2000s. They are fun reads and definitely lighter than my usual fare, and I will probably skim through them much faster than I would through something opened for the first time. I enjoy seeing how much Salvatore’s writing improves as the series progresses. It’s also interesting to see how much the (viewed through the lens of a reader in 2020) cliches and tropes endemic to the genre thirty years ago change over time. I offer kudos to Salvatore for keeping his writing fresh over a long and productive career.

For my own writing, I am gathering notes to begin a novel and/or a series of stories based around a particular idea which can be explored in a wide variety of settings and genres. Or a setting which can be explored through a wide variety of ideas and genres. Like I said – gathering. Not organizing. When I begin my work in earnest I will post more specific comments.

In an effort to stay engaged in the book reader/writer/lover community I have started to regularly post to Instagram (@johnfromGR). I have never really engaged that platform in any meaningful way, though at first glance it seems much less toxic than Facebook and Twitter. Time will tell.

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues here in Michigan I can feel my life fraying at the edges. For the past month I have worked third shift, 12-hour days, four days a week, on a project at work. Starting tomorrow that will move to second shift, 10 hours a day, five days a week. This will last through the second week of June, at which point the project will end and I will rejoin the waking world, in whatever form that may be. As I said before, third shift was a whole lot easier when I was 21.

One of the unexpected benefits of my new schedule is a slow but steady loss of weight. I am not working out anywhere near as much as I usually do so I assume the change is from loss of muscle mass combined with only eating two meals a day, along with some healthy snacks. I don’t know if ongoing sleep deprivation also causes weight loss, but if so, I may have discovered a new diet regimen.

What I Read in April 2020

My plan to read a short story a day for the entire year has, thanks to existential uncertainty and the attendant disruption of my life, not happened. Four months in and I am only a fraction of the way to where I should be. But what I lack in quantity this past month I more than made up for in quality. Ted Chiang’s Exhalation is a wonder, and I cannot recommend highly enough the stories therein.

I had some unexpected down time so I read several novels in April. It felt good to let my mind travel to far realms away from and therefore better than the current timeline.

  1. “The Merchant an the Alchemist’s Gate” Chiang, Ted (Exhalation)
  2. “Exhalation” Chiang, Ted (Exhalation)
  3. “What’s Expected of Us” Chiang, Ted (Exhalation)

Books to Ride Out the Lockdown

It’s not that I am unused to spending days at a time inside without seeing another human being. It’s just that I am used to doing it on my own terms. In any other year I would be out stomping the trails at all of the parks within a hundred miles of my house. This year? Not so much.

I finally have my schedule settled in so that I have more concentrated reading time, which is good because the books, they just keep coming in.

On the left is the latest edition of Pulphouse. In the middle is a gorgeous illustrated novel from Deep Vellum Publishing, Above Us the Milky Way by Fowzia Karimi. On the right is the new book from Thomas Piketty, Capital and Ideology, which is a companion volume to his magisterial Capital in the Twenty-First Century. At over 1,100 pages it will take a few days to read, I think.

I am finally back in my reading groove. In the past week I have finished William Gibson’s Neuromancer (a re-read), David Walton’s The Genius Plague, Rita Indiana’s Tentacle, China Mieville’s The Last Days of New Paris, and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemist. It was a binge, and it was wonderful! I have since started The Sol Majestic by Ferret Steinmetz, and am browsing at random Jim Harrison’s collected nonfiction Just Before Dark.

My writing in the past month and more has fallen completely by the wayside though I have jotted down a few ideas for poems.

I feel pressure to pack the spare moments with simple pleasures. Starting tomorrow, and likely to extend through the end of My, I will be on a project in which I will be working four twelve hour days a week, 6 pm to 6 am. I haven’t worked third shift since I was 21, and that nearly killed my, though it was only for about six weeks as well. Then again, that was in a factory for minimum wage, and this will be sitting in my home office for substantially better pay.

Such is the exciting life of a developer.

 

What I Read in March 2020

I had such high hopes for March. As it turns out, existential dread and uncertainty are not conducive to good reading habits. Much easier to watch and re-watch and re-binge the myriad television shows on the various streaming services. There was one high point though – I have re-immersed myself in the writing of Roger Zelazny, who was one of the first writers whose work made me also want to be a writer. I think Zelazny and Douglas Adams (of course!) were the biggest influences on lighting in me the creative urge which, though it is not as consistent as I would like, has never gone away.

Hopefully April will provide a little more stability, or at least consistency (predictability?) around which to rebuild my reading schedule. If not, look for more short lists, and perhaps a list of those lists, in order to track them.

  1. “Fair Game” – Dick, Philip K. (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, vol. 3)
  2. “The Hanging Stranger” – Dick, Philip K. (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, vol. 3)
  3. “The Venus Effect” – Hill, Joseph Allen (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  4. “Rain” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  5. “By Design” – Sestanovich, Clare (The Paris Review #232)
  6. “This Mortal Mountain” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  7. “Auntie Han’s Modern Life” – Tam, Enoch (That We May Live)
  8. “Zombie Capitalism” – Buckell, Tobias (Vice)
  9. “The Man Who Loved Faioli” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  10. “Angel, Dark Angel” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  11. “The Hounds of Sorrow” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  12. “The Window Washer” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  13. “The Eve of Rumoko” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 4)

Books for Social Distancing

As of a few days ago COVID-19 has made landfall here in West Michigan, so we are all hunkering down for a long haul of avoiding significant social interaction. Fortunately I have several hundred books in the house that I have not read. They should last me a couple of weeks. I also have a job where I can work from home so, until the toilet paper runs out, I have no real reason to interact with other human beings beyond my wonderful girlfriend. She is a school teacher, so she will be hanging around the neighborhood for the next three weeks until the schools reopen.

On the left in the above photo is the latest issue of the superb Rain Taxi, because of which I will undoubtedly order several new books in the upcoming months. On the right is the latest delivery from Deep Vellum, Girls Lost by Jessica Schiefauer. 2020 is starting out with a much slower acquisition rate than the previous several years, and for that I am kind of happy, as I was beginning to feel the pressure of insufficient shelving. I mean, I still feel that pressure, but it is not an immediate concern.

In reading news, I am hopping randomly through volumes III and IV of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, published by NESFA Press. These stories are just wonderful! I have been a Zelazny fan since I first read Nine Princes in Amber back in the early 1980s.

I am also reading Tentacle by Rita Indiana, one of the books from my subscription to And Other Stories. One chapter in and I am fully hooked.

My writing game has been significantly off these past few weeks so I am switching over fully to editing several short stories. I have four so far which I think will be worthy of publishing.

Assuming there is such a thing as publishing as we work our way further through this very stupid timeline.

Since you’ve made it to the end of this post, here is a picture of Poe.

 

What I Read in February 2020

February was a fairly good reading month though I was sidetracked by a long weekend away, some family stuff, and the act and aftermath of getting the kitten fixed. Turns out that the drugs they use to anesthetize cats for surgery sometimes turns them into psychotic Tasmanian Devil beasts for about a day.

Most of the short fiction for February came from three sources – The Long List Anthology volumes 3 and 4, and Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov. The rest were random picks from journals, both print and online.

I am also pushing through to the end of Sayak Valencia’s Gore Capitalism, which I started reading back in January. I hit a point where I had to put it down, and fully expected that to be the end of it, but there was something about the book that just would not let go of me, so I picked it up again and am going to try to get to the end in the next few days.

Here is the list of short prose I read in the month of February 2020.

  1. “Waiting Out the End of the World at Patty’s Place Cafe” – Kritzer, Naomi (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  2. “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” – Anders, Charlie Jane (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  3. “Confessions of a Con Girl” – Wolven, Nick (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  4. “Utopia, LOL?” – Wahls, Jamie (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4 )
  5. “Lullaby for a Lost World” – de Bodard, Aliette (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  6. “Terminal” – Tidhar, Lavie – (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  7. “The Scholast in the Low Water Kingdoms” – Gladstone, Max (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  8. “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” – McGuire, Seanan (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  9. “Things with Beards” – Miller, Sam J. (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  10. “On the Slate” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  11. “At Night” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  12. “Carpenters” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  13. “Paradox” – Kritzer, Naomi (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  14. “A Personal Quota” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  15. “The Parcel” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  16. “Sour Meat” – Tse, Dorothy (That We May Live)
  17. Gonzales, California” – Berardino, Christopher Seiji (Blind Corner Literary Magazine)
  18. Aquacultural Appropriation” – Glanzman, Kimberly (Blind Corner Literary Magazine)
  19. “Angel of the Blockade” – Acks, Alex (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  20. “The Fisher of Bones” – Gailey, Sarah (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  21. “Crispin’s Model” – Gladstone, Max (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  22. “The Atheist and the Angel” – Buckell, Tobias (Patreon)

If you made it this far down the page, you deserve a picture of a kitten.

Poe in the Window

Apex Delivery

February ended on a cold note but here in the first day of March I walked along the river with my honey in late afternoon sunshine and an air temperature in the upper fifties, Fahrenheit. We still have three more weeks of winter, technically, but fifty degrees in winter is much better than fifty degrees in summer.

The library of Winkelman Abbey only saw one delivery this week, from Apex Publications, with the two books pictured above – Winterglass and Mirrorstrike, both by Benjanun Sriduangkew.

In reading news I rounded out the month of February with a little over twenty short stories completed, which put my brain in an excellent space to start revising a couple of first drafts. I will post the list later this week.

Writing for the past week was about on par with writing the week before, to wit: Not a lot started or finished. I was just completely brain-fried and needed to take a little time off. But now that we are in a new month I intend to get back into my daily routine tomorrow at 5:30 am sharp. If I can keep that up for the month that should be enough time to get another story to a point that I can begin shopping it around to some lit journals. And maybe give me time to start working on a new short story for one of the thirty or so calls for themed publications I have bookmarked for the rest of 2020.

That’s all for now; time for bed.

Books to Entertain and Intimidate

It’s been a busy week here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. Yesterday we had our kitten spayed. She recovered nicely from the surgery and spent most of yesterday evening and night, well into today, being a psychotic beast. Only in the last couple of hours (a full 24 since the surgery) has she calmed down enough to sit still for more than about a minute. Thus, no kitten in today’s photo.

A small stack of books arrived in the past week. On the left is the newest issue of Jacobin. In the middle is the latest from Deep Vellum, The Love Story of the Century. And on the right is an impulse buy from Semiotext(e), The Coming Insurrection, the first title in their Interventions series.

The Coming Insurrection was briefly famous back in 2009 when noted fascist bootlick Glenn Beck spent several weeks pissing himself in terror on Fox News over what he called “the most evil book he has ever read.” Coming from someone who at the time worked at white nationalist propaganda outlet Fox News, that description is hilarious. I doubt Beck or any of his catamites (the ones who can read, anyway) made it past more than the first few pages of this small text.

So I have some good reading for the week ahead, while I nurse our kitten back to health.

February and All That

Amazing how time flies when you have a kitten. Suddenly February is here and I can already feel the impending changing of seasons and birthdays and of course the end of the year is one month closer.

This week’s bundle of books for the Library of Winkelman Abbey is small but distinguished. On the left is Berari’s The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, from Semiotext(e). In the middle is the latest arrival from And Other Stories, Gerald Murnane’s collection of essays Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs. On the right is Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts, the cover of which is even more beautiful in person than in the photo.

In reading, I am slowly ramping up again and working my way through volumes III and IV of the Long List Anthologies. There stories therein are absolutely amazing, no two anything alike, and while reading I feel simultaneously inspired and intimidated.

In writing, I took some time off from creating and editing, and used that time to update my list of published works. This effort included posting my novelette “Hvalur,” which was part of the original Brewed Awakenings anthology published by Caffeinated Press back in 2015.

I have made some progress on a cyberpunk-ish short story, and the research thereof has given me material for some new poems which may or may not see the light of day at some point in the future.

If I publish none of it, at least the cat will still love me.

What I Read in January 2020

As part the process of focusing my 2020 reading on short fiction, I am keeping a list of every short story I read this year. Author names are linked to their primary online presence, as are the venues for those short stories.

January was quite busy, what with work deadlines, ConFusion 2020 and the new kitten, so I only read 20 stories. The majority came from periodicals though the last few came from the superb Long List Anthologies of short fiction nominated for the Hugo Awards.

  1. “Lost Book” – Williams, Ryan M. (Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #7, Summer 2019)
  2. “That Faraway Kingdom” – Buckell, Tobias (Patreon)
  3. “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” – Fall, Isabel (Clarkesworld #160, January 2020)
  4. “Acceptable Losses” – Dermatis, Dayle (Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #7, Summer 2019)
  5. “A Choose Your Own Fangle Adventure” – Jeschonek, Robert (Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #7, Summer 2019)
  6. “Say Hello to my Little Friend” – Rusch, Kristine Kathryn (Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #7, Summer 2019)
  7. “The Ghost of a Smile” – Miller, John Jos (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  8. “Cessation of Civilization” – Croke, Marie (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  9. “Autoimmune” – Pankau, Kurt (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  10. “Hot Times in Shady Pines” – Kloster, Gary (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  11. “The Last Petal” – Madden, Anna (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  12. “Extremophile” – Harpold, Robert E. (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  13. “Dreamforger” – Crankshaw, Donald S. (Dreamforge #4, December 2019)
  14. “Dirtnap” – Koekkoek, Taylor (Paris Review #231, Winter 2019)
  15. “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” – Buckell, Tobias (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  16. “Red in Tooth and Cog” – Rambo, Cat (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  17. “A Salvaging of Ghosts” – de Bodard, Aliette (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  18. “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the International Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” – Yaochim, Caroline M. (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  19. “Razorback” – Vernon, Ursula (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  20. “We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” – Jordan, Rebecca Ann (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)