Thursday, June 28, 2007

Eclipse 1

Jonathan Strahan has announced the final lineup of stories for Eclipse 1, and I'm still delighted to be included. Alphabetically by author:
  • “The Last and Only, or Mr Moscowitz Becomes French” by Peter S. Beagle
  • “The Transformation of Targ” by Jack Dann & Paul Brandon
  • “Toother” by Terry Dowling
  • “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” by Andy Duncan
  • “The Drowned Life” by Jeffrey Ford
  • “Electric Rains” by Kathleen Ann Goonan
  • “Up the Fire Road” by Eileen Gunn
  • “In The Forest Of The Queen” by Gwyneth Jones
  • “Mrs Zeno’s Paradox” by Ellen Klages
  • “She-Creatures” by Margo Lanagan
  • “The Lost Boy: A Reporter At Large” by Maureen F. McHugh
  • “Bad Luck, Trouble, Death and Vampire Sex” by Garth Nix
  • “Larissa Miusov” by Lucius Shepard
  • “The Lustration” by Bruce Sterling
  • “Quartermaster Returns” by Ysabeau Wilce
  • Monday, June 25, 2007

    "We Baptists don't save chickens"

    From Zev Chafets' appreciation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell:
    One of the country’s leading Pentecostal figures broke off relations after Falwell publicly sneered at her effort to heal a chicken through faith. “We Baptists don’t save chickens, we eat them,” he told her.
    I really wanted to work this into my story "Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse," soon to appear in Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse anthology, but as the story mostly takes place before Falwell was born, I finally gave up.

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    By George!

    Maryland institution George Prettyman Sr., weekly columnist for the Cecil Whig for 50 years, died June 11 at age 94. According to the obit in The Washington Times, Prettyman must have known the end was imminent, as he submitted a resignation note to the paper only a week before his death:
    I've had a good time writing my columns, but it is time for me to sign off now. I cannot put the words together anymore. I want to thank you all for reading my columns, week after week, for a little longer than 50 years. It has made me many friends and, as far as I know, no enemies.
    An even better epitaph may have been the last sentence of Prettyman's last column, published May 31: "I am a very fortunate old geezer, by George!"

    Forget the memorial

    I was reminded this week of an apocryphal journalistic story, retold in the opening paragraphs of Dan Simmons' novel A Winter Haunting and countless other places. Here's the brief version, as told by Roger Ebert:
    There is a famous journalistic legend about the time a young reporter covered the Johnstown flood of 1889. The kid wrote: "God sat on a hillside overlooking Johnstown today and looked at the destruction He had wrought." His editor cabled back: "Forget flood. Interview God."
    I was reminded of this when I read the lead of a front-page story in the June 20 Cumberland Times-News:
    The Irish responsible for the construction of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad finally will get the memorial their ancestors believe they deserve.
    My first thought was: "Forget the memorial. Get us an interview with those dead ancestors!"

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    The cat knocked my Sturgeon Award off the end table

    We didn't see which cat, but it was almost certainly Hillary. The award now has a tiny scuff mark and the floor a tiny dent. Sydney suggests I move the Sturgeon to the basement, where the sharp edges will be cushioned by carpet next time. I'm sure literary awards have been involved in worse accidents.

    A story in Eclipse

    I'm delighted to report that Jonathan Strahan has accepted my new story "Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse" for his original anthology Eclipse: New Science Fiction and Fantasy. The first in a new series, the book will be published by Night Shade Books in October, just in time for the World Fantasy Convention.

    A few people at the 2005 World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, Scotland, heard me read a few pages of this story, which I just had begun that week in Sydney's rooms at Wadham College at Oxford.

    Jonathan reports that the Eclipse lineup thus far includes new stories by Peter S. Beagle, Terry Dowling, Jeffrey Ford, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eileen Gunn, Gwyneth Jones, Ellen Klages, Margo Lanagan, Maureen McHugh, Lucius Shepard and Ysabeau Wilce, plus a collaboration by Jack Dann and Paul Brandon. I'm in great company!

    SCI FICTION's vanishing act

    On his blog, Eugene Myers points out that while has announced it's no longer hosting the old SCI FICTION pages, the zine's archive page, with story links, is still working -- for now. So collect all those stories while you can. (Full disclosure: Two of those stories, "The Pottawatomie Giant" and "Zora and the Zombie," are my own, and I'll always be proud of having two stories published in one of the best sf/fantasy magazines that ever was.)

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    The Ridgeley, W.Va., mayoral election

    Just when I was beginning to get nostalgic for colorful (if regrettable) Alabama politics, along comes the 2007 mayoral election in Ridgeley, W.Va., just across the river from nearby Cumberland, Md. Here's the story thus far, as covered by the Cumberland Times-News.

    A month before he hoped to be re-elected, two-term incumbent Mayor Mitchell Reeves was arrested on a charge of driving without a license. He said he just forgot to renew it when it expired years ago.

    A month later, on the Friday before the Tuesday election, Reeves was arrested again, on fraud charges, and this time was sent to jail. He was charged with loading a trailer with personal belongings in an attempt to hide them from his creditors and from the county officials who planned to sell them to satisfy a $200,000 lien against Reeves.

    From the jail, the mayor allegedly called Ridgeley Police Chief Mike Miller and told him to bring him a manila envelope the mayor had stashed in a filing cabinet at town hall. With the help of town clerk Melinda Liller, the chief found the envelope, which he said contained $6,800 in cash.

    Instead of delivering the cash to the jailed mayor, the chief said he made some phone calls soliciting legal advice, and decided the cash -- like all the mayor's property -- was the county's and not the mayor's until the lien was satisfied. So he handed it over to the magistrate instead.

    All that happened Friday. On Sunday, during a phone call he allegedly placed from jail to Councilwoman Faye Lemley at city hall, the mayor fired both the police chief and the clerk, apparently for not bringing him the $6,800.

    "I came down and opened up the file cabinet," the ex-clerk told the Cumberland Times-News. "That's why I was fired."

    "The mayor has been acting above the law for years," the ex-chief told the Times-News. "He never did have a West Virginia license."

    That Tuesday, Reeves was still sitting in jail when the citizens of Ridgeley went to the polls and voted 5-to-1 for Reeves' opponent, veterinarian Richard Lechliter, a member of the Town Council. Lechliter got 185 votes to Reeves' 34.

    One of the likely anti-Reeves voters was Mae Schartiger, who came to the polls on her 100th birthday. Schartiger, who said the first vote she ever cast was for Herbert Hoover, voted this time around to restore respectability to her hometown, she told the Times-News.

    Also voted in was Liller, the fired clerk, who was elected town recorder.

    Voted out, meanwhile, was Councilwoman Lemley, despite her diligence in reporting to city hall on a Sunday to receive vengeful instructions from a jailed mayor.

    The mayor-elect pledged to give both the chief and the clerk their jobs back and to clean up city hall.

    While all this was going on, I happened to be reading, and hugely enjoying, They Love a Man in the Country: Saints and Sinners in the South by Billy Bowles and Remer Tyson, a 1989 collection of colorful anecdotes about mid-century politicians and other power brokers. If there's ever a sequel, someone should interview Mitchell Reeves, soon to be ex-mayor of Ridgeley, W.Va.

    A Star Trek confession

    This weekend in FYE in Valley View Mall in Roanoke, Va., I stumbled upon a sale of Special Collector's Editions of Star Trek movies for $10 each. I bought seven of them -- all I didn't have already -- from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) through Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). Yes, I even bought the one Shatner directed, telling myself it was for the sake of completion. Had the cashier been a woman, I never could have gone through with it.

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    Sometimes we miss Alabama

    One Alabama legislator recently punched another one on the Senate floor in Montgomery -- something we always expected to happen, the 10 years we lived in the Yellowhammer State.

    My favorite part of the story is the little speech the legislator who threw the punch gave his colleagues afterward:
    "I love every one of you. Most of all I love this chamber. I'm going home, and you all have a good day."

    A Japanese "Super-Toy"?

    Sydney sent me this link with the subject line "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long."
    "Teddy -- I suppose Mummy and Daddy are real, aren't they?"
    Teddy said, "You ask such silly questions, David. Nobody knows what 'real' really means."
    (Years ago, Brian W. Aldiss cast Sydney and me as Teddy's parents in a performance of his 1969 story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" at the International Conference on the Fantastic in Fort Lauderdale. We were, of course, much better than the actors in A.I., the eventual movie made of the story.)

    Sunday, June 03, 2007

    Charles Nelson Reilly

    I was sorry to hear of the death of Charles Nelson Reilly, and sorry, too, to see that most of the published obits omitted (for me) the high point of his acting career: playing the tart-tongued writer Jose Chung in the X-Files episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" and the Millennium episode "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense." That second outing, which features the funniest Scientology parody to date (yes, even funnier than South Park's), earned Reilly the second of his three Emmy Award nominations. Alas, writer Darin Morgan killed Chung off at the end.

    Reilly was a fixture of my childhood thanks to his roles on two Saturday-morning kids' shows: He was the villainous green-skinned magician HooDoo on Lidsville and the snarling title character on the seriously subversive, short-lived and now impossible-to-find kids'-show parody Uncle Croc's Block -- sometimes referred to (when it's referred to at all) as an ahead-of-its-time forerunner of Pee-wee's Playhouse, but really far more cynical and disturbing. The whole point was that Uncle Croc hated kids, his colleagues and his show; I now wonder whether the role had some personal resonance for Reilly, a respected stage actor, director and teacher who was known to millions only as the No. 2 wacky gay man of '70s TV game shows -- No. 1 being the genuinely self-loathing, and tragic, Paul Lynde.

    Why not a Nutria Rodeo?

    The Baltimore Sun reports that the effort to eradicate nutria from Maryland's Eastern Shore is costing the federal government about $1 million a year. Maybe the locals should consider an annual Nutria Rodeo, like the one formerly held on Mobile Bay.

    Weight for Height

    While watching the Weight for Height competition at Saturday's Highland Festival in McHenry, Md., I was most impressed by the contestants' nonchalance after throwing. If I were able to heave a 56-pound weight straight into the air, I would not just stand there waiting for it to come down again. I would run out of the way, probably with my hands over my head, and likely squealing -- all probably frowned on at highland games.

    That's Deep Creek Lake in the background.

    Dignity, always dignity

    Sydney and I took these photos of one another at Saturday's Highland Festival in McHenry, Md.

    Our backyard rhododendrons

    Saturday, June 02, 2007

    All animals are equal, but ...

    A recent Associated Press story called the departure of two executives at Pfizer, the world's largest drug manufacturer, a sign that "even those at the top aren't immune to an ongoing companywide transformation."

    What those at the top are immune to, however, is anything like the financial hardship faced by the 10,000 rank-and-file Pfizer employees slated to lose their jobs. According to Bloomberg, one departing executive is getting $3.3 million in severance pay, another $2 million.

    "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
    -- George Orwell, Animal Farm

    To the moon, Alice

    According to a new survey of 4,824 Americans:
  • 75 percent view the manned space program as vital to the international prestige of the United States.
  • 71 percent oppose any cuts in NASA funding.
  • 63 percent believe humans will establish a permanent lunar colony someday.
  • 39 percent believe that will happen within 50 years.
  • 41 percent would be willing to travel to the Moon if they could afford it.
  • 32 percent would be willing to travel to Mars.
  • Chef Taylor, age 9

    I love this May 20 Roanoke Times photo, by Eric Brady, of 9-year-old Taylor Maddox at the Young Chefs Academy in Salem, Va., but it doesn't seem to have made the online version of the story. Nice use of supplemental audio and video, though.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    I know just what he means

    "So far, it's been a long, short season."
    -- Brian Cashman, general manager of the struggling New York Yankees, quoted in an AP article

    "A deceased person" in an air duct

    It's not quite the old urban legend about the dead Santa in the chimney, but students at an elementary school in Phoenix were sent home when a dead man was found inside an air duct. The letter sent home with the kids said authorities had discovered "a deceased person." Do you suppose the avoidance of the word "corpse" made it easier to take?

    Zoning against windmills

    As New Scientist has pointed out, backyard windmills are obvious household-by-household answers to the problems posed by fossil fuels. But The Associated Press reports that the biggest obstacles to these gadgets are local politicians and zoning ordinances. Mayor David Dorman of Melissa, Texas, for example,
    said it might be unfair to allow some people to have a technology that is not available to others who do not have the money or the yard space.
    Do you suppose the mayor also opposes every other sort of home improvement, however beneficial to the town as a whole, that might make the neighbors jealous?

    The "monster hog" of Lost Creek

    When Sydney and I first saw the published photo of the "monster hog" shot by an 11-year-old at Lost Creek Plantation, a commercial hunting preserve in Delta, Ala., our immediate reaction was, "The photo's fake." A knowing photographer could have placed the boy well behind the hog to create a trick of perspective that would have made the critter seem much bigger than it actually was. But there may be additional reasons to be skeptical of the photos posted by the kid's dad at, according to this exhaustive (and arguably exhausting) analysis.

    There may be excellent reasons to be skeptical of the entire hunt, for that matter. The Anniston Star, one of the best small newspapers in Alabama (or anywhere else), reports that the hog's name was Fred, and it was farm-raised and pampered by Rhonda and Phil Blissitt of Fruithurst, Ala. Though Phil Blissitt denies it ever was a pet, he and his wife do say Fred liked to snack on canned sweet potatoes and play with the Blissitts' grandchildren.

    The Blissitts recently sold all their swine, and Fred was bought by Eddy Borden, the owner of Lost Creek Plantation. Only a few days after Fred left the Blissitt farm, he was pursued by a pack of armed Lost Creek customers who paid for an exciting, authentic hunting experience. The adults with their high-powered rifles let young Jamison Stone have the honor; he shot Fred repeatedly with a .50-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 500 Revolver (which the manufacturer calls "the most powerful production revolver in the world") over the course of a three-hour chase, before finally delivering the coup de grace.

    Readers in other parts of the country will marvel that a student at a private school called Christian Heritage Academy would pump a farm-raised hog full of .50-caliber bullets in the name of sport and Southern manhood, but I'm from South Carolina, so this doesn't surprise me at all.

    Reliable witnesses

    The next time I read about someone who sincerely believes he saw something uncanny in the sky, I'll remember this story from the May 31 Cumberland Times-News. A U.S. Navy pilot spooked locals by flying low over the area so that his dad, who lives in Frostburg, could get a good photo of his plane. Here's the crucial paragraph, emphasis mine:
    The appearance of the aircraft set off a barrage of telephone calls to the airport, law enforcement and the Cumberland Times-News from concerned citizens, some of whom reported seeing two aircraft when in fact it was only one.
    I'm sure at least some of those folks will continue to insist they saw two planes (or, as the years pass, three or more planes), despite the official government denials.