Monthly Archives: March 2005

Rerun Week: Counting the Days

Be happy for me: The chapter of my book that’s been killing me is now complete. It’s all steeply downhill from here, and that’s good. Here’s today’s rerun.

BEST CALENDAR OF THE MILLENNIUM

The Mayan Calendar. I’m writing this on December 16, 1999 — on the Mayan calendar, it’s 12.19.6.14.6. That’s right, only 5,485 days until the next baktun! Better hit the mall now!

Typically speaking, calendars do two things (beyond, of course, giving “Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson a way to recycle decade-old cartoons for ready cash). First of all, they provide us with the ability to meaningfully note the passage of time. For example, today is the 226th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the 55th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and the 78th-month “anniversary” of my first date with my wife (we were obviously not married at the time). One week from today will be my daughter’s first birthday. Send gifts.

All these events are contingent on our calendar for their notability relative to the time in which I exist; If we noted weeks and months differently, it might be the anniversary of something else entirely different. Months and weeks have no basis outside us: We made them up, or, if you prefer, God made them up, and we went with his basic plan (don’t we always).

The second thing calendars do is notify us of the cyclical nature of our planet. Thanks to a more or less fixed tilt of the earth’s axis and a regular period of revolution around our sun, our world gets hot and cold on a predictable schedule, and the patterns of life take note. Flowers bloom in the spring. Animals hibernate in the winter. Leaves fall in autumn. We get re-runs in the summer. It’s the circle of life. For various reasons primarily relating to food, the planting and harvesting of, we’ve needed to know when to expect the seasons to come around again.

The problem has always been that humans have picked bad ways to note that passage of time. The biggest culprit has been the moon. It has a cycle, of course, about 29 days from new moon to new moon. Alas, that cycle has no real relation with the earth’s position in its orbit. So while creating months relative to the moon (the word “month” is in fact etymologically descended from the old English word for “moon”), is perfectly fine for recording subjective blocks of time, it’s rather less helpful in keeping track of when the seasons are coming. Sooner or later you’d get snow in July. And that would just wreak havoc on your baseball schedules.

Some of your smarter civilizations switched to a calendar in which the year was demarcated by the path of the sun (in the case of the Egyptians, they used Sirius, the Dog Star. Those crafty Egyptians). This was better, as there was, in fact, a direct relation of the sun’s path and our year. But the rotation of the earth does not correspond exactly to its revolution. There’s an extra quarter of the day (but not exactly a quarter of a day) thrown in for chuckles. Give it enough time, and your seasons and your months will still get away from you.

So you keep fiddling. Our current Gregorian calendar deals with it by inserting a leap day every four years, except in years that end with double zero, except those years which are cleanly divisible by 400. Like 2000. Don’t worry, scientists are keeping track of these things for you. Be that as it may, there’s still slippage. Calendars aren’t an exact science.

Enter the Mayans, who, it should be noted, were the kick-ass mathematical minds of the pre-computational world (they used zeros before zeros were cool!). While everyone else was looking at the sun or the moon as a guidepost for the passage of time, the Mayans looked a little to the left of the sun and discovered…Venus, which as it happens, has an exceptionally predictable path around the sun that takes 584 days. Five of these cycles just happens to coincide with eight 365-day years. Thrown in a couple of additional formulae, and you can keep time that’s damn near perfect — The Mayan calendar loses a day about once every 4000 years. Consider we can’t go four years without having to plug in a day, and we’ve got atomic clocks and everything.

So why don’t we switch to a Mayan calendar? Well, this is why:

First bear in mind that the Mayan kept track of two years simultaneously: the Tzolkin, or divinatory calendar, which is comprised of 260 days, demarcated by matching one of 13 numbers with one of 20 names (13×20=260 — you can do at least that much math), and also another calendar of 18 months of 20 days, with five extra days known as the “Uayeb,” for Days of Bad Omen (probably not a good time to do much of anything).

These two calendrical systems linked together once every 18,980 days (that’s 52 years to you and me): this period of time was known as a “Calendar Round.” Two calendar rounds, incidentally, make up another time period in which the Tzolkin, the 365-day calendar, and the position of Venus sync up again. Think of this as a Mayan century, if you will.

With me so far? Okay, because, actually, I lied. There’s another calendar system you need to keep track of as well: The Long Count. Here’s how this one works. You start of with a day, which in Mayan is known as a kin. There are 20 kin in a unial, 18 unials in a tun, 20 tun in a katun, and 20 katun in a baktun (so how many days is that? Anyone? Anyone? 144,000 — roughly 394 years). Each of these is enumerated when you signify a date, with the baktun going first. However, remember that while kin, tun, and katun are numbered from 0 to 19, the unial are numbered from 0 to 17, while the baktun are numbered from 1 to 13. So if someone tries to sell you a Mayan calendar with a 14 in the baktun’s place, run! He’s a bad man!

And thus, combining our Long Count calendar with our Tzolkin and our 365-day calendar, we find that today is 12.19.6.14.6, 6 kan, 12 mak. Now you know why we don’t use the Mayan calendar. And the next time you plan to cheat on a math test, sit next to a Mayan.

What happens after you reach the 13th baktun? I don’t know, but it’s going to happen pretty soon –the Mayan calendar rolls over on December 23rd, 2012. Maybe then we’ll get a real apocalypse. Until then, let’s all party like it’s 12.19.19.17.19.

Rerun Week: Big Gay Kings

Reruns this week while I close up shop on some projects; I’m reprinting pieces from my “That Was The Millennium That Was” series from 1999. Here’s today’s.

—-

BEST GAY MAN OF THE MILLENNIUM

Richard I of England, otherwise known as Richard the Lionhearted. He’s here, he’s queer, he’s the King of England.

Although, certainly, not the only gay King of England: William II Rufus, Edward II, and King James I (yes, the Bible dude) are reputed to have indulged in the love that dare not speak its name (On the other hand, rumors pertaining to the gayness of King William III have been greatly exaggerated). Women, don’t feel left out: Anne, queen from 1702 to 1714, had a very interesting “friendship” with Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, who was her “lady of the bedchamber.” Which was apparently an actual job, and not just some winking euphemism.

The difference between Richard and the rest of the reputedly gay monarchs of England is that people seemed to think fondly of Richard, whereas the rest of the lot were met with more than their share of hostility — though that hostility has less to do with their sexuality than it did with other aspects of their character. William II Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, was known as a brutal tyrant who smote the weak and raised their taxes; he took an arrow in the back in 1100, in what was very likely an assassination masterminded by his brother, Henry. James I, who had been King of Scotland before he was also made King of England, spent a lot of money and lectured Parliament about his royal prerogatives; they thought he was a big drooling jerk. Queen Anne had a weak will which made her susceptible to suggestion, a point that Sarah Churchill, for one, exploited to its fullest extent.

(However, then there’s Edward II. Not a very good king to begin with, Edward further annoyed his barons by procuring the earldom of Cornwall for Piers Gaveston, Edward’s lifelong very good friend, and the sort of fellow who wasn’t a bit shy about rubbing your nose in that fact. The barons continually had him exiled, but Edward continually brought him back; finally the barons had enough, collared Gaveston, and in 1312, lopped off his head. Edward himself met a truly bad end in 1327; having been overthrown by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, he was killed by torture that included a red-hot poker as a suppository. You can’t tell me that wasn’t an editorial comment.)

On the surface of things, there’s no reason that Richard, as a king, should be looked upon any more favorably than these folks; in fact, as a king, Richard was something of a bust. During his decade-long reign, he was in England for a total of six months, and most of that was given over to slapping around his brother John and the barons, rather than, say, handing out Christmas hams to the populace. Richard wasn’t even very much interested in being King of England. His possessions as the Duke of Aquitaine were substantially more important to him, enough so that he went to war against his father Henry II over them. Seems that after Henry had made Richard the heir to the throne, Henry wanted him to give the Aquitaine to John, who had no lands of his own. Richard said no and went to arms; this aggravated Henry so much, he died.

What Richard really wanted to do, and what is the thing that won him the hearts of the subjects he didn’t even know, was to lead the Third Crusade against Saladin, the great Muslim hero who had conquered Jerusalem in 1187. Saladin had taken Jerusalem from the Christians, who had nabbed it 88 years before, and who, it must be said, acted like animals doing it. When Saladin’s troops regained the city, it was remarked how much nicer they were than the Christians had been (why, the Muslims hardly slaughtered any innocent bystanders!).

In one of those great historical coincidences, Saladin is also rumored to be gay, which would be thrilling if it were true. The idea that both sides of one of the greatest of all religious wars were commanded — and brilliantly, might I add — by homosexuals is probably something neither today’s religious or military leaders would prefer to think about. Put that in your “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” pipe, guys: The Third Crusade was won by a pansy!

(Which pansy, of course, is a matter of debate. Richard’s exploits and military brilliance during the Third Crusade are the stuff of legend, and he did manage to wrest a three-year truce out of Saladin, which, among other things, assured safe passage for Christians to holy places. On the other hand, Richard never did take back Jerusalem (which was the whole point of the Crusade), and if you check the scorecards of most judges, they’ll tell you Saladin and Richard fought to a draw, so the title goes to the incumbent. However, Richard’s crusade was not the unmitigated disaster that later crusades would be — ultimately the Christians were booted out of the Palestine. So in retrospect, Richard’s crusade looked pretty darn good. Way not to lose, Richard.)

Yes, yes, yes, you say, but I don’t give a damn about the Crusades. I want to know who Richard was gay with. Man, you people disappoint me. But fine: How about Philip II Augustus, King of France concurrent to Richard’s reign as King of England. You may have already known about this particular relationship, as it constituted a plot point in the popular play and movie “A Lion in Winter.” However, even at the time, the relationship between the two was well-documented. Roger of Hoveden, a contemporary of Richard I and his biographer, has this to say:

“Richard, [then] duke of Aquitaine, the son of the king of England, remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so long that they ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the king of France loved him as his own soul; and they loved each other so much that the king of England was absolutely astonished and the passionate love between them and marveled at it.”

(Other translations — Hoveden wrote in Latin — replace “love” with “esteem,” toning down the breathless m4m feel of the passage, thereby allowing the nervous to assume Richard and Philip were just really really really close buds. Whatever works, man.)

Dick and Phil’s relationship, beyond any physical aspect, was tempestuous at best. On one hand, Richard appealed to Philip for help (and got it) when Henry tried to take the Aquitaine from him. On the other hand, once Richard became king, he fortified his holdings in France, on the off chance that Philip might, you know, try to stuff a province or two in his pocket while Richard was away at the Crusades.

As it happens, Philip went to the Third Crusade, where he had a falling out with Richard and eventually headed back to Paris in a huff; once there, he tried to slip some of Richard’s lands in his pocket, just like Richard thought he would. The two eventually went to war over the whole thing. Richard was winning, until he was shot in the chest by an archer and died. Legend has it that Richard actually congratulated the archer for the shot, which, frankly, strikes me as taking good manners just a little too far.

You may wonder what about any of this makes Richard the best gay man of the last 1000 years. Actually, nothing; when it comes right down to it, Richard’s sexuality is one of the least interesting things about him. This is one facet he shares in common with other notable gay men of the last 1000 years, from Michelangelo to John Maynard Keynes.

It’s also something he shares, of course, with the vast majority of heterosexual men through the years as well. Although since that’s the sexual norm, we don’t think about it that way. Rare is the moment in which we say “Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity. And, you know, he was straight.” One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll think the same about gay men and women. In the meantime, we’ll have Richard to remind us we’re more than the sum of our sexualities. That’s worth my vote.

Rerun Week: Visions of Hell

Reruns this week while I close up shop on some projects; I’m reprinting pieces from my “That Was The Millennium That Was” series from 1999. Here’s today’s.

BEST VISION OF HELL OF THE MILLENNIUM

It comes from Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter who lived in the 15th and 16th Centuries (although assuredly, not through them both entirely). Other people wrote about Hell, lectured about Hell, or simply feared it as the inevitable end to their sinful ways. Bosch saw Hell, like Walker Evans saw the Depression, and then reported on what he saw. It wasn’t a very cheerful report, but then, what would you expect. Hell’s not a resort filled with Payday bars and happy kittens. Unless you’re allergic to nuts and cat dander. In which case, that’s exactly what it is.

How did Bosch get this preview of Hell? It’s not that hard to imagine. Sartre famously said that Hell is other people, and while he was probably directly referring to some annoying waiter at Deux Magots, the line has broader implications. People are flawed, and not in the Japanese sense of wabi, in which a slight imperfection merely accentuates the fundamental perfection of a thing. Wabi is the mole on Cindy Crawford’s lip, the wheat bits in Lucky Charms, or the fact that Bill Gates’ fortune is owned by him and not you.

No, we’re talking about deep-seated incipient screw-upped-ness, the kind that puts you on the news as the helicopter gets a top down view of the police surrounding your home. For most of us, fortunately, it expresses itself in less virulent form, usually a furtive, opportunistic violation of one or more of the seven deadly sins when we think we won’t get caught. Coupled with this is the dread knowledge that, not only do we know what we’re doing is wrong, but we’ll probably do again the next time everyone else’s attention is back on the TV. We’re all a country song waiting to happen. With that realization comes the grinding sound of Satan’s backhoe scraping out space in our brain for another yet Hell franchise (six billion locations worldwide!). Hell is in all of us, not just the ones who use cell phones when they drive. All you have to do is look.

Bosch looked. A pessimist and a moralist (one can hardly be one without being the other), Bosch saw what evil lurked in the hearts of men, and then hit the paint. His friends and neighbors were no doubt unhappy to learn they were the motivation for Bosch’s horrifying and fantastical canvases; It’s difficult to live near someone who might paint your face onto a damned creature with Hell’s staff fraternizing in what used to be its butt. But there’s a story about another painter which could shed some light on what Bosch was doing. Pablo Picasso once painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein, only to have someone comment that Stein looked nothing like the painting. Said Picasso: “She will, soon enough.” (And she did). Apply this same reasoning to a picture of yourself with imps in your ass. It might make you think.

Beyond the existential and theological nature of Bosch’s work is the fact that, as paintings, they are just so damned cool. Bosch’s paintings of Hell influenced two great schools of art: Surrealism and Heavy Metal. Surrealism got off on Bosch’s vibrant and innovative use of color and his ability to combine the mundane and the fantastical to make bitter and intelligent social commentary. In fact Bosch had one up on most of the Surrealists in that he actually believed in something; unlike the surrealists and their kissing cousins the dadaists, Bosch’s work is rooted in morality rather than running away from it. Bosch wouldn’t have painted a mustache on Mona Lisa; he’d’ve had her devoured by a fish demon as a pointed warning of the dangers of vanity.

Heavy Metal artists dug Bosch, because, dude, he totally painted demons. Without Bosch, we’d have no Boris Vallejo airbrushings or Dio album covers, and it’s debatable whether Western Culture would be able to survive their lack.

Some ask, does Bosch’s work show Hell as it really is? No less an authority than the Catholic Church suggests that Hell is not so much a location as it is a state of being, an eternal absence of God’s grace rather than a place where pitchforks are constantly, eternally and liberally applied to your eyeballs. In which case, Bosch’s turbulent colors and troublesome devils are just another picture show, a trifle used to scare the credulous and the dim from indulging their baser instincts, like sex and thoughts on the possibility of even more sex.

It’s the wrong question. It’s not important that Bosch shows Hell as it truly is; it’s entirely possible that, other than a useful philosophical construct, Hell doesn’t exist at all. (This does not change the fact that the Backstreet Boys must somehow be eternally punished for their crimes.) But whether it truly exists or not, humans need the idea of Hell, whether it be to scare us into a moral life, comfort the smug ones who believe everyone else is going there, or simply to remind us that the actions of our lives, good or ill, live beyond those lives themselves, and the accounting of them may occur past the day we ourselves happen to stop. Bosch saw the importance of the idea and put it down in oil.

The question is not whether Hell exists, but rather: If we could see our souls in a mirror, rather than our bodies, would they be as Bosch painted them? If they were, we wouldn’t have to wait until the next life for Hell. It would already be here.

Rerun Week: Visions of Hell

Reruns this week while I close up shop on some projects; I’m reprinting pieces from my “That Was The Millennium That Was” series from 1999. Here’s today’s.

BEST VISION OF HELL OF THE MILLENNIUM

It comes from Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter who lived in the 15th and 16th Centuries (although assuredly, not through them both entirely). Other people wrote about Hell, lectured about Hell, or simply feared it as the inevitable end to their sinful ways. Bosch saw Hell, like Walker Evans saw the Depression, and then reported on what he saw. It wasn’t a very cheerful report, but then, what would you expect. Hell’s not a resort filled with Payday bars and happy kittens. Unless you’re allergic to nuts and cat dander. In which case, that’s exactly what it is.

How did Bosch get this preview of Hell? It’s not that hard to imagine. Sartre famously said that Hell is other people, and while he was probably directly referring to some annoying waiter at Deux Magots, the line has broader implications. People are flawed, and not in the Japanese sense of wabi, in which a slight imperfection merely accentuates the fundamental perfection of a thing. Wabi is the mole on Cindy Crawford’s lip, the wheat bits in Lucky Charms, or the fact that Bill Gates’ fortune is owned by him and not you.

No, we’re talking about deep-seated incipient screw-upped-ness, the kind that puts you on the news as the helicopter gets a top down view of the police surrounding your home. For most of us, fortunately, it expresses itself in less virulent form, usually a furtive, opportunistic violation of one or more of the seven deadly sins when we think we won’t get caught. Coupled with this is the dread knowledge that, not only do we know what we’re doing is wrong, but we’ll probably do again the next time everyone else’s attention is back on the TV. We’re all a country song waiting to happen. With that realization comes the grinding sound of Satan’s backhoe scraping out space in our brain for another yet Hell franchise (six billion locations worldwide!). Hell is in all of us, not just the ones who use cell phones when they drive. All you have to do is look.

Bosch looked. A pessimist and a moralist (one can hardly be one without being the other), Bosch saw what evil lurked in the hearts of men, and then hit the paint. His friends and neighbors were no doubt unhappy to learn they were the motivation for Bosch’s horrifying and fantastical canvases; It’s difficult to live near someone who might paint your face onto a damned creature with Hell’s staff fraternizing in what used to be its butt. But there’s a story about another painter which could shed some light on what Bosch was doing. Pablo Picasso once painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein, only to have someone comment that Stein looked nothing like the painting. Said Picasso: “She will, soon enough.” (And she did). Apply this same reasoning to a picture of yourself with imps in your ass. It might make you think.

Beyond the existential and theological nature of Bosch’s work is the fact that, as paintings, they are just so damned cool. Bosch’s paintings of Hell influenced two great schools of art: Surrealism and Heavy Metal. Surrealism got off on Bosch’s vibrant and innovative use of color and his ability to combine the mundane and the fantastical to make bitter and intelligent social commentary. In fact Bosch had one up on most of the Surrealists in that he actually believed in something; unlike the surrealists and their kissing cousins the dadaists, Bosch’s work is rooted in morality rather than running away from it. Bosch wouldn’t have painted a mustache on Mona Lisa; he’d’ve had her devoured by a fish demon as a pointed warning of the dangers of vanity.

Heavy Metal artists dug Bosch, because, dude, he totally painted demons. Without Bosch, we’d have no Boris Vallejo airbrushings or Dio album covers, and it’s debatable whether Western Culture would be able to survive their lack.

Some ask, does Bosch’s work show Hell as it really is? No less an authority than the Catholic Church suggests that Hell is not so much a location as it is a state of being, an eternal absence of God’s grace rather than a place where pitchforks are constantly, eternally and liberally applied to your eyeballs. In which case, Bosch’s turbulent colors and troublesome devils are just another picture show, a trifle used to scare the credulous and the dim from indulging their baser instincts, like sex and thoughts on the possibility of even more sex.

It’s the wrong question. It’s not important that Bosch shows Hell as it truly is; it’s entirely possible that, other than a useful philosophical construct, Hell doesn’t exist at all. (This does not change the fact that the Backstreet Boys must somehow be eternally punished for their crimes.) But whether it truly exists or not, humans need the idea of Hell, whether it be to scare us into a moral life, comfort the smug ones who believe everyone else is going there, or simply to remind us that the actions of our lives, good or ill, live beyond those lives themselves, and the accounting of them may occur past the day we ourselves happen to stop. Bosch saw the importance of the idea and put it down in oil.

The question is not whether Hell exists, but rather: If we could see our souls in a mirror, rather than our bodies, would they be as Bosch painted them? If they were, we wouldn’t have to wait until the next life for Hell. It would already be here.

Repeat Week — Goodies From the Lost Archives

Work has got me by the neck and is constricting me like a hungry boa, so I’ve got nothing new today, or likely for several days. BUT, rather than pull one of my famous hiati, I’m going to offer up some reruns. In particular, selections from my That Was the Millennium That Was series, written in 1999. Back then I had maybe a couple hundred visitors a day and now I have, uh, more. So these will be new to many of you. And they’re also fairly interesting. And, they’re also not on the current iteration of the site. And, I have a whole lot of ‘em. Add it all up, and they’re fine candidates for repeating. These will run through the end of the week and possibly for a few days after that, so if you have seen these before, come back around next Monday and (God Willing) things will be back to normal.

For everyone else, some background: I wrote these at the tail end of 1999, when everyone was recapping the various “best” of the Millennia. I decided to cover some of the more obscure categories (Best Cheese of the Millennium, for example, or Best Hideously Inbred Royal Family of the Millennium) mostly because no one else had, and I did them right up to the crack of 2000 (yes, I’m aware that technically 2001 is the beginning of the millennium. Let’s not go there). I did them for my own amusement at the time, but later on I sold a bunch of them to the Uncle John’s people for one of their bathroom readers, thus beginning my association with that illustrious publisher (and eventually leading to the Book of the Dumb series). More proof it’s useful to have a Web site, and a high threshold for boredom.

So imagine it’s 1999 again, we’re on the cusp of a new millennium (more or less), and I’m wrapping up some of the best things of the last 1,000 years.

Got it? Then here’s the first one for you. It’s behind the cut.

***

Continue reading Repeat Week — Goodies From the Lost Archives

Hugo Goodness

The Hugo Awards are out (you can find the complete list here), and it’s been a good year for acquaintances and friends, among them:

Charlie Stross, who received three Hugo nominations this year, one for Best Novel (Iron Sunrise) and two in the Best Novella category (for “The Concrete Jungle” and “Elector”).

Kelly Link, for Best Novelette (“The Faery Handbag”)

James Patrick Kelly, for Best Short Story (“The Best Christmas Ever”)

Donato Giancola, for Best Professional Artist (Donato, you may recall, did the cover to my book, although it would be too early for him to be nominated for that)

The New York Review of Science Fiction for Best Semiprozine (they recently bought something from me, so I’m inclined to think well of them; David Hartwell is also nominated for Best Professional Editor)

Strange Horizons, for Best Web Site

And also Elizabeth Bear has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Whoo-hoo to you all!

Hugo Goodness

The Hugo Awards are out (you can find the complete list here), and it’s been a good year for acquaintances and friends, among them:

Charlie Stross, who received three Hugo nominations this year, one for Best Novel (Iron Sunrise) and two in the Best Novella category (for “The Concrete Jungle” and “Elector”).

Kelly Link, for Best Novelette (“The Faery Handbag”)

James Patrick Kelly, for Best Short Story (“The Best Christmas Ever”)

Donato Giancola, for Best Professional Artist (Donato, you may recall, did the cover to my book, although it would be too early for him to be nominated for that)

The New York Review of Science Fiction for Best Semiprozine (they recently bought something from me, so I’m inclined to think well of them; David Hartwell is also nominated for Best Professional Editor)

Strange Horizons, for Best Web Site

And also Elizabeth Bear has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Whoo-hoo to you all!

Hugo Goodness

The Hugo Awards are out (you can find the complete list here), and it’s been a good year for acquaintances and friends, among them:

Charlie Stross, who received three Hugo nominations this year, one for Best Novel (Iron Sunrise) and two in the Best Novella category (for “The Concrete Jungle” and “Elector”).

Kelly Link, for Best Novelette (“The Faery Handbag”)

James Patrick Kelly, for Best Short Story (“The Best Christmas Ever”)

Donato Giancola, for Best Professional Artist (Donato, you may recall, did the cover to my book, although it would be too early for him to be nominated for that)

The New York Review of Science Fiction for Best Semiprozine (they recently bought something from me, so I’m inclined to think well of them; David Hartwell is also nominated for Best Professional Editor)

Strange Horizons, for Best Web Site

And also Elizabeth Bear has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Whoo-hoo to you all!

Little Bits

Some quick notes before I abandon you all for the day (books don’t write themselves, alas).

* I’ll be out through Easter, and I hope yours is ressuriffic!

* I realize that some of you are frightened and confused that I’ve not posted anything self-congratulatory re: Old Man’s War, in, like, a week, so: Rick Kleffel essays OMW and other books obviously inspired by past works in Prizing the Derivatives: The Perfected Pastiche, and also OMW appears to be #3 on the SFBC Bestseller list at the moment, behind Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey and Destroyer by C.J. Cherryh. Groovy. And here’s a nice review from Fantastica Daily: “I absolutely adored this book from the first page.” Wheee! I know of at least one fairly significant review of the book that’s coming up, and some other interesting events have transpired with the book, but I’ll chat about those at some future point.

* Despite noting that submissions for the Subterranean Magazine issue I’m guest-editing will not be accepted before 10/1/05, I am — yes! — already receiving submissions. So let me note now that e-mails sent to submissions@scalzi.com before 10/1/05 will get an auto-responder message, telling them to submit after 10/1/05 and that their current e-mail will likely be deleted unread. The good news here is that since I’m doing bulk deletions, I’m not noting who is sending early submissions, so there’s going to be no penalty accrued if/when they re-submit on time. Still, luck favors those who follow directions. I’m just saying.

* If you had to choose between, say, a Sony PSP and a Mac Mini, what would you choose? I have no reason to ask; I’m merely curious.

* Just a question: What did Florida do to be so full of asshats?

Have a great weekend — see you all on Monday.

Welcome F6Rider and ValkyrieRiders Visitors

My uncle Gale “oZ” Scalzi was kind enough to put a big ol’ ad for Old Man’s War on F6Rider.com, the home site for the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club, which is the largest Honda Valkyrie club in the world, and that ad included a link back here. So, if you’re coming over from F6Rider.com, howdy! I’m glad to have you visit. Wander through and make yourself comfortable. Here’s a bio of me, so you’ll know a little more about me than me just being oZ’s nephew. Here’s also a page about my books, so you know what else I’ve written.

What you’re on now is the Whatever, a blog where I write, well, whatever it is I feel like writing about. At the moment that includes writing and editing (I’ll be guest-editing a science fiction magazine soon), the Terry Schiavo issue, rational vs. irrational politics, and playing with Photoshop to create some really spooky pictures (I promise you neither I nor my adorable child actually look like the spooky pictures. I swear). It’s a whole range of topics, and I hope you like what you see and will consider coming by often.

Those of you who know Gale personally know about his love for music; well, it runs in the family, and here’s some music I’ve put together myself. Enjoy.

And those of you who are already regular visitors here — Hey! Check out my uncle’s site, why don’t you. It’s very cool: About seven years ago he put up a page to celebrate his enjoyment of the Honda Valkyrie motorcycle, and now it’s the hub of entire motorcycle subculture, complete with awesome road trips and gatherings and 20,000 members. Not bad for a homebrewed site done for the love of it. It’s cool. My uncle’s cool.

Welcome F6Rider and ValkyrieRiders Visitors

My uncle Gale “oZ” Scalzi was kind enough to put a big ol’ ad for Old Man’s War on F6Rider.com, the home site for the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club, which is the largest Honda Valkyrie club in the world, and that ad included a link back here. So, if you’re coming over from F6Rider.com, howdy! I’m glad to have you visit. Wander through and make yourself comfortable. Here’s a bio of me, so you’ll know a little more about me than me just being oZ’s nephew. Here’s also a page about my books, so you know what else I’ve written.

What you’re on now is the Whatever, a blog where I write, well, whatever it is I feel like writing about. At the moment that includes writing and editing (I’ll be guest-editing a science fiction magazine soon), the Terry Schiavo issue, rational vs. irrational politics, and playing with Photoshop to create some really spooky pictures (I promise you neither I nor my adorable child actually look like the spooky pictures. I swear). It’s a whole range of topics, and I hope you like what you see and will consider coming by often.

Those of you who know Gale personally know about his love for music; well, it runs in the family, and here’s some music I’ve put together myself. Enjoy.

And those of you who are already regular visitors here — Hey! Check out my uncle’s site, why don’t you. It’s very cool: About seven years ago he put up a page to celebrate his enjoyment of the Honda Valkyrie motorcycle, and now it’s the hub of entire motorcycle subculture, complete with awesome road trips and gatherings and 20,000 members. Not bad for a homebrewed site done for the love of it. It’s cool. My uncle’s cool.

Ten Things About Literary Rejection

Since I will be in the position of rejecting people’s work later in the year, I wanted to post ten quick things about rejection that I think people should know, at least as it regards what I’ll be doing.

1. If you haven’t read Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s seminal “Slushkiller” entry about the editorial side of rejection, stop reading this and go read that instead. Right now. You will be enlightened, and if you’re not, you probably shouldn’t be writing. “Slushkiller” should be given to every single aspiring writer before he or she is allowed to submit a damn thing.

2. The magazine issue I’m editing will feature 12 to 30 articles totaling 60,000 words (more or less). I expect that I will receive more than 30 submissions and/or 60,000 words worth of material for my consideration. Therefore, I expect I will be rejecting a fair amount of material.

3. Writers who do not believe that submission guidelines should apply to them are going to be rather unpleasantly surprised when I disagree. I regard adherence to submission guidelines as an IQ test and assume those who cannot or will not follow them are no more likely to be able to write a good story than a fish can play a tuba. This may be unfair to the writer (and the fish), but not following my submission guidelines is unfair to me (and to other writers who do follow submission guidelines). So that makes us even in the unfairness department. This will weed out a surprising number of submissions. Try not to be one of them.

4. I read each story until it no longer works for me. If that happens before the end of the story, I’m going to reject the piece. I don’t usually know from piece to piece what’s going to work for me. Like pornography or a good melon, I know entertaining work when I see it. But I guarantee you if you think there’s a point at which your story lags, I will, too. Don’t give me the opportunity to decide your piece doesn’t work. If the story works all the way through that doesn’t mean it’s accepted, but it does mean it’ll make it into the pool of stories I’d like to buy.

5. I will almost certainly not be able to buy every single story I’d like to buy. I have finite space and I also have to consider balance for the magazine — I can’t have three stories with the same plot device, even if all three pieces are heartbreakingly good. Therefore, some of the stories I will reject it will kill me to reject — but I’ll have to reject them anyway, and hope that they find another home where they will be loved.

6. You will not know why I rejected your work. I intend to send out form rejections that will politely but briefly note that I will not be able to use the submission. I do not plan to explain the rejection. I recognize that people want to know why their work is rejected, but as a practical matter it would be difficult to individualize each rejection. If you’d like to assume that I loved the piece but was simply unable to put it in the magazine, that’s groovy by me, since in several cases that will be the truth.

7. I am rejecting the piece, not you. As noted above, rejection happens for many reasons, and much good work that deserves publication is rejected for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the writing. The rejection of your submission is not a referendum on you as a human being, or even on you as a writer. It is simply acknowledging that for whatever reason, this piece does not suit my needs at this time. If you take rejection personally as a writer, you will go mad, because every writer gets rejected. A lot.

8. If it helps you to think that the reason I rejected your work is because I’m a fookin’ idjit, I accept and celebrate that decision. Still, try to treat me kindly the next time we see each other.

9. If you were my best friend and you submitted a story I couldn’t use, I would reject it. If you were my mother and you submitted a story I couldn’t use, I would reject it. If you were Jesus at the right hand of God and you submitted a story I couldn’t use, I would reject it. If you were my mortal, hated enemy who submitted a story that knocked me on my ass and fit perfectly with what I was trying to do, I would buy that story in a heartbeat. And then I’d hope you get hit by a bus. Point: The readers of the magazine couldn’t possibly care what my relationship is to the writers. They just want a good read. My job is to make that happen.

10. Whether I reject your story or accept it, I will treat it as I would have my own work treated by another editor. I will assume that every story will work for me until I am persuaded otherwise. I will recognize that the work you’ve sent represents your best efforts. And I will remember that you honor me when you send in your work for my consideration. Thank you. I will try to return the favor.

Spooky Girl

Athena saw the earlier picture of me, and, showing the utter delight of the macabre that no doubt signal that her teenage years will be spent wearing black and ankhs, demanded that I make a picture of her just like it — “only scarier!” Well, okay.

Here’s the picture we started with:

And here’s the picture now. It’s the Pooh shirt that really makes it work, I think.

I’m thinking it will make a perfect Christmas card.

Agent to the Stars Cover Art

As many of you know, I managed to rope in Mike Krahulik (aka “Gabriel”) of Penny Arcade to do the cover art for the cover of Agent to the Stars. And here it is!

a2scover2.jpg

I ask you, how awesome is that? The answer: Pretty damn so. The tabloid on the cover is the one that’s mentioned in the book, and I particularly like how Gabe’s given the picture a tabloidy feel with subtle half-toning (and finger smudges). I’m really really really really happy with this cover.

And now, a reminder: This book is going to be a signed limited edition, so if you want to own it, or even just the cover art, you’re better off pre-ordering it now. Once the run is done, it’s done; no more than 2,000 will be printed (1,000 is actually more likely, but that will depend on pre-orders).

And as a reminder, for each pre-order through the Subterranean Press site, Subterrean will contribute 10% of the book price to Child’s Play, Penny Arcade’s charity for childrens’ hospitals. So not only do you get a cool signed hardcover with great cover art, but you’ll also help make a hospital stay more bearable for a kid. And as an additional reminder, if we sell out an entire 2,000 copy print run, I will contribute an additional $500 to Child’s Play from my own royalties from the book.

(Remember also that you can try Agent before you buy: The entire book is available online here. Enjoy, and then if you like, get it to keep.)

Naturally, I’ll continue to keep you all in the loop with the progress of the book. Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered, and thanks especially to Gabe for doing such excellent work.

Agent to the Stars Cover Art

As many of you know, I managed to rope in Mike Krahulik (aka “Gabriel”) of Penny Arcade to do the cover art for the cover of Agent to the Stars. And here it is!

a2scover2.jpg

I ask you, how awesome is that? The answer: Pretty damn so. The tabloid on the cover is the one that’s mentioned in the book, and I particularly like how Gabe’s given the picture a tabloidy feel with subtle half-toning (and finger smudges). I’m really really really really happy with this cover.

And now, a reminder: This book is going to be a signed limited edition, so if you want to own it, or even just the cover art, you’re better off pre-ordering it now. Once the run is done, it’s done; no more than 2,000 will be printed (1,000 is actually more likely, but that will depend on pre-orders).

And as a reminder, for each pre-order through the Subterranean Press site, Subterrean will contribute 10% of the book price to Child’s Play, Penny Arcade’s charity for childrens’ hospitals. So not only do you get a cool signed hardcover with great cover art, but you’ll also help make a hospital stay more bearable for a kid. And as an additional reminder, if we sell out an entire 2,000 copy print run, I will contribute an additional $500 to Child’s Play from my own royalties from the book.

(Remember also that you can try Agent before you buy: The entire book is available online here. Enjoy, and then if you like, get it to keep.)

Naturally, I’ll continue to keep you all in the loop with the progress of the book. Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered, and thanks especially to Gabe for doing such excellent work.

Agent to the Stars Cover Art

As many of you know, I managed to rope in Mike Krahulik (aka “Gabriel”) of Penny Arcade to do the cover art for the cover of Agent to the Stars. And here it is!

a2scover2.jpg

I ask you, how awesome is that? The answer: Pretty damn so. The tabloid on the cover is the one that’s mentioned in the book, and I particularly like how Gabe’s given the picture a tabloidy feel with subtle half-toning (and finger smudges). I’m really really really really happy with this cover.

And now, a reminder: This book is going to be a signed limited edition, so if you want to own it, or even just the cover art, you’re better off pre-ordering it now. Once the run is done, it’s done; no more than 2,000 will be printed (1,000 is actually more likely, but that will depend on pre-orders).

And as a reminder, for each pre-order through the Subterranean Press site, Subterrean will contribute 10% of the book price to Child’s Play, Penny Arcade’s charity for childrens’ hospitals. So not only do you get a cool signed hardcover with great cover art, but you’ll also help make a hospital stay more bearable for a kid. And as an additional reminder, if we sell out an entire 2,000 copy print run, I will contribute an additional $500 to Child’s Play from my own royalties from the book.

(Remember also that you can try Agent before you buy: The entire book is available online here. Enjoy, and then if you like, get it to keep.)

Naturally, I’ll continue to keep you all in the loop with the progress of the book. Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered, and thanks especially to Gabe for doing such excellent work.

Clearing the Sulferous Air

creepyscalzi1.jpg

Just to address the rumors:

1. Yes, apparently a gateway to Hell randomly appeared in my basement last week. That “sump pump flooding” story: A tissue of lies. Sorry.

2. Yes, I was briefly possessed by an entity of pure unfathomable malevolence, who claimed various names, among them “Sulferlucent,” “Gadsennezzar,” and “Tom Delay,” and who demanded to watch episodes of Who’s the Boss and to feast on kittens.

3. No, we did not feast on kittens. Yes, we watched Who’s the Boss, but only briefly — just long enough for the malevolent entity to confirm there were worse things than Hell.

4. Yes, a Weekly World News reporter and photographer happened to photograph me whilst possessed. No, I don’t know their current whereabouts or how they could have disappeared without a trace. You’ll to ask someone else about where their bones may lay. Their sweet, crunchy, marrow-filled bones.

5. Yes, the entity of pure unfathomable malevolence eventually left my body, closing the Hellish portal behind it. Well, mostly. No, our house is not now powered exclusively from geothermal vents. The vents are certainly thermal, but scientists and theologians both might argue the “geo-” aspect.

6. No, I’m not liable to be possessed again anytime soon.

7. Yes, your bones look very sweet indeed.

Terry Schiavo

A reader has asked me what I think of the Terry Schiavo case. Well, naturally, I think that I think it’s wonderful that we live in a country where the heads of the House, Senate and the Executive branch feel perfectly at ease using the immense power of the national government to micromanage the medical decisions of a single individual, because of course it’s not like there’s anything else it needs to be doing at the time. I additionally adore living in a country where a politician who doesn’t know me or my spouse can decide he knows better what’s in my medical interest than my spouse, and can say he doesn’t care what my spouse thinks if I don’t, in fact, leave detailed and notarized instructions for every specific medical incident that might occur. And obviously I am puffed up with pride whenever my national government decides the constitutionally enumerated rights of the states should be shunted aside when a state’s courts come up with a decision that the leaders of the national government disagree and can make political hay with.

Yes, there’s nothing that makes me feel more like my individual liberties, my system of federal government, and the sanctity of my marriage are all safe and sound than the capricious, imperial meddling of my national government and its leaders.

Also, of course, nothing embodies classical conservative political principles than all of the above, so it’s heartening to see our nation’s leaders — conservatives all! — so ably flying that flag. God bless ‘em. I will pray for them, and for us all.

Update: Rivka over at Respectful of Otters has some interesting perspectives on the medical and ethical issues re: Mrs. Schiavo, with additional commentary from Obsidian Wings.

Update Update: I heart Dahlia Lithwick, who puts the whole thing in perfect jurisprudential perspective at Slate.

Terry Schiavo

A reader has asked me what I think of the Terry Schiavo case. Well, naturally, I think that I think it’s wonderful that we live in a country where the heads of the House, Senate and the Executive branch feel perfectly at ease using the immense power of the national government to micromanage the medical decisions of a single individual, because of course it’s not like there’s anything else it needs to be doing at the time. I additionally adore living in a country where a politician who doesn’t know me or my spouse can decide he knows better what’s in my medical interest than my spouse, and can say he doesn’t care what my spouse thinks if I don’t, in fact, leave detailed and notarized instructions for every specific medical incident that might occur. And obviously I am puffed up with pride whenever my national government decides the constitutionally enumerated rights of the states should be shunted aside when a state’s courts come up with a decision that the leaders of the national government disagree and can make political hay with.

Yes, there’s nothing that makes me feel more like my individual liberties, my system of federal government, and the sanctity of my marriage are all safe and sound than the capricious, imperial meddling of my national government and its leaders.

Also, of course, nothing embodies classical conservative political principles than all of the above, so it’s heartening to see our nation’s leaders — conservatives all! — so ably flying that flag. God bless ‘em. I will pray for them, and for us all.

Update: Rivka over at Respectful of Otters has some interesting perspectives on the medical and ethical issues re: Mrs. Schiavo, with additional commentary from Obsidian Wings.

Update Update: I heart Dahlia Lithwick, who puts the whole thing in perfect jurisprudential perspective at Slate.

Terry Schiavo

A reader has asked me what I think of the Terry Schiavo case. Well, naturally, I think that I think it’s wonderful that we live in a country where the heads of the House, Senate and the Executive branch feel perfectly at ease using the immense power of the national government to micromanage the medical decisions of a single individual, because of course it’s not like there’s anything else it needs to be doing at the time. I additionally adore living in a country where a politician who doesn’t know me or my spouse can decide he knows better what’s in my medical interest than my spouse, and can say he doesn’t care what my spouse thinks if I don’t, in fact, leave detailed and notarized instructions for every specific medical incident that might occur. And obviously I am puffed up with pride whenever my national government decides the constitutionally enumerated rights of the states should be shunted aside when a state’s courts come up with a decision that the leaders of the national government disagree and can make political hay with.

Yes, there’s nothing that makes me feel more like my individual liberties, my system of federal government, and the sanctity of my marriage are all safe and sound than the capricious, imperial meddling of my national government and its leaders.

Also, of course, nothing embodies classical conservative political principles than all of the above, so it’s heartening to see our nation’s leaders — conservatives all! — so ably flying that flag. God bless ‘em. I will pray for them, and for us all.

Update: Rivka over at Respectful of Otters has some interesting perspectives on the medical and ethical issues re: Mrs. Schiavo, with additional commentary from Obsidian Wings.

Update Update: I heart Dahlia Lithwick, who puts the whole thing in perfect jurisprudential perspective at Slate.