Thursday, June 29, 2006


I am off to Conzilla, Westercon 59, in lovely San Diego, which will be running July 1-4.

The committee has done me the kindness of making me the Guest of Honor. Bob Eggleton, Bobby Armbruster, and Kevin J Anderson are the other guests.

It should be fun. I am participating in an Iron Chef competition, among other events too numerous to mention here.

Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. We'll chat.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Spanish Guitar

The other night we journeyed to Socorro, the Athens of the Southwest, for a concert by the Chilean guitarist Carlos Perez. He was in town to teach master classes at the summer guitar workshop held every year by New Mexico Tech. Kathy always does their publicity, and this year she wangled free tickets.

I’ve always found that certain guitar styles are so much more interesting when you get to watch the playing. Classical guitar is one of these: I never play solo guitar music around the house, but I always enjoy it played live. (I find this holds true for more popular guitar styles as well, as for example Ry Cooder, whose concerts always seem to be so much more exciting than his albums.)

Perez has won numerous competitions, though he still seems fresh-faced and young. He began as a self-taught guitarist, though he afterwards entered various academies and did spectacularly well.

As a performer Perez was entirely watchable. He got very intimate with his guitar, peering at close range at whatever his left hand was doing, at times so close he was crosseyed. He shifted the padded guitar rest from his left thigh to his right thigh when playing waltzes, but never at any other time. He never made those annoying shrieking sounds when changing his fingering, and he made interesting orgasm faces during parts of the music.

(I fear my critical vocabulary for the classical guitar is sadly lacking.)

Perez opened with pieces by Luis Milan, Ferdinando Carulli, and Joaquin Rodrigo. He played expertly, but there were what seemed to be occasional slips. Maybe he was a little under-rehearsed on those pieces. The second half of the concert was devoted entirely to the 20th Century Venezuelan composer Antonio Lauro, and it was with these pieces that Perez really shone. The playing was expert, passionate, and deeply felt— everything you want Latin guitar to be.

Perez’s next CD will be entirely devoted to the music of Lauro. Maybe I’ll ignore my usual rule about recordings of solo guitar and actually acquire a copy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Virtual T

The following were actually said during critiques at Rio Hondo, and thus make up the Rio Hondo Virtual T-Shirt. Thanks to Michaela Roessner and Nina Kiriki Hoffman for recording these.

*"I don't have many problems with this, and I can't pretend to." Gavin

*"What you've got is two climaxes and a dying fall with a question in the middle of it." Howard

*"The legitimate by-blows of the Cairo nuns."

*"Give us more of Henry not being scattered before you scatter him." Walter

*"I begin to get humor fatigue." Walter

*"Does that butter pat not fly both ways?" Jay

*"There's a real art to writing something that doesn't make any sense. This doesn't make any sense, and I can't not notice that it doesn't make any sense." Daniel

*"That's always been the big question about Hell. If you don't have a physical body, how can you be tortured?" Carrie

*"A human being would be a much better devil than a devil would be." Kelly

*"Having a guy's spine ripped out again and again and again....there are ways that you could treat that as comedy." Paolo

*"Anytime you use the word 'somehow' in fiction, it means you haven't done your homework." Howard

*"If this is 50s sf, she's the dirt girl who's living on the planet (Ohio) and wants to get to the stars (Cancun) and she gets there. If it's an 80s sf story, she's the dirt girl who wants to go to the stars and gets there, only to discover she's killed everything she loves." David

*"My sense of this story is that it's a whack story, and it should get more whack at every opportunity." Paolo

*"It's very hard to take Tonio's victims, when they're truly miserable, or dead, or descending into drug hazes, as objects of fun." Daniel

*"The probabilities now are just sizzling blood and bar scenes." Ray

*"It felt like you've taken all your skills at circumlocution and hint-dropping and lined them up to deliver a big bang at the end, but then the bang didn't happen." David

*"My experience is you set out to be obscure, and you succeeded." Paolo

*"I've got a severe case of outrage fatigue." Carrie

*"I have a feeling of being manipulated, and my reaction to that is to become a wilfully stupid reader." Carrie

*"What you're aiming for is a false clarity -- where what you're showing is as clear as that window, but what's beyond it, we can't tell." Walter

*Parenting is about "giving your kids good teeth and a good education and sending them out in the hopes that they won't blow up the capitol someday and embarrass you." Howard

*Give me enough information that "I can stop worrying about what's going on and worry about what comes next." Daniel

*"When the angel erupts, either he explodes or starts spewing things." Walter

* The dog's power arc worried me throughout.

*There are always more nuns.

*You need to have the cheese issue up front.

* I don't think I've ever said this about a story before, and probably never will again in the future, but *please* -- more telling, less showing. (Carrie)

* . . . or whether Dexter is just a complex dog with many facets to his personality.

* There *will* be some thematic resonance . . . and all that crap. (Walter)

* As far as Harry impregnating the maid Celia -- that just seems like business as usual. Not that I condone that, or anything. (Ted)

* What you have with a story full of drooling morons is a maximum capacity issue. (Jay)

* I think you were trying to be obscure, and you've succeeded. (Paolo)

* If the aliens are so groovy, why didn't they stop the flu? They're so mean. (Ted)

* What are his pants made out of, kryptonite or something? (Howard)

* I'm sorry I can't be more helpful. That's why I'm flailing around being amusing. (Walter)

* *Green* guys as the bad guys? I could understand it if the *red* guys were the bad guys, but the *green* guys? (Ted)

* I feel used by your story. (Paolo)

* I find that even in a fantasy that I cannot believe in a City of Hoboken. (Walter)

* Fairly usable women weren't put to waste. (Howard)

* All the concern about Merriweather Lewis is positively sexual. (Maureen)

* Less yelling; more bureaucracy. (David)

* Whales on stilts . . . why not? (David)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Down From The Mountain

I've been away. Now I'm back.

I was at Snow Bear, a ski lodge at 9800 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Taos, NM. Since it's summer, there wasn't any skiing going on. Instead we had the Rio Hondo Workshop, which I run most years, this time with the able assistance of Michaela Roessner.

We had some terrific writers, including Howard Waldrop, Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Daniel Abraham, and Maureen McHugh. We had terrific food, featuring Maureen's counterintuitive coconut-crusted tofu with mango salsa, Jay Lake's Tibetan momos, Mikey's chicken mole and chocolate ganache in cajeta sauce, and my own homemade pate de foies de volaille, handmade ravioli with herbed goat cheese, and black roux gumbo a la Chef Francoise le Vison (now a motel owner in Page, AZ. Go figure.).

We workshopped stories against a background of aspen, ponderosa, and mountain splendor. We saw hawks, deer, ravens, bunnies, and bear shit. We bounded up mountain paths like ancient, wheezing mountain goats.

My cold hung on through the workshop, so I was somewhat lacking in vim (not to mention intelligence), but once I catch up on my sleep and finally shake the cold, I expect to be highly energized and motivated.

Maureen says she was asked about the critiques once, and she said, "Walter always wants the writers to change everything. He thinks the stories should all be science fiction, and that's not what the workshop is about."

Actually I just want the stories to make sense, and SF is the tool I use for that. So there.

Here is a picture. Connect the dots.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Searching for Vim

This weekend, I participated as a judge in the tests of 133 candidates for black belt in the American Kenpo Karate Academy. Candidates had come from all over the country for this twice-yearly event.

Some had come from sea level to test at 7000 feet on a hot, dusty mountain meadow. We started the testing early in the morning when it was cooler, but by the end of the day it was approaching 100 degrees. So what I saw among the candidates was not only skill, but grit and determination, fighting through their own exhaustion and physical weakness to achieve their goal.

Due to last year's surgeries, my own physical abilities are somewhat compromised--- temporarily, I trust. But there was nothing like watching the skill of my peers to inspire me to my own further efforts.

But unfortunately someone on the mountdain had a virus, and now I've got a cold. It's the second cold in two months, and if I had any energy I'd be angry about it. But I am utterly without vim, and all I've managed for the last several days is to sit in front of the tube and watch videos.

Damn, I hate to waste inspiration this way.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Alien Blood-Bats Strike India!

Alien life-forms in India. No kidding. Really.