Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reviews Too Late: Saints and Soldiers

There's nothing for setting the tone like beginning your film with an act of moral cowardice, just to let everyone know where we all stand. This we find in Saints and Soldiers, a World War II drama--- "Based on Real Events" ---which opens with the Malmedy Massacre, which as history (but not Bill O'Reilly) knows was a slaughter of American POWs by soldiers of the 1st SS Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler panzer division under the command of Obersturmbannfuhrer Jochim Peiper (a swine).

In the movie, the Germans kill the Americans not because they were ordered to, or because it was standard practice for this outfit, but because they overreacted to an American prisoner's attempt to escape. The massacre is shown to be the Americans' fault, just like Bill O'Reilly says.

Lord knows we can't have a World War II movie that shows the SS as bad people. We might offend the Nazis!

After the massacre, four escaped soldiers meet up in the woods and decide to make a heroic march 20 miles across country to the American lines, thus duplicating the feeble-brained decision of soldiers in another dimwitted war film, Battle of the Bulge, in which survivors of the Malmedy massacre make it all the way to Bastogne, 32 miles away as the crow flies.

(In fact, the town of Malmedy itself was still in American hands, and real-life survivors had a walk of only a few kilometers.)

Of the three survivors, one is a Dim Country Boy, one a Tough Sergeant, and one a Jewish Atheist from Brooklyn, the latter encompassing in one person no less than three of the necessary categories for members of a rifle squad according to Hollywood rules.

The fourth is more interesting: he's a shellshocked Mormon, prone to visions of dead civilians he's accidentally killed, but an exceedingly deadly fighter when he's in his right mind. He and the Sarge are both paratroopers. In real life, the airborne hadn't entered the battle when the action of the film starts, so the film comes up with an unlikely reason for their presence. Since they're not actually jumping out of aircraft at any point in this film, the necessity of their being paratroopers escaped me.

The unit is soon joined by a shot-down British aviator, carrying a roll of film that contains a Vital Secret that must be got to the allies as soon as possible. This is so implausible that the screenwriters never explain what the Vital Secret actually is. (Possibly a closeup of the swastika on Jochim Peiper's underpants.)

Most of the film consists of the cast members trudging through the snow while engaging in clumsy dialog meant to reveal character. (The British flier actually asks the other characters to each tell him a secret, which--- we have already established that they're all idiots--- they do.) The Jewish Atheist and the Mormon debate the existence and the benevolence of God. The debate is never resolved, but the action of the film tends to tilt us toward the negative.

God save us from tedious action films! Many scenes of shivering GIs trudging through the snow while engaged in pointless dialog turns out not to be your guarantee of thrills and suspense.

When we finally get to the action, it's not bad. The film made excellent use of a bunch of World War II re-creationists that they hauled up to the snow-covered mountains of northern Utah.

Most of the cast die heroically, stupidly, or arbitrarily, which is realistic enough. The Vital Secret is passed on to the Allies, who--- as a consequence, no doubt--- win the war.

I'm still wondering what the real-life basis for the film is. My guess is, "There was this battle, it had Germans and Americans, we'll put that in our movie."

By the way, when the British pilot falls into a river, he comes out without his mustache. I thought I'd mention that to show just how closely I view these films.

My advice is to watch Band of Brothers all over again.

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Digging Out

I've been digging out of the pile of work, odd jobs, repairs, and yard work that piled up during our trip out of town.

The only thing that really matters to anyone, including me, is that I've revised This is Not a Game and sent the manuscript back to the fine folks at Little, Brown.

More importantly, and certainly more pleasurable, was our celebration of our fourteenth wedding anniversary. We had dinner with friends, and then went on to the theater.

As first marriages go, it seems to be doing rather well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lightning Strikes Twice

Yesterday I participated in a "plotbreak" session, in which I and some other writers got together to help plot another writer's book--- or in this case, series.

This is one of the tools that our local writers' group uses to, well, make our books so damn good. We had six creative minds contributing in the matter of character arcs, act-outs, pacing, themes, plot points, and even symbolism. We took a story that was really promising and made it solidly, terrifically good. We jettisoned one point-of-view character who didn't have enough to do and replaced him with another. We worked out why battle swine are a good investment. We explained why you should always shoot the guy with the megaphone. And we worked out a way for doing double-entry bookkeeping with magic.

We had some pretty high-powered people at this affair. Melinda Snodgrass, Daniel Abraham, Ian Tregillis, Victor Milan, Ty Franck, and me. Carrie Vaughn drove all the way from Denver to participate (and to do some vacation-realted stuff, too). We're all really freaking good at this.

The thing that is most required in one of these sessions is that you shouldn't bring your ego along. If you're one of the writers who insists that no other human should tamper with your perfect prose, or lay sticky gooey fingers on your sacred ideas, you probably won't have a good time at one of these. Having half a dozen other writers telling you what's wrong or incomplete with your story can be a little . . . intimidating.
'Cuz, y'know, our loyalties in this affairs are to the story, not to the writer. That's what it's about, making the book better. It's like any other kind of honest workshop.

To make it work we also have to have an honest audience for the results. Those who participate in the plotbreak aren't the best people for this--- we have a bias in favor of our own ideas, and when it comes to plot, we pretty much know what's going to happen next. You need a control group to read with minds unbiased by the process. So only a part of the local group participated, the rest will make their mark in reading the actual books.

And, let's face it, plotting is only a small part of the process. The poor writer still has to write the series. And that is done while alone, staring into a monitor while trying not to be distracted by the cat/the family/the election news. The writer is the one who makes it brilliant, not the rest of us.

While this was going on, a lightning storm began. We were taking a break, so we walked out on the covered back porch to watch the downpour. Ian even walked out into the rain.

"Hey, Ian," said Ty. "If you're hit by lightning, be sure to scream so we know to help you."

"Will do," said Ian.

Eventually the downpour increased and even Ian returned to the shelter of the porch. Carrie and Ty were on the porch swing. And then---


What I saw was a huge bright sizzle of electricity shooting down the metal stanchion holding up a corner of the porch, just a short distance behind where Ty and Carrie were swinging. Ty saw electricity dancing along the metal strip on the edge of the porch roof. Chunks of wood and debris began raining down from the tree next to the porch. Lights in the house went out.

The thunderclap was enormous. I, who was standing, raised one knee and crouched into a semi-fetal position while holding my hands over my ears.

We all decided to go indoors. Ty and Carrie were lucky they weren't holding on to the metal chains holding up the porch swing.

As we reconstructed it later, the thunderbolt hit the tree next to the porch and blew up, but did not actually knock down, one of the higher limbs. It then jumped to the corner of the porch and conducted itself along all things metal until it descended into the soaked ground. There were smoky chunks of wood found on the lawn later.

It was probably an omen, but we're not sure of what.

  • We plan a new series, and
  • The gods hurl a lightning bolt.

Is this thing a good thing or a bad thing? Is the series doomed, or will it strike lightning in the marketplace.

One good thing, I assured everone, is that now we're all going to get some really neat superpowers!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Am Heard From Yet Again

Bookseller McNally Robinson has made available a lengthy interview with me. Some of the questions are not the usual out-of-the-box numbers, so I had to actually do some thinking in response.

They have also very kindly made Voice of the Whirlwind a staff pick.


Paintings in Oil

The world's oldest oil paintings have been discovered in Asia, dating from the 5th to 9th centuries, well before the technique was imported (or independently rediscovered) by Europeans.

The most heartening aspect of this news is that the oil paintings are at the Buddhist site in Bamyan in Afghanistan, where the Taliban, with encouragement from al-Qaeda, blew up the colossal Buddha statues back in 2001 in a world-class case of cultural vandalism.

The Taliban didn't do a very thorough job, it seems. The Bamyan complex is very large, and in the tunnels and structures behind the Buddhas are thoroughly decorated with Buddhist imagery, including the oil paintings. The paintings have been severely damaged, but much remains intact.

UNESCO is attempting a restoration of the statues, so perhaps the paintings will be restored as well.

In the meantime I'm all glowy that culture survives and that the Taliban's most infamous act was performed in such a incompetent fashion.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

STILL everywhere!

And for those of you who haven't yet read enough positive reviews of Implied Spaces, here's one from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Or you could just trust me and buy it. When have I ever led you astray?

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Sylvania vs. Ghosts

Okay, a roundup of this week's amusing videos.

From Thailand, Sylvania helps you fight ghosts.

Gorbachev saves Russian hotties from Stalin zombies with laser eyes, head stain, and a battle axe, causing a rain of Twinkies and popsicles from the sky.

And, for those who haven't already seen it, a lengthy chunk of the new Joss Whedon project.


Top Ten

A few years back, Prospect Magazine inaugurated a yearly poll to name the world's top public intellectuals. Basically, you type in a name and click. This year, the results were surprising.

Who are the world's top ten intellectuals? A bunch of Islamic guys you probably never heard of, led by Turkey's Fethullah Gulen. The first Westerner is Noam Chomsky at #11, followed by Al Gore, Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis, and Umberto Eco.

This is good news. That Islamic scholars, and intellectuals with an Islamic background (like, say, Orhan Pamuk), are conducting an energetic dialog about the meaning of Islam in the modern world, is also good news. And that Gulen came in first is even better news.

Gulen is a modern, humanist, liberal cleric with a background in Sufism. He opposes terrorism as anti-Islamic. He is pro-democracy and pro-science (he even publishes a science magazine). He's got a loosely-knit organization of 5 million people, and owns hospitals, broadcast stations, and 500 elite schools. If you're in an Islamic country, and some young person comes up to you and offers to help or translate, the odds are pretty good that he's a product of one of Gulen's academies.

In short, if you've got to have a faith, this is the sort of faith to have.

The other nine names in the top ten include three Nobel winners, some very respectable clerics, teachers, jurists, one novelist, a number of exiles, and only one guy who actually supports suicide bombing. Rather too many of them can't seem to get visas to visit the States.

People from Islamic countries seem to have participated enthusiastically in the poll, perhaps all the more eagerly because so many are denied the use of the ballot box at home. Though the system was open to abuse, Prospect claims the poll was not hacked.

So--- a magazine actually consulted the public in naming public intellectuals. It may not make that mistake again, but we can hope that it will.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Imperial Ain't In It

At the end of our trip we spent two nights at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I haven't been to the Grand Canyon in something like thirty years: I went with my dad as a teenager, and some time in the late 1970s there was a LepreCon on the South Rim, and I traveled out with some friends and crashed many-to-a-room.

Things haven't changed much. Our room was not quite large enough for ourselves and our bags; likewise the bed. The Grand Canyon is not for sleeping anyway, not if you're dedicated to the gorgeousness of it. Both mornings found me awake at 5:30--- a practically unheard-of hour for me--- to watch dawn break over the canyon.

The first morning I drove the 15 miles to Cape Royal, a point surrounded on three sides by the canyon. (Kathy decided to view the canyon from the lodge, where she could drink coffee.) The point was covered with sagebrush in bloom, and with other colorful flowers taking full advantage of the North Rim's short growing season. The far rim of the canyon, fifteen miles away, was already glowing pink as I arrived. As I danced from one vantage point to the next, the sunrise gradually crept down the canyon's walls, illuminating each geological layer in turn. I documented this with what must have been over a hundred photos. After an hour or so, before sunlight could reach the lower parts of the canyon, the sun went behind clouds, and the walls of the canyon became dull.
I returned to the lodge for breakfast. The North Rim's HQ is a spacious building with terraces overlooking the canyon, and a dining room with plate windows through which diners can find their inspiration.
I went back to bed. There were showers, and the sun came out in the afternoon, so Kathy and I retraced my steps of the morning. I snapped another hundred pictures from Cape Royal and from Point Imperial, which I hadn't visited in the morning. The cloud cover was breaking up, and the shadows of dozens of clouds moved across the canyon walls, producing brilliant contrasts and ever-changing subtleties.
The Grand Canyon is so huge that the vista is always changing, even if there's cloud cover. I snapped a great many pictures trying to document these subtle changes, with little success. In my attempt to chart the changes I created a great many more-or-less identical pictures of formations like the Temple of Vishnu and Wotan's Throne. (The "heroic style" in which the formations are named is amusing, but more appropriate than a prosaic modern style, where you'd have formations like the Spare Tire and the Cheeseburger.)
Basically I could stare at clouds moving over the canyon all day. If I hadn't had work to do, and bills to pay, I might still be there.
Leaving the Grand Canyon on Saturday we dropped through the canyon's formations one-by-one, from the Kaibab Formation at the top through the Toroweap Formation, Coconino Sandstone, Hermit Shale, Supai Group, and Redwall Limestone. For hundreds of miles we passed through vistas of brilliant red cliffs, and drove through towns with descriptive names like Cliff Dwellers, Marble Canyon, Bitter Springs, the Gap, Moenkopi, Tuba City, Kykotsmovi, Shungopavi, Keams Canyon, Steamboat, Ganado, and the capital of the Navajo Nation at Window Rock. (Fans of Tony Hillerman's novels may recognize some of these locations.) We drove through the Navajo Reservation and onto the Hopi Reservation, and then back into Navajoland once more, moving in time as we went (metaphorically enough, Arizona, the Navajos, and the Hopis all live in different time zones).
Eventually we connected with the Interstate system and the white man's world at Gallup, and from there it was a swift journey home.
We were nine days away. I think I have seen more natural wonder in this period than I have in any similar period in my life--- and add to that Shakespeare and teepee motels.
Mundane life, right now, is providing an unfortunate contrast.


Monday, July 14, 2008


The theater festival we attended last week was a Shakespearean festival rather than a Shakespeare festival. By which I understand that the events were not Shakespeare, but somehow like Shakespeare. Stratford, Oregon, Los Angeles, and Tulane have Shakespeare festivals. Utah is alone in being Shakespearean.

If the festival was Shakespeare-like, it was fortunately not Shakespeare Lite. Except, of course, when it needed to be.

I had some apprehensions about seeing Taming of the Shrew. It is as much a minefield as a play--- even in Elizabethan times the play's attitudes toward gender were considered fairly Neanderthal, as evidenced by John Fletcher's attempt to right the balance in a sequel, The Tamer Tamed. (Has anyone seen it? Read it?)

G.B. Shaw wrote, 'No man with any decency of feeling can sit it out in the company of a woman without being extremely ashamed of the lord-of-creation moral implied in the wager and the speech put into the woman's own mouth.'

Well indeed, yes. So how to play it? You can bury the invidious message beneath slapstick. You can play the ending straight, which implies that Kate is not so much tamed as broken, or brainwashed. Or you can play it ironically, which can be comforting to modern sensibilities but also subversive of the play.

I had seen the Taylor/Burton/Ziffereli version (ghastly), the "twinkly" Raul Julia/Meryl Streep version (broad comedy), the "non-twinkly" Jonathan Miller production for the BBC (earnest and dullish), and a recent stage version which attempted to avoid the minefields altogether by making the whole play a dream by the drunken Christopher Sly, the character seen in the play's induction and never seen again.

Utah's production was set in 1947 during the American occupation, with Petruchio as a GI in search of a war bride. This was a problem for some of the patrons, who want their Shakespeare in tights and pumpkin hats and nothing else. (I noticed that there were a lot fewer complains after the play than before--- the general excellence of the production convinced many of the skeptics.)

In short, it was the best Shrew I have seen. It was a full-on comic version, with Christopher Sly and many other subplots trimmed.

The director, Jane Page, did a very intelligent thing by providing sound and light cues when lovers first locked eyes with one another. When Kate and Petruchio first saw each other, a plangent chord told you that they'd fallen in love, and you knew that everything was going to be all right.

Shakespeare tells us that in the wedding scene Petruchio and his valet dress inappropriately. I doubt that he had drag in mind. I didn't think it added much to the production until it was pointed out to me that Petruchio was dressed as a parody of Kate, and his bullying behavior in the following scenes was meant to reflect Kate's behavior back to her.

In the play, Petruchio mentions that he's been a soldier. Soldiers train recruits by marching them up and down mountains, throwing them in the mud, and depriving them of comforts and food, which is what Petruchio does to Kate. By the morning after the wedding, Kate was dressed in Army fatigues and snapping out ironic salutes.

It might not have worked if the leads didn't have such strong chemistry. Their mutual charisma tended to float them harmlessly over the play's minefields.

Kate's final speech--- "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee . . . " ---was performed straight, though with a little twinkle toward Petruchio that suggested that this might be a game they would play together. And right at the end Petruchio makes a gesture--- (it's not original to this production, though even so I'm reluctant to put a spoiler here) --- anyway, the gesture saves the play, and him. The cast and crew then sing and dance along with Dean Martin in "That's Amore," a song guaranteed to send everyone out of the theater in a good mood. And that was that. Minefields avoided, mostly.

Except for the next morning's ideologue who complained about Kate showing too much skin as she was changing into her fatigues. Who also complained about Julia showing too much skin in "Two Gentlemen." And who may have been the same ideologue--- I'm not sure--- who complained about the vile sexist attitudes of the characters in Moliere's "School for Wives," without noticing that the play is a vicious satire of those attitudes. (A good production, with Timothy Casto as Arnolphe twitching and mugging and generally stealing the show as one disastrous revelation after another drop like anvils on his head.)

Next day was "Fiddler on the Roof"--- the festival always does at least one musical. A quite sumptuous production, with tunes that I've been unable to get out of my head in the days since. Topped by "Othello," which benefitted greatly from a strong Othello, a strong Amelia, and a strong Desdemona--- who was also very good as a headstrong teenage Julia in "Two Gentlemen." It took me a while to warm up to the Iago--- his scenes with Othello were terrific, but I didn't care for his scenes with anyone else. Weird, that.

By the second day I'd figured out that all the plays were about relationships in which one person is trying to control the other, all with varying success.

All, I guess, very Shakespeare-like.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Daniel's On A Roll (4)

Just when you began to suspect this blog was going to be all about me all the time, here I prove you wrong.

An Autumn War, the third book of Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet, is about to be released.

I've read the book in manuscript, and it's spectacularly good. Buy it and read it, along with the other books in the series.

If you don't believe me, here's Paul deFilippo over on SciFi Weekly.

"Three-quarters of the way through The Long Price Quartet, a journey that began with A Shadow in Summer (2006) and continued through A Betrayal in Winter (2007), Daniel Abraham tosses a spanner into his carefully and lovingly contrived subcreation which ensures that readers will be perched on the edges of their seats for an unfathomable resolution in next year's The Price of Spring . . .

"And what does Abraham focus on, then? Shakespearean high tragedy (no comedy, by the way), where the seeds planted by the characters' vices and virtues bear their eventual fruit. (Consider that the second volume was practically a retelling of Macbeth.) He's meticulous in following the threads he began three books ago (some 25 years to 30 years pass for the characters) to their destined ends, providing much emotional heft and resonance.

"By daring to destroy his subcreation, Abraham regenerates an entire mode of fantasy."

No, I don't know what that means, either. But check it out anyway.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

The Bard of Utah

We are in Cedar City, Utah, home of the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Kathy had been trying to get me to the festival for years. "I have seen Shakespeare in London," I told her. "I have seen Shakespeare in Stratford. Wherefore would I wish to see Shakespeare in Utah?"

Which I still maintain is a perfectly sensible question.

Kathy finally succeeded in dragging me to Utah in 1999, and I made a discovery. The theater here is as good as theater is anywhere. The US, while I wasn't looking, had at long last established enough reperatory companies in enough towns to train up a set of professional stage actors equal to the Brits, and with equivalent depth.

The Utah festival is different from most in that it doesn't receive much, if any, public funding. The festival is dependant on ticket sales and the occasional deep-pocketed patron. Dependent on ticket sales as they are, they are dependent on the average theater-goer. And because, when the average American theater-goer thinks of Shakespeare, he thinks of Elizabethans in tights performing in a wooden O, that is exactly what the Utah festival gives him. The result is a series of rich, gorgeous, traditional-looking productions performed by an expert cast, many of them in a replica Globe theater--- one that, until the original Globe was dug out of the Thames mud a few years ago, was considered the "most authentic" of the various reproductions strung across North America, mostly in towns named Stratford.

Unlike the original productions, there are no matinees in the replica Globe. You don't want to sit at 7000 feet in the blazing Utah summer sun for a whole afternoon, trust me that you don't.

There are two other, more conventional theaters, one to present different plays, and the other an indoor rain stage used when the heavens threaten to drown the Globe's groundlings.

The Globe shows an extremely good design for a theater. The thrust stage puts the performance in the middle of the audience, and the assortment of balconies, doors, and other apertures at the rear of the stage provide plenty of opportunities for exits, entrances, and general variety. Unless you're stuck behind one of the pillars holding up the roof, there isn't a bad seat in the house.

Before the evening performance, the apprentices and understudies cavort on the green behind the Globe, doing songs, jigs, comic sketches, puppet shows, and other foolery. This while other apprentices, adopting Renfaire British accents, hawk various goodies and souvenirs, including lollies in the shape of Shakespeare's head. (I have never myself been tempted to suck on Shakespeare's head, but tastes in this matter may vary.)

The actors onstage, by the way, do not adopt fake British accents, for which I applaud them.

This afternoon's matinee, held indoors on the rain stage, was that well-known Shakespeare play Cyrano de Bergerac, this time in the Anthony Burgess translation, which attempts to reproduce at least a few of the original's rhyming couplets. I can't help but think that Cyrano is pretty much a perfect play. Few lines go to waste; each scene sets up the next; the rhetoric is gorgeous no matter whose translation you're using. And the hero writes science fiction--- what more do you want?

Starring was Brian Vaughn, a favorite of this--- and I suspect other--- festivals. He is an extremely versatile actor with a natural swashbuckling style--- think if you will of a young Kevin Kline. He was, in a word, magnificent--- and I'm not the sort of person to use such a word for just anyone. He was tragical, lyrical, poetical, comical--- you have to remember that Cyrano is a romantic comedy right up till the moment when the protagonist drops dead, a fact that did not escape Steve Martin when he made his own version. At certain points in the play, tears were streaming down Vaughn's cheeks--- and I suspect the cheeks of more than a few audience members. Playing Roxane was his real-life wife, Melinda Pfundstein, also a festival favorite.

In the evening we went to the Wooden O for Two Gentlemen of Verona, unanimously considered to be Shakespeare's weakest comedy. Actually it's not bad, if you ignore the fact that Shakespeare used a lot of the same devices more successfully in his other plays, and that the ending is sort of tacked on--- Shakespeare waves a magic wand and tells us that everything is okay, and if we have any sense we believe him. The director, rightly concluding that if she cast mature adults we would quickly lose patience with their idiocy, cast young actors and made the thing a teen comedy, which worked very well. I now anticipate seeing Ten Things I Hate About Verona at my nearby multiplex.

More plays tomorrow, including--- o god--- the Shrew. I have seen a lot of unfunny Shrews in my time, beginning with the Ziffirelli.

Apparently many things are hurled by the cast in this production. And no one is in Elizabethan costume, it's set in 1947 and features GIs. I am not sure whether this makes me hopeful or not.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, July 06, 2008


This teepee motel, by the way, was across the highway from Bubba's Hickory Bar-B-Que and Welding Supply.
I took this picture on the Fourth of July. I am here to tell you that the real America--- the America of teepee motels and Bubba and two-lane blacktop--- is still very much alive.
We passed by a restaurant in Kanab where the waitresses wear six-shooters. We have seen life-sized plastic dinosaurs parked out in front of several rock shops. We have seen RVs and ATVs and motorboats and Tahoes and Rams and Suburbans, all spewing hydrocarbons as if gas prices hadn't quadrupled since George Bush became president.
I have seen no Hummers, which is an improvement.
Mysterious images prevail in this land of contrasts. This morning, walking to breakfast, I saw a large potbellied Hispanic girl of ten or eleven crossing the parking lot in front of me dressed in a long blue velvet gown. This afternoon, during a downpour, I saw a biker hunched down beneath a cedar tree in some kind of silver poncho that made him look as if he were wrapped in tinfoil.
We went to Meteor Crater, where D.M. Barringer spent nearly thirty years of his life digging and drilling in an effort to find the 150-foot-diameter nickel-iron meteorite that he knew would make him an iron tycoon. (The meteor blew up in the atmosphere, and was never there to be found.)
This morning we crossed the Glen Canyon Dam and looked behind it to see the most unnatural-looking lake in all creation--- unnatural because nature never meant it to be there. Here are all these pink sandstone bluffs and cliffs and mesas, with this improbably blue lake just dropped in among them. You won't find anything in Lake Powell resembling a shore--- there's just cliffs and water.
We have really been eyeballing the hell out of the Colorado Plateau--- which, it should be pointed out, is mainly in Arizona and Utah. We have visited the Painted Desert, which is actually the remains of a Triassic sea, and the Petrified Forest National Monument, logs that sank in that very sea. We went to Walnut Canyon to view thousand-year-old cliff dwellings, and saw Wall-E in a multiplex in Flagstaff. We zoomed down the hairpin corners of Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona, the town surrounded by spectacular red rock formations (including one shaped like Snoopy atop his doghouse), and where bookstores sell titles like What is a Vortex?
From Flagstaff we trekked north to Sunset Crater, a relatively recent (11th century) volcanic cone set amid the spectacular scenery of much older volcanic mountains. We learned there are many types of lava: pahoehoe and aa (both terms being Hawaiian, naturally, and referring to highly sculpted lava and to lava with jagged clinker on the top [you shout "ah ah!" as you walk along the clinker in bare feet]. There are kipukas, hornitos, and breccia.
I know this because I walked across, or into, most of these.
From Sunset Crater we took the circle road north to Wupatki, which are the castle-like ruins of a vanished Indian civilization called the Sinagua. (Spanish for "No Water," the Conquistadors' tribute to the people who could survive on the arid badlands.) This ruin features a masonry ball court, linking it culturally to Central America. Today's Hopis claim the Sinagua were their ancestors.
After a night in Page, perched above the unnatural blue of Lake Powell, we crossed the dam into Utah, and followed the Vermilion Cliffs for many miles to visit the temptingly-named Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The dunes are indeed a shocking pink color, and very soft as you walk on them in bare feet.
Utah park rangers, we noticed, were armed. No one is getting that pink sand away from them. None of the US Park Service rangers were carrying, so far as we could tell--- but then they could probably call in the Green Berets if they had to.
We climbed up and up to the Cedar Breaks National Monument. These enormous red cliffs were shadowed by cloud and rain squalls--- fortunately we'd seem them before in sunlight--- but they were magnificent even when the lightning danger was high. We noted the tragic sight of thousands of dead cedar trees, killed by the beetle blight of the past decade. One wrong lightning bolt and the whole plateau goes up in smoke.
From thence we descended into Cedar City, the theater capital of Southern UT--- and, incidentally, a stronghold of polygamy. Here we are recuperating in a pleasant, spacious motel room, with intermittent Wi-Fi service.
We are done, temporarily, with the Colorado Plateau, but explorations will resume in three or four days.
In the meantime, we plan some well-deserved rest.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Stampede of Goodness Endeth Not

Implied Spaces is reviewed in the Washington Post.

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Paging Karen Allen . . . Your Ride is Here


Thursday, July 03, 2008

More Fame

Lo, I am Boing'd.

Back On The Colorado Plateau

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Time Off!

I'm going away again.
I've had four trips out of town in the last two months. The shortest of these trips was a week. Travel has beaten me into the ground like a tent peg. I am a wreck.
Yet here I go another time.
But this trip is different! The other trips, while fun, were c0nnected with work.
This trip is a vacation. Kathy and I are swanning off for ten days of hanging out with each other!
I may post while I'm away. Or I may not. Because, y'know, I am on vacation!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Even More Available!

Implied Spaces is even more available! has restocked!
Even Amazon has copies now!!! (And what the hell was their problem, anyway?)
And, even cooler, in order to raise anticipation along with your level of salivation, Night Shade has made an excerpt available online!
But that's not all! You can also read an interview with me, and download an absolutely free copy of my Nebula-winning novelette, "The Green Leopard Plague."
How many more exclamation points must I include in this post before you go buy or download something?
Implied Spaces is your oyster! Go crack it!



There seems to be a plethora of me available these days. (Except on bookshelves, apparently.)

Locus magazine is offering an interview with me free with a subscription, or for $3 if you've got the money to spare.

An elegy for Aristoi is to be found on the Lost and Lonely Books List.

Jeffrey Thomas, author of Punktown, has said a few nice things about Metropolitan over on his blog.

Despite the kinds words, the very mention of these two out-of-print books has me all whiney and mopey. These books are among my very best! Nobody's been able to read them for ten years or more.

Snivel. Whimper. If the books aren't available, does the author even exist?

Or, if you're not into the metaphysics, how about this question?

If you were a publisher, what books would you bring back into print? (And, just to make it clear, you are allowed to mention books not written by me.)