Bluejo's Journal

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25th December 2014

6:55pm: The Flight Into Egypt
The Holy Family flew economy, of course,
Every seat taken, after the holidays,
The donkey crammed into the luggage rack,
Lying patiently among outsize carry-on,
Ears twitching, and one little bray at takeoff.
The baby doesn't make a sound,
Strapped inside Mary's seatbelt, smiling,
Good as gold, beautific,
From the tip of His halo to the soles of His chubby feet.
Mary has eyes for no one but Him,
If she must fasten oxygen masks it will be His first,
Whatever they tell her.
A harried flight attendant pauses to coo,
"What a little one, isn't he lovely!"
And Joseph nodding, "Just two weeks old,
Visiting family, yes, very first flight,"
Accepts the plush airplane, crayons, frankincense,
Compulsively checking the papers inside his jacket,
Looking ahead through the turbulence towards the landing,
Hoping they will be granted
Refugee status.

This comes from two things -- first elisem's Juan complaining in Copenhagen about a C.15 Flemish painting that shows them passing windmills on the flight into Egypt, because while there may be windmills in the Netherlands, there aren't any between Bethlehem and Egypt. And my reaction to that was that the painter was telling the story not as a historical artefact but as if it happened then and there. I immediately got this image of them putting the poor patient donkey into the overhead luggage rack. And the second thing is this of course.

Merry Christmas! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, merry Thursday!

16th December 2014

8:29pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 1604
Total words: 17749
Files: 6
Tea: Elderflower and lemon
Music: Brandenberg concertos
Reason for stopping: end of chapter

Coming along.

And that's a whole set, Apollo to Apollo, so.

15th December 2014

12:29pm: The Just City -- sample
The first three chapters of The Just City are now available to read on This is all three points of view, and I think there's enough there that you can tell whether you're going to like it or not. The book comes out on January 13th, which is actually really soon.

(Please comment there if you are moved to comment.)
8:18am: Translated from the Original
When they came down to the
They embarked and took ship for
The lagoon/lacuna/Lagos/ the ledge
The/a sun was occluded/eclipsed
There was no doubt, none any more,
In the archipelago/far settlement/sea-carved land,
Only their footprints, dissolving in sand.

This is another poem inspired by an Elise piece.

14th December 2014

7:24pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 2922
Total words: 16145
Files: 6
Tea: Gaba dragon, elderflower and lemon
Music: Brandenberg Concertos
Reason for stopping: end of chapter

OK, that's 6 chapters or one set, and I think I mostly know what I'm doing. Time travel, that's what I'm doing.

Eh well, onwards.

10th December 2014

8:59pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 3231
Total words: 13223
Files: 5
Tea: Gaba dragon, White orchard, Elderflowe & lemon (been writing all day)
Music: Brandberg Concertos
Reason for stopping: end of chapter, and getting late

I... sort of think I know what I'm doing.

Spoilers for _The Just City_ and _The Philosopher Kings_!

So there's a problem I have with writing SF, which is that it's all derivative of other SF and not real, and I can't write it because other people could write it and it's not real and it's not mine, I don't have a new thing for it. I'm not saying I'm the world's most original fantasy writer, but when I'm writing fantasy or alternate history it's all solid.

Also, I could do what I did at the end of PK precisely because I was using genre cliche, and I could count on people getting that.

So what I can't do here is the future Earth culture, because I've got nothing real. But the Platonic cities are real, and the aliens are fine so far, but I'm not trying to do their POV, and I'm good with the gods and the robots.

So I'm not going to do the Earth humans. I can keep them offstage. I have enough here without them. And I sort of have a plot, well, from Ovid, you know, and it will actually be a plot and make sense once I have Athene's motivation figured out.

I am tempted to post Crocus's invocation to the Muses.

1st December 2014

10:18pm: Best Birthday Present Ever
So mrissa gave me a book.

And lots of people have given me books before, and sometimes books I really really wanted, like the time my aunt gave me The Silmarillion when I was fourteen, and I had wanted it so much it hurt for the whole month before.

But this is a book I didn't know I wanted, because I didn't know it existed. Indeed, it didn't exist, and maybe it doesn't now -- it's really not a book, I suppose it's a very special kind of birthday card.

It's a theme anthology, specially for me, on the subject of "Things Jo Walton Likes", with stories specially written by some of my friends. mrissa had the idea and organized it, and here it is, with stories by her and Ada and Alec and Lila and Jon Singer and rezendi and timprov, and oh that came out a funny mix of LJ names and real names but there we are, it's late, and I'm fifty now, I can do that if I want to.

So it's an anthology of stories about things I like, written by people I like and who like me, and especially for me. And that's -- I mean, wow. Not only is this the best birthday present ever, I think it's probably the best birthday present possible. I mean Z gave me a mug with an octopus on that disappears as your tea cools, and that's pretty cool, but it can't even compete, and rysmiel gave me my traditional every-zero-year birthday pin up of a naked man (this time Voltaire to go with Samuel Delany) but even that pales by comparison.

I'm just overwhelmed. And I haven't even read it yet.
7:17am: Half a century
I am fifty, except that, like Neil Gaiman, I still feel twelve.

AM is here, mrissa and family are in town, we have plans with Z tonight and a party next weekend.

Fifty is an odd age, awfully old, but yet still relatively young. And I have done so much and seen so much and been so lucky, and yet done so little and have to much left to do and see and look forward to.

and my publications when I was 49Collapse )

26th November 2014

5:33pm: Philosopher Kings cover
As between4walls points out, it's up on Amazon.

I like it. Do you like it?

It doesn't have back cover copy yet. I cannot imagine what it can have as one that wouldn't be spoilers for The Just City. I appreciate that this must be a solved problem because other people write sequsls with this issue all the time, but I never did before.

I guess it could say "There are now at least five competing visions of Plato's Republic. The god Apollo struggles to deal with family life. And someone has stolen the head of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Only the idiotic Jo Walton could have come up with this story..." But I don't expect it will.

ETA And Necessity will be ever worse! What was I thinking?

20th November 2014

2:47pm: Realists of a Larger Reality
Has everyone already seen Ursula Le Guin's acceptance speech at the American Book Awards? Absolutely wonderful, brave and inspirational.

18th November 2014

9:15am: To Do List
Alexander III of Macedon, Babylon, Summer 13th year of reign


Shake off this fever

Launch invasion of Arabia

Check if expected child is a son


Short term

Conquer Arabia

Build fleet of 50 ships for conquest of Carthage and North Africa

Medium term

Conquer Carthage and North Africa

Educate son (if born). Languages, warfare, philosophy (Aristotle?), culture, military experience, responsibility etc.

Beget more sons as backup, educate same way.

Population exchange between Asia and Europe, marriages, mobility etc.

Build giant temple to Athene at site of Troy

Found cities.

Longer term

Conquer Europe. Two pronged attack, up from Africa through Spain and north through the Balkans.

Conquer the rest of India.

Conquer China (if it exists)

Spread civilization -- Persian plumbing, admin, and gardens, Greek philosophy, sculpture and athletics.

Found more cities. Build more giant temples.

Explore south in Africa, conquer.

Explore and conquer Scythia.

Establish succession solidly, with lesser sons happily working as generals satraps etc.

Live to be 60. (Seems reasonable)

12th November 2014

8:25pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 3171
Total words: 7992
Files: 5
Tea: Pu Erh
Music: Brandenburg Concertos
Reason for Stopping: That's mostly one chapter, but also some extra to yesterday's chapter. I've been doing it on and off all day, stopping now because I'm tired and I realised the new chapter needs a proper scene where I thought a summary would do. Better start fresh in the morning.

This book has more POVs than the others. The others have three each. This one seems to want five... or possibly six. Pah. I believe in conservation of POV, by which I mean telling the story in the fewest POVs possible. If that's one, great. If that's zillions, well, it's your story, you know what it needs. (I wish I did.)

11th November 2014

9:15pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 2466
Total words: Not sure, have to take some out
Files: 5
Tea: Elderflower and Lemon
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: finished chapter, and also bedtime

Yeah, it's not a logical or controllable process, writing, but this bit is OK. Suddenly after weeks of not being able to write anything at ten to five today somehow I can do it again? I think I have to scrap most of what I already have, but I'll worry about that tomorrow.

This book needs a human POV. Apollo and Crocus are all very well, but...
1:55pm: RT Award Nomination
My Real Children is nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award.

And it's not that I'm not grateful -- it's excellent having one's book noticed and nominated for awards. I always enjoy it. But it's nominated under Fantasy Novel, and it isn't, it isn't, it's SF, it's an alternate history and it's totally science fiction -- it even has moonbases. Multiple moonbases, in the different realities, and some of the minor characters spend years on one of the moonbases, and the protagonist looks after their kids until they get back. (What? People in the future will have this kind of problem! And the story of the person looking after the kids is important as well as the story about the people going to space and having adventures. And it's all science fiction.) By the end of the book they're colonizing Mars in both realities, too.

Having said all that, The Just City is full of robots, and a trip to Mars is mentioned, but it's totally fantasy. It isn't the furniture that defines genre. But MRC is SF by authorial intention, just so you know.

29th October 2014

4:21am: In Paris, Going to Nantes for Utopiales
That's all really, just wanted to say that.

I haven't been in Paris since I was a student. I went to Notre Dame and the Pantheon yesterday and looked at them sleepily, then I had dinner in a restaurant specialising in mushrooms. Today I'm going to the Louvre to visit the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and then taking the train to Nantes late this afternoon. Utopiales starts tonight and runs until Sunday. I'm back in Paris for more museums and a bookstore event at the beginning of next week.

20th October 2014

3:26pm: Italian My Real Children
The Italian edition of My Real Children, Le Mie Due Vite, "My Two Lives" is coming out this month from Gargoyle.

This is the cover. I like it -- it seems thematic, I like the colours and the fabrics, and I think I'd pick it up to look at it if I saw it.

What do you think?


19th October 2014

8:03am: Velma
I've said it all before: death sucks! And worse,
We're complex, breathtaking, and we can speak,
All irreplaceable, and each unique,
Each human death must end a universe.

People die young, die old, die at my age!
Die much beloved, or indifferent, die
As everyone must do, as you and I,
And nothing helps, not love, not hope, not rage.

Your biting joy in life, your smile, your wit,
That you were loved and needed -- so unfair,
That death devoured it all, and that we care
Who cared for you, and that's the end of it.

All we can do is live life day by day
Remember what we can, and while we may.

11th October 2014

7:27pm: Pagans Alleged to be in Christian Heaven
Googling is not getting me anywhere, so let's try assembling a list myself.

Virtuous Pagans alleged to be in the Christian Heaven

Socrates -- alleged by Kierkergard to have been converted after his death.

Plato -- alleged by Nicetas in a commentary on Nazianus to have gone up at the Harrowing (Dante disagrees and leaves him in Limbo)

Trajan -- alleged by Dante in Paradiso, from a medieval legend that St Gregory prayed so hard for Trajan's soul than he got to be alive in the flesh again for long enough to be converted. (This leaves me utterly perplexed as to everyone's motives -- why Trajan?)

Ripheus -- alleged by Dante in Paradiso. Ripheus was a Trojan, who was vouchsafed a direct foreknowledge of Christ at the time of the Trojan War.

Got any more? I want people who could not possibly have been Christians but who are alleged by actual Christians to be in Heaven.

(It's for something I'm writing. Do I even need to say that?)

9th October 2014

7:38am: Dragon's Song
wolfinthewood posted a picture of a harp-playing dragon at Lacock Abbey and asked what song it would sing. I couldn't resist.

A wilderness of wings, bright glints of fire,
Dry wood burns fast, and long desire,
Coiled into curlicues, coins, a cup,
A thief in the night that drew me up.

What would I sing when the harp goes round?
An old wyrm's tale of underground?
Or a song of rising in spiralled flight,
Wide wings that flash with reflected light?

Or the human heroes who came so bold,
To challenge us and to steal our gold,
Who bade us fight them beneath the sun?
You know the names of the few who won.

I could sing of our wait till the final days
Till the root take flame in triumphant blaze
And the world-tree fall and the rainbow bend
And gods kill giants, and all things end.

My claws on the harp draw out each chord
Darkness, waiting coiled, the hoard,
A wilderness of wings, bright glints of fire
Dry wood burns fast, and long desire.

7th October 2014

8:40pm: The Just City -- Real Cover
So it had to happen sooner or later -- I have a cover I actually like!

This was designed by the amazing Jamie Stafford-Hill, who reads my books and thinks about them. And of course it's part of Raphael's School of Athens, in a sunburst that shows clearly that it's SF and not non-fiction. And Raphael's School of Athens is about a reimagining of classical philosophy, and so is my book, so it's just perfect -- especially as this group of young people looks gender-mixed to a modern eye, though that probably wasn't Raphael's intention. And they're wearing brightly coloured kitons, just like my characters.

Do you like it? Would you buy this book?


30th September 2014

8:39am: "A Kind of Rissole"
One of the things I am reading is Boccaccio's Decameron. It's a fascinating collection of medieval stories, comparable to the Canterbury Tales but more Italian and with more sex. The frame story is that seven young ladies and three young men go off together to a country house to escape the Plague -- the Black Death, which is ravaging Florence. There they elect one of their number Queen (or King) for the day, and amuse themselves by telling stories. The book is divided into days, and there are ten stories told each day. Sometimes there's a theme, like "tricks wives play on husbands" or "tricks husbands play on wives" or and sometimes there's no theme. The storytellers are lightly characterised in the frame and through the stories they choose. It's very funny, and there's lots of sex, and the book has been scandalous for centuries.

I'm reading a free translation, and I am well on into volume two -- I've been reading it for ages, one story at a time. (I've been doing a thing recently where I'm reading about a dozen things that fall well into sections, and in between reading longer things I'll read a section each of those things. It's great when I'm travelling. It's one of the fun things about the Kindle.)

This is a Victorian translation of Boccaccio, but that has been fine, until I came to a fun story about an idiot being tricked into looking for a magic stone. The people gulling the idiot tell him about a wonderful country where macaroni and ravioli spill out freely for the taking. And there's a footnote by ravioli, which the Victorian translator assumes the Victorian reader will not recognise -- and probably rightly. I remember the first time I had ravioli, and my grandmother's Cookery Year definitely thinks of it as something exotic, though not quite in italics. What surprised me wasn't the existence of the footnote but the content. "Ravioli: A kind of rissole".

A rissole is... I expect that to my readers it's far less common than ravioli. It's "a small croquette" according to Wikipedia, usually rolled in breadcrumbs. It's like a fishcake except that it can be made of meat. It's much bigger than ravioli -- about the size of a meatball or a small burger, and indeed it can be thought of like an old fashioned down market burger, using unidentified meat and spices and maybe onion, sometimes tasty but best not inquired into, frequently seen in school dinners, generally fried. I don't dislike rissoles, though I don't make them or seek them out.

But they're not ravioli or anything like ravioli -- except that ravioli too has meat in the middle, and if the outside of ravioli is delicious pasta instead of measly breadcrumbs, well...

So I looked up the translator. He was James Macmullen Rigg, 1855-1926. There's not much about his life, just a note that he was an English historian, biographer and barrister, the son of a Methodist divine and his sister was a headmistress. James Macmullen Rigg wrote a book about St Anselm, he did masses of work for the Dictionary of National Biography, he translated the Decameron and also Pico's nephew's life of Pico, which I am thrilled to discover is available online in multiple useful e-formats, yay. (Research is its own reward, I'm really glad to have that.)

But imagine him, a man in his thirties in the eighteen eighties, son of a prominent Methodist. I see him with a full beard and a perplexed expression. How absolutely desperate he must have been, trying to come up with some kind of equivalent to ravioli or an explanation for it. There he was, he spoke Italian, he'd probably been to Italy and eaten ravioli. In Italy they'd been eating ravioli since Boccaccio's day, but in the intervening five centuries it hadn't made it to Britain, and he must have doubted it ever would. There he was, a long way through this major project of translating this really scandalous book, getting across the humour and the innuendo and the descriptions, but honestly, how could anyone convey ravioli to his likely audience? I see him trying over and over, crossing things out, writing long descriptions, and at last, sleepless and hungry, giving up and resorting to "a kind of rissole".

27th September 2014

12:33pm: The Hoard

Dr Roger Bland, from the British Museum, said: “It is one of the largest coin hoards of the fourth century ever found within the Roman empire but, despite the number of coins found, the financial value would not have been great, amounting to approximately four gold coins.

“This sum of money would possibly have provided the ration of four soldiers for one year or a worker’s pay for two years.

I'm coming back, of course I'm coming back
I hid the coins. I won't need them in Gaul.
And if they come, you flee, just grab a sack
Of food, and hide. Then you can have it all
To start again. If they burn down the farm,
Or if you have to run, or pay the tax;
Not only raiders is it, and alarm?
Assessments can be bad as the attacks.
I'm coming back -- and you should wait for me.
What's in that hoard took me ten years to save.
Enough to buy a book! And you can see
That hidden there it's safe -- don't look so grave.
But if -- and if is all I'm going to say --
You dig it up. It's almost two years' pay.
11:31am: My CanCon Schedule
CanCon is next weekend in Ottawa, and I am author guest of honour -- I hope to see some of you there and have a chance to hang out and have fun.

My schedule:

Friday 3rd October

20-00 The Past, Present and Future of Fandom – Jo Walton, Madeline Ashby, S.M. Carriere, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm (m)

Saturday 4th October

10.00 Science Fiction: I Can't Believe You Haven't Read That! David Hartwell, Jo Walton, Peter Halasz, Liz Westbook-Trenholm (m) Jonathan Crowe.

13.00 GOH Interview -- Kate Hartfield and Derek Newman-Stile interview Jo Walton

14.00 Fantasy Literature: I Can't Believe You Haven't Read That! Kathryn Cramer, Peter Halasz, Jo Walton, Matthew Johnson (m), Yves Meynard

16.00 GOH Reading: Jo Walton (As they've given me an hour, I'll be reading from My Real Children and The Just City.

Sunday 5th October

10.00 Character Workshop: Jo Walton (signup at registration)

11.00 Kaffeeklatch: Jo Walton (signup at registration)

14.00 The Most Deadly Mirage: Originality, Imitation, Homage and plagiarism in speculative
fiction – Ranylt Richildis (m), Sean Moreland, Kate Heartfield, Jo Walton

22nd September 2014

5:57pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 1667
Total words: 7969
Files: 4
Tea: White tea with elderflower
Music: Brandenberg Concertos
Reason for stopping: People stop? I mean, time to make dinner.

Robot POV. Robot POV is fun and makes me happy.

I can't say too much about this book because it would be a spoiler for the thing I do at the very end of The Philosopher Kings, and I don't want to spoil it for you. But anyway, here's my Pulp-o-mizer cover for this book.

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (2)

20th September 2014

8:18am: German Small Change Trilogy
The Small Change books are coming out in German, starting with Farthing which should be available shortly.

Interestingly, they've retitled them -- without consulting me at all. The series title is "Inspector Carmichael" and the volume titles are "Die Stunde der Rotkehlchen" meaning "The Moment of Robins", "Der Tag der Lerche" meaning "The Day of the Lark" and "Das Jahr des Falken" "The Year of the Hawk". I think this is rather clever, and it certainly makes them sound like thrillers, and they're not boring like the Spanish ones and they have more to do with the books than the baffling Japanese titles.

All the covers are available at the link, and I've also put them on my website. But here's the Farthing one.

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