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8th November 2015
The Death of Petrarch
He fell asleep, reading in Cicero :
And as he turned the page, in his last sleep
He found it didn't end, so he could keep
On reading the De Gloria
, and know.
Forgetting meals, forgetting pain and age,
One book led to another, all made new,
Laid out before him, beautiful and true.
In such delight he'd greet each fresh-turned page.
And there lies Homer, that most glorious peak,
Politziano's Homer, and it said
This was a Florentine whio knew his Greek
The Pope was back in Rome, and he was dead,
The world renewed, and given tongue to speak.
Sing, Goddess, Petrarch's joy in what he read.
24th October 2015
Like memories of anything else, really.
So : sartorias has a post on BVC about buying and selling memories
, and one of her examples is me writing a poem. This was my response.
You’d be surprised quite often how mundane,
the process is, and how it’s mostly craft
(as so much writing is) where every draft
comes closer to the willed. It’s mostly sane
It’s word and meaning juggling, it’s play,
a jigsaw game of sound and shape and word
and can I rhyme that there — no, that’s absurd,
it works, but it’s not what I want to say!
Often I don’t remember, ha, I sold
those ones already! You can have them free.
They’re not the things I’d treasure, growing old.
But some I would not part with, that would be
Vaucluse the other day, the green-and-gold
For sometimes, I admit, it’s ecstacy.
23rd October 2015
The reason I'm in France is to be a guest at Intergalactiques, in Lyon, which starts today. I'm on a bunch of program and also signing and stuff. If you are in or near Lyon come and say hello!
21st October 2015
Sonnets At the Source of the Sorgue
Oh hear, my friends, the dead, the lost, and you,
The living who may read these words and know
One day about some other thing, that Jo
Was here and felt the same and it was true.
A photograph recalls a memory:
The rearing limestone cliff, the blue of sky,
Unlikely green of river rushing by,
The mellow gold that warms the chestnut tree.
Words can't describe, not really, cannot match
The glory of this place where Petrarch sat
But on the human level they may catch.
So after winds of time have blown trees flat
Still from these freshlaid words a thought may hatch
In quite another place you think "Oh. That."
The story that they tell is love, love, love
The Lady and the Poet -- well, it works,
But also he loved books and God, it irks.
Laura, all right, but Cicero above.
The Great Man theory is out of style
But without Petrarch, what world would this be?
I'm here for him: I'm his posterity,
Not for the love they want to so beguile.
Here for the books I love that he loved too,
The flame he kindled soul to soul and kept,
The ancient world he saved to meet the new.
This room, they say, is where the poet slept.
(He must have sometimes, so I guess it's true.)
I found his fig tree. That was when I wept.
Did the Romantics have a field day here? Why not?
I never saw a place where the sublime
Made so much sense, nature so close to rhyme.
Wild towering cliffs, old ruins, ferny grot.
The colours are so bright they glow, the stone
As white as linen when you fold it clean
The waterweed is almost neon green
And see how very gold the trees have grown.
The kingfisher was such a dazzling blue
Bathetic fallacy, too much to feel,
Here's nature spilling over, just for you.
Nestled in living rock, it's no big deal
The little house where Petrarch wrote and knew,
Except it's everything that makes it real.
The river has three voices, first the fall
And then the rushing torrent roar, the spate,
And third the breaking slap that will not wait
As rocks impede and for a while stand tall.
The birdsong seems intelligently timed
More song than chirrup, rolling out diverse
Trilled melodies, with choruses and verse
Since here the only sane response is rhymed.
Oh Petrarch, I have heard what you have heard
Here in your garden, here below the peak,
The water's voices rising to a word
The poetry that spills from every beak.
Here , now, this place, it doesn't seem absurd
That sonnets are the only way to speak
So I am in Avignon, and today I went to the Fontaine de Vaucluse, the Source of the Sorgue, where Petrarch (1304-74) lived and wrote some poems and a lot of letters. Petrarch is famous for his poems about Laura, but what he's really important for (in my opinion) is for being the father of humanism, the ideas that kickstarted the Renaissance. (I'm simplifying, OK?) I wrote all these while there, sitting on assorted benches and stone blocks around the place, which is phenomenally beautiful.
17th October 2015
"Dinosaurs rarely pray to Athena" -- ashnistrike
Mathematics suggest that the asteroid :
Will not destroy the world so utterly
As the doom-sayers suggest, but will disrupt
Sufficient to demolish civilization
Eliminating all life but cockroaches
And little creeping mammals.
No use to pray to the Thunder-Father
Or the Egg-Layer, Mother of all.
The Far-Shooting Lord of Light
Has us in his sights,
The heavens are falling and only you
Could nudge it aside,
For we are your
7th October 2015
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival to Rewrite Shakespeare
is rending her hair
. But hey.
As I recall it, Johnson changed the ends
He made Cordelia live, and Juliet
Shaped for their sensibilities, and yet,
We don't now watch Iago making friends.
The Bowdlers kept the tragic, cut the sex
Left out the country matters, turd and tup,
Too strong for stomachs, though they cut it up
We put it back and take it XXX.
These mealy mumblers who enact this crime
Who make a modern mish and who deny
That we have ears to hear, who simplify,
Will likewise be a laughingstock to time.
O little O, O tempora, words Will
Outlive us all and keep on living still.
24th September 2015
Too Like the Lightning -- cover reveal
So Ada Palmer's first novel : Too Like the Lightning
is coming out from Tor next May, and it's available for pre-order now, and the cover has just been released on Tor.com and... the flying cars don't really look like that, and the city is a little steeper than it is in the book, but by and large this is a cover that feels like the book, an interesting positive SF future.
I'll be writing about it on Tor.com and probably here too closer to when it comes out -- it's a difficult book to write about because there's so much in it and it's so good and also because it's the first of four, and the first two, Too Like the Lightning
and Seven Surrenders
(December next year) are very closely linked. I'm dying for it to come out so I can have conversation about it -- conversations about all kinds of different things. For the last couple of years since I read it I keep wanting to bring it up as an example -- as all kinds of different examples -- when people are talking about worldbuilding and SF futures, and real futures, and what you can do with the numinous, and what you can do with mode, and complicity and... all kinds of things.
For now, you can see my quote on the cover "The kind of science fiction that makes me excited all over again about what science fiction can do." There are a lot of books I read when I was a teenager where I got my head blown off because they expanded the space of what was possible. There are a lot fewer books that do that to me these days. This is one of them.
So, what do you think of the cover?
17th September 2015
Universes are kind
So : rysmiel
's Gmail Chat .sig gets cut off, so it looks as if it says "Universes are kind" but actually it says "Universes are kind of huge". This was my train of thought.
Universes are kind?
(Are not unkind?)
Are kind of huge!
Are kin, are kindred, are akin...
Are a type and species and a sort.
Aspire to greatness.
Are a scale and size that we can't get out heads around...
They don't care.
They are not kind, or unkind.
They are universes.
They are vast and full of science.
They are beautiful...
They do not know that.
Their benevolence is our imagination, but
Their beauty is our gift to them
In all their hugeness
They are kind
7th September 2015
Green-striped figs outside the Ferry Building, San Francisco, 10th August 2015
If Plato's right that things have one Ideal :
Material stuff reflects but cannot show
And all we see and hear and taste and feel
Are pale thin echoes of what we might know.
The taste of perfect figs cuts straight through time
Ascends to the Ideal, the Form, the True
Connects up to itself, to the sublime,
Eternal, joyful, timeless, ever new.
I learned to distrust happiness: it ends.
But now I savour moments, like the sun
That gently warms me, sharing figs with friends,
As time goes on and back, and All is One.
Sweet meaty figs split perfectly in three.
You may not know that. It was new to me.
30th August 2015
How to hide treasure (For Khalid al-Asaad, 1932-2015)
How to hide treasure. :
Bury it in the ground.
Wrap it up well.
Gold will be all right, but silver tarnishes,
Try wax inside a linen wrap.
Stone will endure, but clay is different.
In a damp climate, beware of water seeping.
Use chalk to protect ceramics.
Books are the hardest
Keep them dry, wrapped.
Use archival boxes, travel cases,
Whatever it takes to
Keep it all safe,
How to hide treasure.
Choose somewhere likely to stay undisturbed,
Perhaps under foundations
Or out in the desert...
If there is a desert.
Take advantage of the situation
Hope for the best
Hope we'll come back,
Or someone will come soon who cares
Hope we're not looking at
All we can do is hope
How to hide treasure.
Hide it in our hearts.
Hide it so deeply that we will not tell them
Not through torture.
So we will know and hope,
That what we've hidden will be found
By those like us who care.
It was before.
It will be there and safe
And all they can do is hurt us, kill us,
They cut off your precious head and long knowledge.
But the treasure stayed hidden:
History goes back, and on, and we know it,
connect and care.
They will never
How to hide treasure.
Share it with the world
Send out a million copies
Distribute what can not be reproduced
Barbarism doesn't strike everywhere at once,
Islam saved the Greek texts
If we share it out, surely some will survive.
Reproduce, photograph, reprint,
Hand on the stories that enhance the stones,
The stories of the heroes who knew
How to hide treasure,
So what is important lives on although
29th August 2015
Home, Reading tonight in Shaika
Well, I'm back. :
I've been away so long I've forgotten about being home, but I expect I'll figure it out.
I'm reading tonight in Shaika on Sherbrooke as part of the NDG Artts thingy
if you are in Montreal come along. I totally hadn't forgotten about this and I am totally prepared, except that it's supposed to be an 10 minute reading, which is hard.
More about the trip later when I'm more rested.
17th August 2015
I'm reading, signing, and being interviewed by Ada at the Cedar Hills Powells, this evening at 7pm. Sassafrass Trickster and King will sing "Somebody Will" (the Kickstarter is funded and made the stretch goal and is over, by the way) and I will be reading a Crocus chapter from : Necessity
as there is absolutely none of The Philosopher Kings
I can read that isn't a spoiler. I'm looking forward to reading it, actually. It's a fun chapter that I like, and it's set during the first book
If you are in or near Portland, do come, and if you are somebody I know from LJ do say so when you introduce yourself.
Also, Powells is the best bookshop. I found 6 Kathleen Norris and 2 Dorothy Canfield novels in their downtown awesome store, and weirdquark
and Ada also found some things they'd been wanting for years. It's amazing.
12th August 2015
Memorial Day next year is the 50th anniversary of : Balticon
, and they're having a specially awesome anniversary con
, with George RR Martin as GoH and as many of their former GoHs as they can get together. I'll be there, and so will lots of people, and they'll be in a new hotel in downtown Baltimore near the aquarium, not out in the wilderness where you need a car to get anywhere. Pre-reg is now open, and they're trying to raise money to make things more awesome
, and all that good stuff.
Also, in that Sassafrass Kickstarter
that I never shut up about (and which has 3 days to go and is funded and only $700 from the stretch goal) there's an exclusive opportunity to have dinner with Ada and Lauren and me at Balticon, and be toasted at the launch party for Ada's forthcoming novel Too Like the Lightning
, which should be either out by Balticon or very nearly out. (I just read the latest draft of it, and it was good before, and it's just excellent now. I can't wait for it to be out so I can have conversations about it.) So there's still a chance to support the Kickstarter and have dinner with us at Balticon next year. And if you just want to support the Kickstarter at the $7 or $25 level and have music, that also helps.
I am in Portland, Portland is great. I have a reading in Powells on Monday night, but otherwise this is vacation. I am also planning to work on fixing : Necessity
a bit this week. We have a pile of things we're planning to do, but I will also happily take suggestions any of you may have for stuff to do and places to eat in Portland.
10th August 2015
Tiptree Event was great
The Tiptree Event at Borderlands was a ton of fun and went really well -- first Ellen Klages talked about the award, then Ada Palmer read from : Too Like the Lightning
, (first book of her Terra Ignota
series, coming from Tor next summer) then she and weirdquark
sang my favourite song "Somebody Will
" (link is to the Kickstarter, which has 5 days left, hint, hint, hintity subliminal hint, but if you scroll down the song is streaming) then Ellen Klages interviewed me, then wild_irises
and Klages loaded me with gifts, including an awesome original illustration for the book by Mark Ferrari
, handmade chocolates, a tiara hatpin, a plaque and a t-shirt -- it was amazing. Then everyone sang a song about the book, and I read my acceptance speech -- a modified version of the ALA speech I already posted here -- and then there was cake, which Madeleine Robins had made, in the shape of two spirals, one lime and one caramel spice. Then I signed books for a lot of great people who like my books, and for Borderlands, a terrific SF bookstore that was saved from closure because people love it. Then Ada and Lauren and rezendi
and I went for gelato. And I have won a Tiptree Award and feel all honoured and celebrated.
What a great day!
9th August 2015
Wah, LJ! Help?
My friendslist has gone all horrible and I can't figure out how to get it back to white on blue -- anyone? Help? :
I've been using LJ since 2003 and my only complaint is that every so often they change the way it looks without warning, as if people want something different. I want to read my friendslist, and I want it to look the same as always.
Hint: If people wanted something different, they'd not still be using Livejournal.
8th August 2015
Tiptree Party Tomorrow
: At Borderlands in San Francisco at 3pm
-- be there if you can, it will be fun. There will be reading and singing and books and cake.
San Francisco is a very nice city to walk around. We've been having very good luck with just randomly walking into places and eating great things, and also in planning walks to places and seeing interesting things on the way.
30th July 2015
Mythcon is this weekend, and I'm Guest of Honour, and it's going to be fun! :
Opening Ceremonies in Summit at 9 am on Saturday.
"Jo Walton, Poet" in Aspen at 3 pm on Saturday.
"Norse Hour" in Breckenridge at 9:15 am on Sunday.
"Mythology and World View" in Breckenridge at 2:30 pm on Sunday.
"Trickster and King: A concert of Mythological Music" in Breckenridge at 9 am on Monday. (Not featuring me, but I am definitely going to be there!)
Closing Ceremonies in Summit at 11 am on Monday.
Also I'll be giving a 30 minute GoH speech at the banquet, I'm not sure exactly when that is. The speech is written, and it's about integrating the fantastic.
23rd July 2015
Today is the last day for my new Norse poem
If the : Sassafrass Stories and Stone Kickstarter
is funded today, the new poem I will write for it will be about Hod, the blind god who kills his brother Baldur. I don't know whether knowing this will motivate anyone who hasn't already to go over there and pledge, but I thought I'd mention it. It's 75% funded now, and it's pretty much bound to make the rest in the next three weeks, but pledge today if you want the Hod poem to exist. (It's also important to pledge early if you want to have the physical CD available in time for Worldcon.)
And thank you if you have already pledged.
Remember, if the Kickstarter meets its stretch goal by the 29th July, as well as the "Friends in the Dark
" album existing, I will record the Loki poem, and maybe the new Hod poem too if it exists, and add them to the really awesome Secret Album.
And here is a picture of the cover of the Secret Album.
20th July 2015
Sassafrass Kickstarter, additional incentives
I'm getting impatient. :
If the Sassafrass Kickstarter
is fully funded by Thursday, I will write another Norse poem which will be sent to all the backers.
It's more than half way there already.
Last time I did this I wrote the poem first and then said I'd delete it if the goal wasn't met, and some of you found this distressing and interpreted it as a threat, so I'm not doing that again. So I will hold off on writing the poem, though I don't understand how that is better. But... I want to write this poem, and I'd like it very much if the Kickstarter were funded.
Additional incentive: if it reaches the stretch goal before that, then when I am in Chicago next week I will record the Loki poem "Mountain Doors" (which was sent to backers last time and is also in the libretto
but not anywhere else) and add the recording to the Secret Album, along with the Norse poems I recorded in George R.R. Martin's Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe last summer.
17th July 2015
Sidewise Award Nomination
I'm delighted to tell you that : My Real Children
is nominated for a Sidewise Award.
Here's the whole great list of nominees:
* Ken Liu, “The Long Haul” (Clarkesworld, 11/14)
* Igor Ljubuncic, “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” (Wars to End All Wars: Alternate Tales from the Trenches, Amazon Digital Services)
* Robert Reed, “The Principles” (Asimov’s, 4-5/14)
* Aaron Rosenberg, “Let No Man Put Asunder” (Europa Universalis IV: What If?, Paradox Interactive)
* Lewis Shiner, “The Black Sun” (Subterranean, Summer 2014)
* Harry Turtledove, “The More It Changes” (Europa Universalis IV: What If?, Paradox Interactive)
* Alexander M. Grace, Sr., Second Front: The Allied Invasion of France, 1942-1943 (Casemate)
* Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Enemy Within (WMG Publishing)
* Tony Schumacher, The Darkest Hour (William Morrow)
* Allen Steele, V-S Day (Ace)
* Jo Walton, My Real Children (Tor)
The winners will be announced at Sasquan.
Stories and Stone Kickstarter
: There is a new Sassafrass Kickstarter, please go and support it
My friend Ada Palmer
, in addition to writing wonderful SF and being an historian, composes amazing complex layered music that does wonderful things to my brain. (I have some evidence it does wonderful things to other people's brains too, in terms of getting writers unstuck.) You may remember me posting about the Sundown Kickstarter
a couple of years ago. She's doing another Kickstarter, to produce two new Sassafrass albums -- Stories and Stone
, which is a companion album to Sundown, and Friend in the Dark
, which will be new recordings of some Sundown things and some of her other songs, done by Ada and weirdquark
as the duo Trickster and King
. The links are to streaming audio. There's an incredibly high overlap between people who like my work and people who like Ada's, so if you haven't encountered it before, you have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain by going over there and listening to some of it to see if you like it -- and then back the Kickstarter if you do.
One of the higher level backer rewards is access to the Secret Album, which includes recordings of the Norse Hour we did at George R.R. Martin's cinema in Santa Fe last summer -- so it's Ada and Lauren singing bits of Sundown, interspersed with me reading Norse poems -- some of them the poems I wrote for the Sundown Kickstarter, (Odin on the Tree
, The Love and the Oath
, Advice to Loki
and Ask to Embla
) and some of them just Norse poems I had lying around like Asa Loki Under Glacier
and Keeping an Eye Out
. This is the only way this recording is going to be available, so if you want to hear me reading those poems aloud, please go and back the Kickstarter. (However, we are doing Norse Hour live again at Mythcon in a few weeks, and we may do it at future cons.)
I just realised I never actually posted "Ask to Embla" anywhere except to the Kickstarter backers, and in the Sundown Libretto. So in honour of the new Kickstarter
and in the hope it might encourage you to support it, I've put it on my website, and I'm also posting it here.
The background to this is that in Norse Mythology, Odin, and his brothers
Ve and Vili
Honir and Lodur made the first humans from an ash tree and an elm tree, Ask and Embla in Norse, and these become the first man and the first woman. There's an awesome Sassafrass song about this called Gift of Life
. And in A.S. Byatt's novel Possession
, the Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash writes a poem called "Ask to Embla", which is not quoted in the book. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to write it -- a crazy elm tree love poem, from the point of view of a human who had been a tree just moments before addressing the only other human, in the dawn of creation -- what would you say? Where could you even start?Ask to Embla
When we stood mute, rooted,
We grew side by side
Shared storms and seasons,
Drank from deep waters,
Flowered and fruited,
Washed by the same tides
Swayed for the same winds
knowing no reasons.
Three gods came out of the dark
Warming and changing and moving and shaping
Filling us up with their spark
I can step from this shore
This edge where we belonged before
To turn and see and speak and know
As root and branch knew how to grow.
As flesh transforms from wood,
I turn to you to start to speak
Believing I'll be understood:
"This world is a wonder,
The gods are a wonder,
The words, the worlds, and we
New made in new sun's icy dawn
The slate-flecked sea, the very stones
Transmuted out of Ymir's bones,
The landscape, like us, all newborn
As we were turned from tree...
The same, and not the same, and you
Are gloriously different too
Now I can move and see and learn,
My life-spark blazes and I burn
To speak. that you can answer me,
To say: "The world, the wonders, gods,
Our transformation," urgently,
And time and change and hope and all
The stories that have yet to be,
Together, reaching out, to build
All that a man who was a tree
Can dream, a name, a home, a hall,
A saga, and you in them all,
You, who are like the gods,
Like me, a wonder, and free-willed.
(And standing staring back at me
Though all the world stands bare to see.)
I draw my new-won breath to speak:
"The world's full of wonders,
The future's a wonder
The gods are a wonder
16th July 2015
Three Twilight Tales in Spanish, and free Spanish e-books
: Fantasia Austral
is publishing my short story "Three Twilight Tales" in Spanish. In payment for this, I have download codes for three Spanish e-books -- a translation of Lord Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana, an anthology of Chilean steampunk, and an anthology of Chilean fantasy. Fascinating as these sound, I do not read Spanish. (Spanish is the language that most of all makes me feel we should have all just stuck to Latin, because it's not Latin, and it's not Italian or French either, so I always have the feeling that it's about to make sense but it never actually does.) However, some of you do, surely? So I'll send a code to each of the first three people to comment here, with an email address. I have one code for each book.