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13th September 2016
The Debunking Website of the Person Who Lives in a Green House in Narbeth
It's all a hoax, it's lies and fairytales :
The photos are all faked, as you can tell
If you look close at shadows, and as well
Depopulation never struck across all Wales.
I live in Narbeth, and my house is green!
The only one there is, because I know
They're lying to us dupes, and all they show
Is faked up nonsense -- there's no fairy queen.
Come on, wise up, it never happened, hey?
I know they tell you bad things will befall
But I'm still here, to prove the truth I say.
There was no magic horse, no year-long ball,
No empty land, no mice, no secret way --
They never went to fairyland at all!
So the background to this is the Mabinogion story of Manawydan the son of Llyr, in which the heroes sit on a hill in Narbeth and everyone else in Wales disappears to fairyland, and (I'm leaving things out) the four of them have various adventures getting them back, which all concludes with an agreement that the fairies will never do it again as long as people don't paint their houses green -- and by and large, in West Wales, people don't. But I was in Narbeth today, and there's this one green house, and I was wondering about who lived there, and I realised it must be a fairy denialist.
31st August 2016
Watching the Dance
Over the wormhole, see them play :
Thistledown ships that drift away
Take your places, whirl and dart,
Kiss and touch and then depart.
Shipping out on the early runs
To distant worlds round distant suns
Skipping, skimming, out and in,
With matchless verve let the dance begin!
Dancing ships at the wormhole's bight
Light as leaf and fast as light
One instant poised, then gone so far
To the very edge of where humans are.
Catching their moment, never late,
While we, on station, staidly wait,
Timing the frolic, keeping neat,
Scheduling every ship, each beat.
Salute your partners! Flick and fly!
We count you off as you pass us by,
Appointing your motions, fast and slow,
Under changeless stars, as we watch you go.
(Thanks to my awesome patrons on Patreon
28th August 2016
Nonsense Poem 3
When you rhyme "handkerchief" with "mantlepiece" :
It's just a way of showing that you know
Not rhyme but scansion, that you have the lease
On how words fit to rhythms, fast and slow,
And that responsible can never rhyme
Though bee's lip sips apocalypse for free
And June moon dune's due soon -- ah, all the time,
Since Odin first drew words down from the tree.
But I dream of a time when I know what to say
Sensing a feeling I want to get right
To what neat ends we lend ourselves this way
And poetry's simpler than sleeping tonight.
Words leap like dolphins, phosphorescent flash,
And sink back to the dark without a splash.
(It's a good thing I have a whimsy section on my poetry page, that's all I'm saying. I got out of the bath to write this down! Brought to you by my long suffering Patrons on Patreon
27th August 2016
The reeds beside the water whisper still :
Old secrets long entrusted, Midas's ears
And Caesar's wife, the wind that hears
Bears sussurus away and always will.
Tall reeds that bend, that fall before a knife,
What secrets do you know and still keep well?
Your whispering heads are bent and will not tell
What you could say that still might touch on life.
Oh reeds, in green, and brown, and summer gold,
New secrets learn from me, new words to rhyme,
Whisper to winds the tales thus far untold
By reeds or people, rocketships that climb
And long-lived lives, and answers that unfold,
Among the hopes and dreams of future time.
(This one wasn't going to be a sonnet, and then it was. You know, some people are very interested in the difference between science fiction and fantasy. I am too.)
Brought to you by my excellent Patrons at Patreon
, and so was yesterday's even if I forgot to say so.
26th August 2016
How Do I Know You?
(A love sonnet from the universe of : Poor Relations
How do I know you, in these shifting days
When fashions pass like clouds across your face
When you look different in the myriad ways,
That you have chosen to enhance your grace?
From day to day you choose what you present,
And choose again, and change and shift and grow
But what you choose is simply accident,
I see essential you, and always know.
I know you through all protocols you change
Your face, your hair, your gender, and your skin,
Because your central self retains your smile,
Your changing details reinforce your range,
Though aliens attack and war begin,
I know and recognize you all the while.
8th August 2016
My Worldcon Schedule
: Kansas City's Favorite Son: Robert A Heinlein
Wednesday 14:00 - 15:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Let's take a look at the life (and career) of Robert A. Heinlein, Kansas City's favorite science fiction author. He grew up in Kansas City, and that history had an impact on his writing. Are some well-known characters, such as Lazarus Long and Maureen Johnson Smith, more autobiographical than others?
Bradford Lyau (M), Jo Walton
Look, a Heinlein panel. With me on it!Kaffeeklatsch
Wednesday 16:00 - 17:00, 2211 (KKs) (Kansas City Convention Center)
Jo Walton, Mike ResnickMars Needs Poets
Thursday 11:00 - 12:00, 2205 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Let's talk science fiction and fantasy poetry! Where can you find it? Who's writing it? What pieces do we love? And how is science fiction changing the landscape of modern poetry?
Jim Davidson (M), Mary Soon Lee, Rose Lemberg, Frederick Turner, Dr. Mary A. Turzillo Ph.D., Jo Walton
Is modern poetry paying any attention to us? News to me if so.SF as Protest Literature
Thursday 16:00 - 17:00, 2502A (Kansas City Convention Center)
Science fiction has a history of political and sociological undertones. The genre is the starting point for dystopian fiction, among other forms of politically engaged fiction. How has SF become the literature of protest? What are examples of historical SF protest books and who is currently writing SF literature that protests (religion, gender inequality, gender identity, technology, politics, capitalism, etc.)?
Bradford Lyau, Mark Oshiro, Jo Walton, Alex Jablokow (M), Ann Leckie
This should be fun.Reading: Jo Walton
Thursday 19:00 - 20:00, 2203 (Readings) (Kansas City Convention Center)
I will be reading from Poor Relations. Also, as they've given me an hour, I will read some poetry, and take requests.History of the Book
Friday 12:00 - 13:00, 2206 (Kansas City Convention Center)
From Cuneiform tablets to papyrus and parchment to paper, from the scroll to the codex to the hand-written and hand-bound book, to the Gutenberg Press and the e-book. Let us take a journey through time and technology.
Ada Palmer (M), Jo Walton, Lauren Schiller
You should see Ada's collection of original books suitable to hand around the room -- and if you come, you can!Short Fiction of the 1980s
Friday 14:00 - 15:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Our panel discuss some of the short fiction of the 1980s, and its influence on their writing or editing. What authors rose to prominence, and how did they affect the genre? What responses did these provoke in our panel, and how did they work with, and against some of the prevailing science fiction ideas of the time?
Gordon Van Gelder (M), Michael Swanwick, John Kessel, Ellen Datlow, Jo Walton
I guess I'm on this as the consumer where the others are the producers. Well, that's all right by me.Nifty Narrative Tricks
Friday 16:00 - 17:00, 2502A (Kansas City Convention Center)
Authors share some of their tricks for drawing the reader in, imparting knowledge, and making sure they write a compelling and engaging story.
James Patrick Kelly, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jo Walton, Elizabeth Bear (M), Steven Gould
This topic is usually greatPrometheus Awards
Saturday 14:00 - 15:00, 2205 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Awards given annually by the Libertarian Futurist Society.
Fran Van Cleave (M), Jo WaltonAutographing
: Jeanette Epps, Sheila Finch, Mary Robinette Kowal, Stan Love, Bogi Takács, Jo Walton
Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
Jeanette Epps, Stan Love, Sheila Finch, Mary Robinette Kowal, Bogi Takács, Jo Walton
Come and get your books signed
There are no lasting victories, for time :
Goes on and builds each course on time before
Best case, advancement comes with each new floor
All gains get covered up as on we climb.
And Entropy is real and full of power
Our hard-won victories can slip away
Subside back to the unforgiving clay
Where once we raised the stories of our tower.
Through fire and destruction, bombs and ill
Through loss and pain and ruin and regret
Build on as best we can, each brick we set,
Each little victory that time will kill.
And winning now can count, despite war, sack,
Although Rome fell we got the muses back.
2nd August 2016
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 4581 :
Total words: 82211
Music: No music
Tea: Jin Die with ginseng
Reason for stopping: Finished chapter, time for a break
I also reworked the stuff I wrote yesterday. So that's chapter 11 done, only chapter 12 and an alien epilogue to go.
Next time I have the chance to have another day like this, I should finish the book, though it will also need a solid day or two of fiddling once I have a through draft. But I'm close.
May get some more done in the morning, but I am heading off for GenCon tomorrow afternoon.
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 1993 :
Total words: 77630
Music: no music
Tea: Blue people ginseng oolong, and then white orchard
Reason for stopping: doing things with people
This was yesterday, just under 2000 words of chapter 11, still needing reworking which I plan to do right now.
If you read: "They didn't look anything like aliens in a higa hololoid, why, they didn't even have tentacles!" would the two made up words of "higa hololoid" be relatively transparent to you?
1st August 2016
The Just City free e-book giveway on Tor.com
: The Just City
is being given away free as an e-book for the next week (1st to 7th) on Tor.com, because it is their book club book for August. There will also be some book club stuff about it going on all month, including three new posts by me about the inspiration for the series.
25th July 2016
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 3180 :
Total words: 75638
Music: No music
Tea: White Orchard
Reason for stopping: too hot
As soon as the temperature drops I am writing, but it is very hot right now, so I'm not getting much done.
I have written one alien bit, expanded the last bit, and gone through and put in mentions of the system of government.
An interesting thing I thought when I was doing the latter -- you could read any number of mainstream books and you wouldn't learn much about how the system of government works.
There's A Suitable Boy
and Phineas Finn
and House of Cards
and any number of political thrillers, but really in most mainstream books if you didn't already know you couldn't work it out. You might find out there's a president and senators, or a prime minister and MPs, but you equally well might not, and even if you did you wouldn't know who elected them or how elections worked. SF is usually better about it.
Also, the Poor Relations
synopsis: Some newcomers come to a small village and cause social ripples. And then there's an alien invasion.
But I realised after I posted that on Twitter that it gives an inaccurate impression that it's a historical small village, not a small village on Mars.
Two chapters and 2 alien bits to go, and I've been working all day and feel like I'm still in the same place.
When news comes pounding in from far and wide :
Bombarding us with rapid tragedy
So violence and death is all we see
And hammered home to us from every side
Some thrive on indignation, even rage
Though nothing's changed by anger, tears, or sighs,
Or clenching up, besieged, and closing eyes
Or claiming now's the worst of any age.
But other things are real and happen too
There's still more good than bad, more love than greed,
Much less reported, but remaining true.
Please don't despair, look round, and help with need,
There's science, art, and good work still to do,
Act where you can, reach out, and plant a seed.
20th July 2016
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 1870 (before it got too hot to work) :
Total words: 71458
Tea: Pu Erh and ginseng, again, iced, again
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: got too hot to work
Even if it's only a little bit, it's progress, and I crossed the 70k mark, so worth recording I guess.
Twitter seems to think there isn't a consensus term for the cloth squares people do embroidery on. Is "embroidery squares" a recognisable term? I want to have somebody talk about the stuff she uses for this hobby "My silks, my needles, my embroidery squares..." does that work to convey a sense of what I'm talking about?
(I spent a while trying to figure out if the fabric comes from Earth (the silk does) or if they're manufacturing it on Mars. It depends totally on the percentage of upper class girls who choose this hobby. I think probably it comes from Earth, but it totally doesn't matter.)
Also in this chapter, we finally see the Weintraubs' famous citron tree, which I've been thinking about for months now.
If I could have even four nice cool days like yesterday I could finish this book before I go away again. The weather does not seem like it's likely to cooperate. I am considering the possibility of working in the library, but my keyboard is loud, I'd have to sit quietly and not talk to myself, the chairs wouldn't be good for my back, and I'd have to disconnect and reconnect everything multiple times. But it might be worth it anyway.
I think this chapter's pretty much done, which means only two more chapters and three more alien bits to the end!
19th July 2016
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 4107 :
Total words: 69588
Tea: Pu Erh with ginseng (iced again, though it's not too hot to think today like yesterday)
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: hungry, and need to think about the next bit
I'm almost at seventy thousand words, I could smell my way to the end of the book from here!
So these people live on Mars and call themselves Martians. And they've read War of the Worlds
, of course they have, they have an ironic statue of a tripod by their shuttleport. And... now there's an alien invasion, and suddenly they wish they hadn't read War of the Worlds
because it's making them really uncomfortable. I find this probably funnier than I should, but never mind. Also they have science fiction. They have really great AI, but it's not conscious, and they have science fiction about it becoming conscious and rebelling.
I can't think of another story about an alien invasion of Mars, though I expect there are some. Anyone?
It's a strange kind of book but -- do I always say that about my books? I do. But am I always correct? I believe I am.
Gosh I love writing.
17th July 2016
Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 2006 :
Total words: 65355
Tea: Pu Erh (with ice, it's really hot here)
Music: Power up music and then nothing
Reason for stopping: Not really stopping
Finished chapter 9, at at 65 kwords that means I'm about two-thirds of the way through this book. So I stopped and worked out everything that has to happen in the last third, kind of in order, so I can write it. I was sort of a bit stuck on which of two fun options to go with next, and I decided that since this is in omni I can embrace the power of and. That's what multiple POVs are for. And then I wrote a tiny bit out of order (which I'm not counting) and now I will write chapter 10, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
Yesterday I read back through and revised the middle section. I like the alien POV so much.
It's so odd having Necessity
come out and being in the middle of this, because it's such a different book it feels weird. I read the beginning of this at Readercon and everyone loved it.
16th July 2016
The Ice Remembers
: The ice remembers
tearing down the hills
and being clouds and seas and becks and rills
remembers grey cool dawns, and branching out,
and avalanches falling on a shout,
in ages when cold water turned to time
and ground the world and conquered every clime
and made the sea fall back and mountains shrink.
The cubes of ice that tinkle in your drink,
remember moments rising up as steam
and crystalising, and as ice may dream
holds tight the memory on each cold day
of six cold winters that it needs to stay.
(This is another poem inspired by an Elise necklace, which you can see at the link. Sponsored by my awesome patrons at Patreon
15th July 2016
Home from New York on the Adirondack Haikus
North by the Hudson :
Eagle, heron, cormorant:
Nature by Amtrak.
Last time I came South
A mist of tiny new leaves.
Now, layered lush greens.
It's summer! Well, it's --
No, it's July
. It's summer.
Time keeps on moving.
Under the chestnuts
A red deer crosses the stream
Grey rocks flash past fast
Then we stop in a cutting
And see each flake clear.
Over the water
Slow flap, glide, by the reed bed
So many herons!
Or silver under the sky
Lake Champlain is long.
Wherever I go
The sky is always with me
The same, but changing.
4th July 2016
My Readercon Schedule, and post-Readercon events
: Thursday July 07
8:00 PM 6 SF in Classical Tradition
. John Crowley, Haris Durrani, Ada Palmer, Catherynne M. Valente, Jo Walton (leader). Whatever your definition of science fiction, there's no disputing that there were centuries of proto-science fiction published before the modern stuff began appearing. More than 1600 years before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, Lucian of Samosata wrote The True History, featuring perhaps the first fictional trip to the moon, the first fictional trip into outer space, and the first fictional space opera. Cicero, in 51 B.C.E. published "The Dream of Scipio," in which the narrator and his grandfather, Scipio Africanus, take an astral journey through the solar system. Greek mythology, plays, and tragedies have science fictional elements in them as well. Our panelists will discuss the fantastical and science fictional in the classical (Greek and Roman) tradition.Friday July 08
3:00 PM 5 Robots as Proxies in Science Fiction
. Ted Chiang, Josh Jasper (leader), Jim Kelly, Terence Taylor, Jo Walton. In much of science fiction, robots are thinking beings designed and programmed to be servitors. The tension in that relationship has an unavoidable parallel to slavery, so when we talk about robot uprisings, we're talking about slave revolts. From the throw-away line about the Butlerrian Jihad in the original Dune books to Asimov's laws of robotics and the story of the Centennial Man, to the Terminator, we have views of slaves who decide not to be slaves. What are some of the narratives we create for these slave analogs, and what does it mean for us to be reading them both critically and uncritically?
8:00 PM AT Autographs
. Sarah Pinsker, Jo Walton.Saturday July 09
11:30 AM B Reading
: Jo Walton. Jo Walton. Jo Walton reads from a work-in-progress science fiction novel, Poor Relations
3:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch
. Nicholas Kaufmann, Jo Walton.Sunday July 10
12:00 PM C Yesterday: Time Travel in The Anubis Gates.
Jim Freund, Robert Killheffer (leader), John Langan, Sarah Pinsker, Jo Walton. Time travel is a fascinating but slippery and difficult narrative device. When characters can move back and forth through time, causality can become confusing, irrelevant, or malleable. Pacing becomes troublesome and readers can find it difficult to follow. Many writers skirt this issue, but Powers engages directly with it head on in The Anubis Gates. What does he do and how, technically, does he achieve it? What problems are encountered? Is it satisfying or does it result in the same difficulties in a different way?
2:00 PM 6 Ace, Aro, and Age
. F. Brett Cox, Greer Gilman, Keffy Kehrli, Sonya Taaffe, Jo Walton. Readers looking for asexual and aromantic characters in speculative fiction have to look hard. The only human characters who aren't likely to wind up married off are either children or the elderly, thanks to mistaken cultural notions about youthful innocents and withered crones. How can we expand speculative fiction to include explicitly asexual and aromantic identities, and how does that inclusion force us to also address our ideas about sexual and romantic orientations and age?Monday 11th July
Reading and Signing, with Ada Palmer, in River Run Books
, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.Tuesday 12th July
Reading and Signing, with Ada Palmer in Harvard Bookshore
, Cambridge Mass.Wednesday 13th July
Reading and Signing with Ada Palmer, in The Word
, Brooklyn New York.Necessity
officially comes out on the 12th, but I am assured there will be copies at River Run on the 11th! Don't know if there will be copies at Readercon, we'll see.
24th June 2016
"Pax in forma columba..."
Come, peace, descend to us now :
in the form
of an urban pigeon.
Underfoot everywhere, disregarded,
fed by children on sugar biscuits,
and by old people on hoarded crumbs.
Flocking all over, rising up at a sudden alarm
to settle back in a flutter of wings,
unafraid, beautiful, ubiquitous,.
Grey, barred, or brown,
with a preen of glorious pink,
bright-eyed, head cocked, bold.
Descend into the interstices of our lives,
peck round our park benches, strut past our summits,
nest on our ledges, circle our rooftops.
Billing and cooing, pouting and searching,
come down to the hearts of our cities
and be everywhere taken for granted.
Again, sponsored by my excellent and much appreciated Patreon
23rd June 2016
Sketching the Cloister of Santa Croce
White painted clerestory arches loop, :
Pillars stand grey, and swallows swoop.
Serene, the tolling of a bell,
Cool terracotta tiles, a well.
A square of green, enclosed below,
And almost all is shadow, though
The sun casts arches on the red
The wind blows gently, and the dead,
The hallowed dead, who lie above,
Whose names are honoured in calm love,
Are here recalled. The swallows call,
And roses blow, and from it all
The burning heat of afternoon
Lies on the cloister. Then too soon
Come human voices. We don't drown
But peace that built is broken down.
Santa Croce is an old Franciscan monastery, full of great art, where a lot of Florence's famous people are buried. Machiavelli is there, Dante, Fermi, Galileo, Michelangelo, Marconi... The cloister is down a flight of stairs and outside, and there are two courtyards of it, the first has a chapel by Brunelleschi, and a museum, the second is just a cloistered monastery courtyard as described in the poem -- a walkway around the outside, a square of green grass with rosebushes and a well in the middle. I was there on my own this afternoon. There was somebody sitting in the first courtyard sketching, and I thought what a nice normal thing that is, sketching, making art, recording a scene, and maybe they're good and maybe they're not, but they sure are walking in the steps of lots of great people. But there isn't really a word equivalent, and I wanted there to be. So I sat down on the wall in the second cloister and just wrote this down, recording my sensations in an equivalent way, to see whether it would work. This is probably about as close to just writing down the inside of my head as it gets. The human voices were a tour group, and the allusion is, obviously, to Eliot.
Sponsored by my awesome patrons on Patreon
who pay me for doing what I would be doing anyway, because they like it and they're wonderful.
18th June 2016
The audiobooks of the whole Thessaly trilogy are available for pre-order now, and will all go on sale together on July 12th, which is also the day that : Necessity
is released as a hardcover and an e-book.
The Just City: Thessaly, Book 1http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B01H2D45SA&source_code=AUDORWS0917149AW7
The Philosopher Kings: Thessaly, Book 2http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B01H2D4E68&source_code=AUDORWS0917149AW7
Necessity: Thessaly, Book 3http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B01H2CS3E8&source_code=AUDORWS0917149AW7
They are read by a very cool guy called Noah, who emailed me with queries and struck me as intelligent and nifty, so I trust that what he's done will be good. Here's his bio:
"For over 30 years, Noah Michael Levine has had the pleasure of entertaining people in a variety of forms and fashions. He has done many things - but creating and entertaining is not only what he does best... it’s what he loves most. Art, in all its forms, transcends language and culture - bringing meaning and value to the human experience. He’s grateful to be a small part of that evolution. As a character voice-actor, he’s had the chance to portray well over 500 different voices - and that’s just in The Myth Adventures (humorous fantasy) series of audiobooks. He’s also done many “straight read” audiobooks on topics ranging from History and Science to Law and Philosophy. Additionally, he’s done lots of National and Regional commercial spots and short documentaries."
So if you like audiobooks, you will be able to have them in a few short weeks.
Thud: Poor Relations
Total words: 63349
Tea: Pu Erh
Music: Power up music and then nothing
Reason for stopping: little bit done and now going to have fun
That's about a thousand words now, and the rest the other day. This chapter is getting done, and the book is progressing, even though most of what I am doing on Florence is having fun and researching for Lent.
12th June 2016
Once, he could make a faun :
As easily as laughing,
As believing that skill and stone would bear him up.
When the stone would sing for him
Like waking up on a spring morning
Each chip of his chisel promising wonder.
When patronage was simply
A man who loved art, and life,
A shrewd eye, and a heavy purse.
When every day, each angle of the sun
Brought new shapes rising up from marble
Carved from his heart.
But time and change and pride and obligation
Bore down hard on him
Like sweating uphill with a pack full of rocks.
Until at last, eroded by years like a flawed stone,
Sculpting became hard as porphyry,
Unforgiving as a pope.
Until even his past masterpieces
Became part of his burden
until paint and paper became pain.
Until he was sculpting his sepulchre by candlelight
Each clip of his claw
Coming one step closer to death.
is in the new Museo dell'Opera Duomo in Florence, and I wrote this sitting in front of it yesterday. Thanks to Max Gladstone for knowing what the claw is called.)
24th May 2016
Car Parks and Kings
Your car parks also bear the bones of kings :
We may not know their names or where they lie
Their tragedies, or how they came to die,
But there they are, beneath our daily things.
All Earth holds history, and it lies near,
Though jumbled, partly known, and part forgot
To time and chance and memory and rot.
But layered lives lie close, who lived right here.
Kings, poets, fools, boatbuilders, leaders, led...
We need no pilgrimage, they're never far.
Lost stories dot the landscapes where we tread.
Conquests, new language, centuries, no bar...
We live surrounded by the fabled dead
Remember them, next time you park your car.
(The context for this is of course the discovery of the bones of Richard III in a car park in Leicester, but specifically the tone in which a young American student mentioned this at a showing of Richard III
Sponsored by my backers at Patreon
, or the "get Jo a bed on a train for a song" fund, thank you so much if you are one of them, and do consider kicking in a dollar if you enjoy reading my poetry.