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4th July 2016

9:47am: 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

5:47am: "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 sponsors.

23rd June 2016

2:21pm: 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

7:15am: Thessaly audiobooks
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 1

The Philosopher Kings: Thessaly, Book 2

Necessity: Thessaly, Book 3

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.
6:31am: Thud: Poor Relations
Total words: 63349
Files: 5
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

5:05am: Michelangelo, 1475-1564
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.

(This 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

8:11am: 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 yesterday.)

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.

23rd May 2016

2:55pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 2095
Total words: 58568
Files: 3
Music: No music
Tea: Blue People
Reason for stopping: end of bit and nearly lunchtime

I've been revising the previous chapter for a while, and now I've started on the new chapter and this is the first chunk of it. Feels good to be writing new words. Getting there.

Of course, there is no alien invasion in the original Mansfield Park. But it's a problematic book for a number of reasons, and I think that's one of the problems with it.

I'm in Chicago, by the way. saw a brilliant combined Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI yesterday. The transitions were incredible.

15th May 2016

1:25pm: Sunday Morning, Saint Malo, Two sonnets
1. Joy

It's early Sunday, down here on the sand
There's no horizon, only shades of blue
Dotted with islands, and the inland view
Two castles, one cathedral, and the strand.

The sea-washed sand-grains glitter like panned gold
And sailing out, a single white-sailed yacht
And its reflection -- and how have I got
So lucky, to have this to see and hold.

How did my life lead here, so I could be
Here in this town, this life, this world, these friends,
This early morning walk beside the sea?

So lucky, lucky that my life now lends
This joy of being here, and being free
To see and love so much, before all ends.

2. Sorrow.

I met a woman walking in the waves
"Bonjour," "Bonjour," "Vous etes Anglais?"
"Oui, suis," and then a tale burst out a weird way
I couldn't understand, that featured graves.

She asked was I a writer, I "I am,"
And then she told me that her son had died.
To illness. He was ten. And then she cried.
And I said "Ah! Je n'ai pas mots, Madame."

No words in French or English actually
In face of such a grief, nothing that may
Reach out across the gulf from her to me.

"J'ai perdu ma soeur, a onze. Je sais.
Nous oublies jamais." I said. The sea
Kept making waves. And she said "Oui. Jamais."

All totally true, including my utterly crap French, which I have deliberately left as it is. Actually our conversation was slightly longer -- she recognised the festival ribbon and asked if I was here for Etonnants Voyageurs before she asked whether I was a writer.

I sat down on the steps and wrote these in my notebook on the beach, and got the seat of my pants slightly wet, but it was worth it.

Sponsored by the wonderful Patrons of my Patreon.

13th May 2016

7:48am: Visiting France
I know I won't remember every tree
Nobody could, this new-tipped bushy fir,
This flowering chestnut, all of them will blur,
Into a fuzz of green, unfolding free.

Maybe I'll keep the rivers, Sorgue, Loire, Seine,
Rippling along, which was that bridge at night,
Reflecting in the water silken light?
So history blends Caesar, Charlemagne.

These people walking fast to work or play,
So chic, they smile, disputing what they're told,
As Voltaire walked here with du Chatelet.

A country is too big a thing to hold
And yesterday gets tangled with today
And memories and time turn all leaves gold.

This poem sponsored by my awesome Patreon patrons, and written today on the train between Orleans and Paris.

12th May 2016

3:59pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 1665
Total words: 55304
Files: 5
Music: No music, no writing music on the computer, should get some
Tea: Elderflower and Lemon
Reason for stopping: bedtime

Revised the chapter I wrote Saturday, and wrote a new alien bit. And I know what happens next. Well, reasonably -- at the right degree I need to know to start writing it.

I am in Orleans. If I am going to travel more, I need to get better at writing while I am travelling, so.

Back to Paris tomorrow and then Saint Malo for Etonnants Voyageurs Saturday.

10th May 2016

3:08am: May in Paris, Farthing audiobook on sale, Too Like the Lightning
I am in France. Signing and interview tonight at Dimension Fantastique in Paris, 6.30pm in case any of you happen to be in Paris and want to come, then Etonnants Voyageurs at the weekend in Saint Malo.

The Farthing audiobook is today's Audible Deal of the Day, only $3.95. (I can't look at that link myself, because as I said, I'm in France, and it takes me to Audible.fr which naturally doesn't have it. Irritating, and I hope this works.)

And finally finally, after a long long wait, Ada Palmer's brilliant Too Like the Lightning is released today. You want to read it. No, really you want to read it.

7th May 2016

4:40pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 5118 (and that is all today)
Total words: 53251
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: White Orchard
Reason for stopping: time to make dinner, and then go to France

So that would be another chapter done. Still not quite up to the alien invasion, but very very close now, they'll be there any minute.

Might get the chance to work on it a bit when I'm in France too.

Coming along.

6th May 2016

9:34pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 5979 (again, that's not all today)
Total words: 47930
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: Elderflower and lemon, and earlier Pu Erh with ginseng
Reason for stopping: bed time

All this week I've been going through the whole thing making it consistent so it would be fit to show people and making sure the alien stuff fitted in, because it's out of order in the text and also I wrote it out of order. Pretty sure it works. That 6000 words is about 2000 words of actual new bits, and all the rest is where the thing expanded as I was doing rolling revision.

I believe I am just over half way through, and also that I know what happens next.

Of course, I'm going to France tomorrow, so I may not have time to work on it for a bit. But it's coming along.

2nd May 2016

5:03pm: My Goodreads Review of Petrarch's Letters of Old Age Volume 2
Five hundred and ninety years before I was born, Petrarch died in the middle of writing me a letter.

What do you mean it wasn't to me? It totally was. It was addressed to "Posterity", and if I'm not his posterity then I don't know who is.

Petrarch was warm and friendly and playful and he cared about people and he loved books and the ancient world, and he wanted to live in any age but his own, and to make his own age better and different. And he succeeded in fascinating ways that he couldn't see in making it better and different. He fell in love with Laura and wrote a bunch of very clever poems to her, but his real relationships were his passionate (but neither sexual nor romantic) friendships with other scholars.

In this volume there are adorable letters to Boccaccio, and there are sad letters about being old and ill (and how awful doctors were, and it was 1370, so actually he wasn't wrong) and lovely letters in response to fan letters from young admirers, and charming letters to patrons, and grumpy letters to the pope (he wasn't about to go to Avignon again at his age!) and you don't want to start here. Start with book 1 of his Familiar Letters and read them all slowly, and when you get here you'll cry too, because he's been dead since 1374, and it's not that you didn't know that before you started reading, it's just that by then you'll be his posterity too. I could do with some company here, actually, mourning Petrarch. Appreciating Petrarch. (I've written a ton of poetry about him. It's on my webpage.)

I began to read these letters because Steven Greenblatt mentioned (in The Swerve), in an offhand and slightly patronizing way, as if it was weird and charming but also childish and eccentric, that Petrarch had written letters to Cicero, in response to reading Cicero's letters. And my immediate response was a deep feeling of kinship with Petrarch because as a teenager I had done the same thing. In Latin. Of course in Latin. And yes, I knew Cicero was dead, and so did Petrarch, but Petrarch and I know something about time and death and art that Greenblatt doesn't, quite. I did not triage the Petrarch letters and find the Cicero one, I started at the beginning and read all of them over the course of two years, and I am so glad I did.

Thank you Aldo S Bernardo for translating them, thank you Italica Press for putting them out in relatively affordable e-book editions, thank you Steven Greenblatt for getting me interested in the first place, and thank you Petrarch for starting the Renaissance and saving the world.

Posterity remembers, cares, is deeply grateful, and loves you ridiculously much. I don't know what you'd think of me as a woman with a classics degree and a poet, because that was too much out of your imagination of the world. But neither of us is what Cicero was expecting either. You have to take what posterity you get.
2:09pm: To Shakespeare on his four hundredth anniversary
We saw you on your birthday, you were great!
You always are, you're old, but damn you're good.
Hotspur and Hal, the cast were all first rate
They did you proud, as you might hope they would.

There's four plays out of fifty I've not seen.
I have to say there's really quite a range
From high of Hamlet, low of Cymbeline
Most awesome, others really kind of strange.

Chicago this year's doing every play
Even the doubtful ones. I saw Twelfth Night,
Othello, Lear, Twelfth Night again next day.
Laughed fit to bust. Malvolio! Just right.

The graveyard claims you're dead. It's just not true.
You live and breathe on stage; there we see you.

I've been writing so many Petarchian sonnets recently it was odd to do a Shakespearian one! I've been trying to write this since I was in New York last weekend to see the RSC do Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. This poem sponsored by my awesome patrons on Patreon.

27th April 2016

8:08pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 3418
Total words: 41951
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: Jin Die with added ginseng
Reason for stopping: Stop...?

I've gone back and put alien POV all through. Because when you write in omni you can do that, bwa ha ha!

Actually, I've put just a little bit of alien POV before each chapter, so it amounts to a whole chapter, but spread out throughout the whole rest of the book so far.

I think I should have posted a thud when I wrote some last week and didn't.

Anyway, it's coming along.

16th April 2016

4:49pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 6444
Total words: 37831
Files: 5
Tea: White Orchard
Music: No music, not writing to music much right now
Reason for stopping: time to make dinner, will work more after

So this is not all today, some was yesterday.

I'm having trouble with the SF stuff I always have trouble with, but I am also having some people-stuff trouble and I'm not sure why. I keep writing stuff and then realising it needs to be slowed down and opened out and characterised, and that 500 words needs to be actually a couple of chapters, and then the thousand words that comes after can't be the beginning of the next bit because then the pacing goes weird. The alien invasion is ever-receding in front of me as I write chapters about people going for walks on the Mars-beach and having conversations about changing gender for an amateur production of The Importance of Being Ernest.

Eh well, onwards and upwards.

14th April 2016

4:31pm: Jane Austen to Cassandra
Dearest Cassandra

We thought to have removed to Winchester by now, but Eliza has taken a chill and so we stay here another week, and you should not expect us to join you until after Whitsun.

Let me explain to you the advantages of remaining longer in this neighbourhood -- there are two tolerable walks, one linen draper, with very poor stock, our apartments remain as unsuitable as I explained in my last letter, and Aunt Tilson has not learned the knack of keeping good servants. Nevertheless, these little deficits are made up by the company. Aunt Tilson chatters on with perpetual good cheer, little Anna is learning her scales and should be a fine singer one day since she practices constantly, and the curate does not call above thrice on any usual day.

My only comfort is that you should not have to endure all this, though if you were here to laugh with me I might be more comfortable. Do tell me how you all go on at home.

We saw the gazetted beauty Miss Pelham in church on Sunday, but did not speak. I did not think so much of her looks as they are esteemed, her curls were crimped very tight and the fruit seemed to weigh down her hat sadly. Her manner was very gracious, bowing to left and right. There is no doubt she knows her reputation and means to live up to it, and I dare swear she will have a husband by this day twelvemonth.

The weather remains very dirty, with much rain, varied by high gales. No surprise Eliza succumbed to a chill, it is rather a wonder the rest of us have managed to find health thus far supportable. I did warn Eliza to put on her wrapper, and that she should not linger out of doors on our way home from church, but she paid no attention, and this is the inevitable result.

I should close now so that Iris might get it into the post so it might reach you before you begin to expect us and then be disappointed.

Yours affectionately,

J. Austen

P.S. If you should discover more of that fine white lace at not above 6d an ell, pray purchase three yards for me, for I have a fancy to furbish up all my bonnets.

J. Austen, my dear,

I believe Iris may have played you foul and sent your letter astray. Although it had my name quite plainly on it, I fear it was intended for another.

I do not know you, though you write to me so affectionately. All I can tell you is that your name will echo through the ages besides other poets yet not born: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Ford. Once you are dead, your skull will chatter beside theirs in Hades whenever your works are quoted in the upper world. Is it not a charming conceit? Do you not care for that, truly, more than for lace at 6d an ell?

I am sorry things go on so poorly, though I confess I am charmed by your ironic eye. To respond in the same vein, and since you asked, things go quite marvellously here. Troy revels in the tenth year of this delightful siege. Until it ends this autumn, I need not fear the day of my enslavement or death. The weather holds fair for many days now. The clarity of the sky affords us excellent views from the walls down into the Grecian camp. Unfortunately, our besiegers appear to have for the most part recovered from the plague that was raging there until recently and there are no more bonfires of corpses. I will admit I do not miss the aroma.

When taking a circuit of the walls for exercise I watched the Greek heroes polishing up their weapons and chariots for some new assault. When it comes, as we hourly expect, there will be the chance to see much fine athletic endeavour. Some among the Greeks are well formed men. If you care for the glamour of soldiers at all then you would appreciate the sight of Achilles, for he has a very well-turned leg.

I met my brother Hector up on the walls. He is yet in excellent health, and expected to remain so for several days, though in the course of things he must die when the moon is next full. Our dear father, who was also enjoying the prospect and the only walk the city now affords, reproached me for prophecying wildly, as usual. You are right in noting the pointlessness of such things, and yet, one cannot help from doing it, do you not find?

Coming down to accompany my father to the throne room, we ran into my brother Paris, and with him Helen, formerly queen of Sparta. You talked of esteemed beauties, and you should know that Helen is the most beautiful thing imaginable, far more beautiful than a scorpion, or even a poison frog, for there is human intelligence there. People often say she is like the gods, but it is not so, for I met a god once (Apollo) and he was much more straightforward and did not have such a dangerous glitter. She had no trouble getting a husband, nor in losing him and getting another when she was tired of him, and her first will take her back without a murmur. She will come away from all this scatheless to sit and trim bonnets for her grandchildren and cluck her tongue with the gossips in the corner about what terrible people we all were. I confess I cannot like her much, and I hope your Miss Pelham is not such another.

That is all for now, so keep well, do good work while you may, and come to rest at last in Winchester.

Yours sincerely,

Cassandra, the daughter of Priam

P.S. I have given you all of my news, though it is no news to you, for you know as well as I do how Troy shall fall and what will become of us all.

Dearest Cassandra,

I had the most extraordinary response to my last letter to you. I shall not tell you of it, for I am absolutely sure that if I were to tell anyone I would not be believed...

Not a poem, but nevertheless sponsored by my awesome backers at Patreon! Her sister was called Cassandra, she really was! And reading her letters, every time I read "Dearest Cassandra" I kept thinking about this. This is specially for sartorias.

13th April 2016

4:29pm: Necessity ARC -- Charity Auction
My Necessity ARCs have just arrived, very exciting!

AS last year, I am planning to auction one here for the Vericon auction -- it's a little late. The money goes to Cittadini del Mondo, an excellent tiny organization working with refugees in Italy.

I will take bids in comments, and the auction will run for a week, closing when I get up on Thursday 21st April. This is for one beautiful ARC of Necessity, signed and personalised. The book will not otherwise be available until July 12th! And the money is for a really good cause, so have at it!
9:57am: Not in this town!
Did anyone wonder why he came this far,
To this town with one exit, one stop light, one bar,
Four neon churches, one high school, one park
Full of unspoken things taking place in the dark?

He drove in from the east in a big beat-up car.
Long shaggy dark hair, smiling eyes, a guitar,
Some hooch. All the girls of the town just went wild,
Not knowing at first he was Semila's child.

"Oh no, not in this town, unmarried," they said,
Her dad cast her out, said for him she was dead,
Her sister pretended she didn't exist
With her belly that proved she did more than get kissed.

Must be twenty years now since she went to the bad,
Since she cursed them and left, since she swore she was glad
To get out of this town, narrow, biased, and dumb,
Stalking off to the exit she stuck out her thumb.

Not shamefaced, Semila, she stood there with pride
With her belly thrust out, with a baby inside
A truck slowed, two drivers, she hopped in-between
And that was the last time Semila was seen.

Her boy from the east went by "Leo". His car
Had rust-stains like ivy. He drove to the bar
And ordered a pitcher, then sat in the sun
Just strumming, as girls wandered up one by one.

Now Theo, his cousin, was quiet, uptight,
A young cop, with need to do everything right,
Never drunk in his life, never stepped on a crack,
A good boy he was, who cut nobody slack.

Their mothers were sisters, Semila and Gail,
One passionate proud, and one fluttering frail.
Their boys were like betta-fish, spoiling to fight
When they clashed in the bar there on Leo's first night.

"Hey stranger, hey foreigner, get out of town,"
Theo said. Leo raised up a brow, sitting down,
While his cousin was standing in threatening pose
And Leo smiled lazily: "Do you suppose,

You might drink with me?" Leo asked, "Cousin of mine?
Drinking and dancing is nearly divine,
Let go, dance a little, and drink from my cup
And I'll leave you in peace here to let you grow up."

"I'm too young to drink beer. And I don't know your face?"
"I'm the son of Semila. You'd say her disgrace?"
"Did you card him?" called Theo. "He's not twenty-one!"
And he took a step back, with his hand on his gun.

Leo spread out his hands with placatory smile
And walked out of the bar, and the girls all the while
Were cooing and flirting and whispering "Oh!"
While Theo gave warnings they watched Leo go.

He camped in a barn on the edge of the park
Distant hum of the highway, a dog's lonely bark
And the sound of his music that wove through the dusk
Like sandalwood, ambergris, jasmine and musk.

Strong perfume hung over the town the next day
A whiff of exotic that called folk to play,
Alluring and tempting, the sound of his notes,
Drifting in on the wind, like a warmth in their throats.

Not a woman in town could resist him, most men
Went out once or twice, drank with Leo, and then
He'd let them alone, only Theo refrained,
But the girls day and night danced his dance unrestrained.

Singing and dancing and drinking all hours
And chasing all over with kissing and flowers
Free love and free music, and hooch up for sale,
"No, not in this town!" Theo threw him in jail.

Leo stood at the window and sang through the bars
Wove the world in his song, from the hum of the cars
And light-tripping feet, from his mother's old shame
When the town cast her out and attributed blame

Through the long afternoon, as the memory of scorn
Built the whisper of wind through the ripening corn
Dust devils rose spiralling, dancing along,
And the weight of the sun built the power of his song.

Every female in town then, from puberty on,
Ran off to the park, every woman was gone
Teenagers to grannies, run wild on the hill
And they couldn't be caught and they wouldn't stay still.

The high school half empty, the churches bereft
Whole town half-deserted, no woman was left,
And no one could stop them, and no one would dare,
Till Theo found out his own mother was there.

His mother was gone, so he marched to the jail:
"Make them stop, I demand it! My poor mother, Gail!"
And Leo smiled slyly and said "Would you see
What wild women look like, when once they get free?

This town tossed out my mother without half a thought.
You wouldn't drink with me, afraid to get caught,
Daren't dance the wild dances, intoxicate, oh
No never in this town, I know you won't go."

"Don't call me a coward," said Theo. "My mother
Needs rescuing now -- be a cousin, a brother."
"You need my help now? Well such aid has a cost,"
"I'll pay it," said Theo, and thus he was lost.

"It's hard to get near them, so dress as a girl.
Let me make up your face, prink your hair with a curl.
They won't suspect, cousin, drink this and advance,
And you're sure to catch sight of the girls in their dance."

"I must find my mother." "But what about mine?"
"Your mother, Semila? Is she here? That's fine."
"Take my keys, you should drive, coz," is all Leo said.
Theo drove along Main Street, blazed straight through the red.

Then the drink in his veins and the madness took hold,
Filled with fear for his mom, and the things he'd been told,
And Leo directing: "Turn left here. Now stop.
Get out of the car. Dance, don't look like a cop."

Theo danced as he went, and they tore him apart,
His own mother's fingernails ripped out his heart
And she woke to discover her deed, poor sad Gail.
In the end it's a punishment quite out of scale.

Don't bring on disaster refusing to bend
When people screw up try to act like a friend
Let humans be human and choose their own fate,
Accept the small madness to ward off the great.

This is of course a version of Euripides "The Bacchae". Thanks to my patrons on Patreon, do sponsor me there if you'd like to, and thank you if you already have!

12th April 2016

7:37pm: Obsessed with Petrarch.
I am obsessed with Petrarch. As you know,
If you know anything, he loved a girl
Who was "the wind, the tree, the golden curl"
Was "Laura: l'aura, lauro, l'aureo."

And so I know he'd never look at me.
It's hopeless. And it's worse than that, he's dead
Six hundred forty years. So then, instead,
I sublimate with yearning poetry:

I love the way you write and smile and jest!
I love the way you set a distant goal
And trust that human effort does the rest.

I love the books you love, I love the whole!
I love the way you play with words, but best.
I love the way you love the human soul.

As you may just possibly have noticed if you read my LJ, I have written a bunch of poems about Petrarch. I was just saying to somebody that I'm obsessed with him, and I immediately thought "But of course, he'd never look at me" and I just had to do it as a sonnet.

Supported by my excellent Patreon supporters, thank you!

7th April 2016

12:39pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: about 4000 new words? Hard to say.
Total words: 31387 (I put stuff back in, but also changed it)
Files: 6 (dates and names)
Music: No music
Tea: The last of the Pu erh carbonel brought from China
Reason for stopping: Realised I should update

So a lot of this has been revising stuff I already had, but also writing new stuff. I also had a version control problem where I revised a chapter and then realised I had a later version of it and had to reconcile the two, ick. I generally avoid this problem by not writing different drafts. I've been working on this book on and (mostly) off since 2003. I'll tell you an odd thing though, when I know something I know it -- new version of a chapter from a different POV, and then I looked at the old version, from at least ten years ago, and it's amazing what's the same.

Anyway, I've written a whole new chapter since I last posted a thud, as well as a bunch of tweaking and rewriting.

Now a chapter setting up more character stuff, and then an alien invasion. Didn't you always think Mansfield Park would be better with an alien invasion? No? Well, you probably didn't think Mrs Norris was the most sympathetic character either.
9:44am: Another Oracle from Dionysos
A white sky, a thin snow,
empty arms of trees
dark curve of waiting cave.
Winter's king comes back
heavy cup in outstretched hand
red lips parted in a slippery smile
saying "Drink, drink, go in,
find the wild place,
that spring where the wild
bubbles up uncontrolled
where the veined ice skims over black water
the rose meets the vine
and the mask begins to crack.
Let go now, own what is your own
drink deep and grow.
You are the one who invoked me,
how can you be surprised I showed up?"

Originally posted as a comment on a locked post on a friend's journal, but I think it works without any context at all.

(Thank you generous Patreon backers!)

4th April 2016

9:47am: The Just City nominated for Prometheus Award
The Libertarian Futurist Society give the Prometheus Award (an actual ounce of gold) every year to a science fiction novel "that dramatize the conflict between liberty and power". They are libertarians, but they read widely and nominate thoughtfully, and while this is an overt straight up political award (given annually since 1982) they don't only give it to people whose politics they agree with -- as you can tell by the way they gave it to me for Ha'Penny in 2008, and to Ken MacLeod, and Delia Sherman and Cory Doctorow. They wanted an award to recognise the stuff that's doing what they like, and they got together and organized one, and keep on doing it every year. I respect that a lot.

And... I am on an awards ballot with Gene Wolfe!

Here's the complete list and description of the nominees, in alphabetical order, from their press release:

"Golden Son, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey) – Slavery versus freedom is a central theme of the intriguing second novel in “The Red Rising Trilogy,” set on a future Mars inhabited by the idle-rich Golds and slave-miner Reds. Questions about trade-offs between chaos and control and whether the ends justify the means are explored as the libertarian protagonist strives to help the Reds revolt and create an equal-rights society only to learn that some slaves actually don’t want to be free. (This is Brown’s first recognition as a Prometheus nominee and Best Novel finalist.)

Apex, by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot) –Set in a future where a substance called Nexus allows humans to connect through their minds, the gripping finale of the “Nexus Arc” trilogy dramatizes a conflict between major world governments, controlled by deceitful and corrupt men who censor truth and spread disinformation, and rebels who seek to bring down these governments by improving communication and enlisting the support of free individuals (both human and human-derived AI). A central question explored is whether it’s better for governments to contain technology, in the name of protecting the people, or to allow technological advancements, even with big risks. (Naam won the 2014 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Nexus, part of a trilogy that continued with Crux and ends with Apex.)

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow) – This epic hard-science fiction novel, about a cataclysmic event that threatens human civilization and the planet Earth, avoids ideology but still dramatizes how a lust for power almost wipes out humanity, while also showing how voluntary cooperation, individual initiative and the courage to face reality and tackle overwhelming problems through reason and private enterprise helps tip the balance towards survival, as a small group – including some of Earth’s bravest and richest entrepreneurs – risk their lives to save mankind. (Stephenson won the Prometheus for Best Novel in 2005 for The System of the World.)

The Just City, by Jo Walton (TOR Books) – Recognizing that utopian works are one of the sources for science fiction as a literary form, Jo Walton returns to one of the founding utopian works, Plato’s Republic, and enters into a critical dialogue with it. The process she envisions is science fictional — admirers of Plato from across many centuries are gathered together to raise children as citizens of Plato’s ideal city — but the underlying premise is fantasy: the project is initiated by Athena, and taken up by Apollo. Walton’s political themes – including issues of “equal significance” and the difference between genuine and manipulated political consent – are dramatized through a series of striking incidents and well-drawn characters. (Walton won the Prometheus for Best Novel in 2008 for Ha’penny)

A Borrowed Man, by Gene Wolfe (TOR Books) –This intriguing sci-fi murder mystery – which also works as an old-fashioned detective novel and a writer’s meditation on mortality and the desire to produce a body of work that will be remembered – offers a deeply sympathetic portrait of a human clone/slave “book” struggling for his basic existence and humanity in a diminished future Earth where such “books” are treated like pieces of property that can be checked out and ultimately burned. (This is the first Prometheus finalist by Gene Wolfe, one of the most admired sf writers in the field.)

Fourteen novels were nominated for this year’s Best Novel award.

The other nominees: Luna: New Moon, by Ian McDonald (TOR Books), Squirrel Days, by Dustin Costa (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), The Turing Exception by William Hertling (Liquididea Press), InterstellarNet: Enigma, by Edward M. Lerner (FoxAcre Press) , Annihilation Score by Charles Stross (Ace Books), The Miskatonic Manuscript, by Vin Suprynowicz (Mountain Media), The Testament of James by Vin Suprynowicz (Mountain Media), Joe Steele, by Harry Turtledove (ROC) and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky (http://hpmor.com/)"
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