Back in the spring, I gave a radio interview for Jim Freund’s Hour of the Wolf program on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York. I have audio clips from the interview up on my site in mp3 format. If you’re curious, you can listen to them by clicking these links: 1, 2, 3, 4.
The Quotable DBK
“All I’ve done, I’ve done for my pet turtle. I love you, Fluffy.”
“Metatron! He’s the angel that can turn into a truck.”
“I didn’t know the Romanian language contained
any words that didn’t mean ‘I am a vampire.'”
“Why thank you, I’ve been secretly wanting some
exciting strange man to break in and lick my toes.”
“WOMBATS DON’T LAUGH! On your feet!”
I’m home now from teaching at Alpha, the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers. This was my third summer there. This year, the sheer awesomeness of the workshop was pumped up to near-apocalyptic proportions by the addition of my onetime Clarion classmate and perennial partner-in-crime Tobias S. Buckell. Toby and I tag-team-taught a number of lectures, including ones on Originality & Ideas, Character & Dialogue, Plot & Structure, and Titles. We also critiqued stories, organized after-dark frisbee games, and stayed up late dispensing almost terrifying quantities of wit and wisdom.
Then after that was Confluence. I did a couple panels. I wasn’t scheduled to do a reading, but due to overwhelming demand, I offered to do one in my room. Since I was reading my scary demented pirate story, I decided to trick out my room in haunted house decor. I downloaded scary sound effects off of iTunes, and then, in less than an hour and using only common hotel items, created a freakishly glowing throne fronted by a spooky altar, placed one gruesome corpse under the covers of the bed and hung another (well okay, it was a bathrobe) from the the sprinkler. I also conjured up a squamous fiend, the Lurker in the Bathroom, to devour anyone foolish enough to disturb my toiletries. Unfortunately, one student dared its wrath. Aside from her hideous shrieks of undiluted terror, she was never heard from again.
Then yesterday I hugged everyone goodbye, shuttled over to the airport with a bunch of people, said goodbye several more times, and flew home. The view out my airplane window was staggering. I mean, I’ve flown on hundreds of planes, and I’ve often looked out the window, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Huge — I mean just gargantuan — columns of black thunderheads stretching for miles, and behind them a blazing red-and-yellow-streaked sunset. Then later we flew among the lightning, which lanced toward the earth and lit up the clouds above like bright-white fireworks. It was the first time I’ve ever really been tempted to skydive, to be just plunging among all that beauty and power and majesty.
Then, walking out to the airport parking lot, I found a $100 bill lying on the floor.
Update: And hey, if there are any Alpha students reading this, I am making the super secret Alpha gang sign at y’all.
Attention fellow Confluence people: I’ll be reading my demented pirate story in my room (Room 203) at 10:00 p.m. tonight (Saturday). Anyone is welcome to come.
Okay, I’m back. I’ve been unable to journal the last few days due to circumstances I shall now relate.
My laptop is slow. Always has been. I bought a very cheap version, foolishly thinking that since I was mostly just using it for word processing and email, I hardly needed massive computing power. The problem with this reasoning, of course, is that you need a computer approximately 1,000 times as powerful as the ones we used to go to the moon just to run Windows. If I turn my computer off, it takes half an hour for it to boot again. Microsoft Word crashes (locking up my system) every single time I try to close it, even if I haven’t even edited a document. Often, my computer will randomly go off into flights of chugging reverie during which I can do nothing and that are so protracted I almost expect it to come back with the answer to life, the universe, and everything. This has seriously impacted my productivity. I break into a cold sweat at the prospect of having to open Microsoft Word, and I’m sure I’ve spent a solid month of my life just watching it dither.
Back around Easter, my cousin attempted to help speed up my computer by somehow telling it not to load so much stuff during startup. Unfortunately, somehow this included not loading whatever drivers are necessary to interact with secure servers, so I could no longer buy stuff through Amazon, Audible, or iTunes, or sign into various websites associated with grad school. My cousin then denied that he had done anything, and I had no idea how to fix it. I managed to limp along, but really needed to get it fixed. I finally saw my cousin again at his sister’s college graduation party, and I told him that if he didn’t fix it, I was going to try smacking my laptop repeatedly against his forehead and see if that did the trick. He did something, and everything seemed to be working again, but when I got home I discovered that now livejournal had stopped working.
So I figured out how to fix that, but I’ve still had it with this computer. To add to my woes, a certain key just stopped working. I’d tell you what it is, but I can’t type it. Well here, I’ll give you a hint, it’s between the 5 and the 7.
So last month wasn’t a fluke. For the second consecutive month, I got my picture on the KGB photos page.
Stephen Colbert was great, of course. And Bewitched was actually more entertaining and a lot funnier than I expected, though his part in it is virtually nonexistent. (He said he did have some more substantial scenes that didn’t make the final cut.)
Someone in the audience asked him who his influences were, and he mentioned that in his youth he was a huge Tolkien fan, and read The Lord of the Rings countless times, not to mention The Silmarillion and all the histories of Middle Earth. I didn’t think this was possible, but I like him even more now, knowing he’s a proud fantasy reader.
Tomorrow I’ll be going to see a live interview with The Daily Show‘s own Stephen Colbert, which is awesome. But first I have to sit through Bewitched (which he’s in), something I can’t say interests me at all, but it’s sort of a package deal. Oh well, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. And I mean come on, it’s friggin’ Stephen Colbert.
If you had asked me this morning how I would be spending my afternoon, I almost certainly would not have said, “Playing softball on a team captained by one of the Beastie Boys.” Yet such is the surreal randomness that is my life, that is exactly what happened. Now, I know what you’re saying. You think I’m making this up. You’re saying to yourself, “Wait a minute here … you’re trying to get us to believe that you played softball.” I, who still bear the scars of trauma from my one year of Little League when I was twelve, who has never watched a baseball game on TV, and who, when I attended my one live baseball game when I was five, complained so relentlessly that I was bored that we left before the seventh inning stretch. But wait, I swear I’m not making this up. This is what happened…
I was in Manhattan for the editors lunch, which was fun, as always. Then I swung over to Chelsea to check out the new gallery exhibits. Walking back, I passed by a playground, and noticed a young woman on the field. As I went by, she called through the fence, “Hi. You want to play softball?” I paused. I contemplated this. On the one hand, I mostly associate playing bat & ball sports with abject humiliation, and I was dressed in slacks and stiff new loafers that were already starting to give me blisters. On the other hand, it was a nice day, I had no real plans, and my policy is to never turn down any opportunity that might make a funny story. And besides, I’m highly susceptible to suggestions from young women. I warned her, “I’m really bad.” She said, “That’s okay. I’m really bad too. A lot of us are.” I shrugged, and said, “Okay, sure.”
I walked around the fence and out onto the playground. I chatted a bit with the young woman, whose name was Wendy. I introduced myself to a few other people. There were about twenty players, and a roughly even number of men and women. We were divided into teams. My team batted first, but out of the first three batters, I don’t think anyone made it past first base, so I was mercifully spared from having to bat. Since I had no glove, I borrowed one from the other team’s first baseman, Juliana, and retired to the outfield, where I’m more at home, and hoped that no one would hit the ball in my direction. No one did, and after three outs I handed Juliana back her glove. She asked, “So how was that?” and I replied, “I was pretty satisfied with my performance,” and she laughed.
Next, I was made to bat, and on my first pitch I clobbered it way, way past the outfield. I rounded the bases in stunned bafflement, and came home for the first score of the game. Several people high-fived me, and someone called out, “We’ve got a ringer!” I was too surprised to even be excited. On my second at bat, I drove a bouncing ball into left field, made it to second base, and brought a runner home. This was actually kind of fun. Not only was I not humiliating myself, and not costing my team the game, I was actually doing quite well. However, shortly thereafter, reality reasserted itself. I struck out on my next two at bats, the pitcher having realized that I couldn’t tell a good pitch from a bad one and would swing at anything. A familiar feeling of frustration started to build. I consoled myself with the fact that at least Wendy would know I hadn’t been deceiving her when I told her I was really bad.
On my next at bat, it was the last inning of the game, we were down by one run (17-16) and there was a runner on third. I stepped up to the plate and asked how many outs there were. Everybody yelled, “Two!” It occurred to me that that was why everyone had been arguing for ten minutes about the last call: one more out would mean the game. I tend to ask these kinds of preposterously stupid questions during team games, and I’m sure that this has given many coaches and players over the years cause to wonder if I’m somehow mentally retarded, but really I just don’t find team sports that interesting, and my mind wanders constantly. Anyway, if I struck out again, we would lose the game. Someone called out good-naturedly, “It’s all on your shoulders!” Cue the awesome humiliation potential.
But on the first pitch, I hit it good — not as good as my first hit, but still pretty darn good — and fortunately no one caught it, which would have been a real drag, and so our runner came home and I tied up the game. Then later, after much furious blister-shredding dashing in my stiff new loafers, I made it home, and we were up by one. Yay!
Then the other team was up, and if we could prevent them from scoring, we would win. Someone got to first base, two batters hit fly balls that were caught, and then the next batter was a smaller girl with long black hair and a flaming skull tattoo on her shoulder who was visibly inexperienced and had not — as far as I remember — hit the ball all day. I thought the game was all wrapped up at that point, and was mentally trying to come the grips with the implications of me having tied and then been the winning run in a game. But somehow that girl hit the ball and made it to first base, and then the next batter was invincible, and I knew we were finished, as indeed were were. But that’s okay. It makes a better story that way, and I was happy for that girl, who could probably use an athletic triumph even more than I could. And at least it wasn’t my fault we lost, and I didn’t humiliate myself by randomly falling down on my butt during a time out or anything like that.
So anyway, after the game I walked a ways with some of the other players, and I asked Juliana how she knew this group of people, and she said she’d met them through a friend of hers who hadn’t come because she was “touring.” I asked, “What kind of touring?” and she said, “She’s in a band,” and I asked, “Touring where?” and she said, “The U.S., Europe, Australia,” and I said, “Wow,” and she said, “She’s in this band, you probably haven’t heard of them, they’re sort of a local indie band, it’s called Le Tigre?” Now, by an incredible coincidence, Le Tigre is the band I sort of stood around in the hall with when I hung out backstage at the Conan O’Brien Show (thanks Andrea!), so I told Juliana about that, and she said, “So she’s seeing Adam, who was at the game. Do you know who he is?” I wasn’t even sure which one “Adam” was. She described him. I said, “The one who was sort of organizing everything?” and she said, “Yeah, do you know who he is? Adam Horovitz.” I didn’t. She said, “He’s one of the Beastie Boys.” And I was like, “Really?” That’s so crazy.
Some random dude with excellent literary taste and glowing yellow eyes used a quote from my short story “The Black Bird” as part of his sig file.
So I saw Batman Begins yesterday on the IMAX screen (at Loews by Lincoln Center). Seeing it in IMAX was breathtaking — particularly the iconic circling shot of Batman poised on a skyscraper and looking out over Gotham — but it did create some problems. One (minor) problem was that there were hardly any previews, so by the time I got back to my seat with popcorn, the movie had already started, and I missed the opening scene. The bigger problem involves some…
So at the climax, Batman is battling a villain on an elevated train headed for the heart of Gotham. If the train reaches the center of the city, Gotham will be destroyed. Okay, I guess technically that was a spoiler, but come on, it’s a Batman movie, you knew that was going to happen. Anyway, Batman and his enemy are flailing away, and suddenly the screen goes dark, and all you can hear are the thuds and grunts of hand-to-hand combat. This stretched for several seconds, and initially I thought it was kind of cool — obviously the train had gone into a tunnel.
But then this went on for ten seconds, and then fourteen. Then the sound stopped. Then the house lights went on, and en masse five hundred irate batfans swiveled to glare menacingly at the projection booth. The projectionist, who sounded like the teenage service-industry worker in the Simpsons (there’s only one), announced that there had been a big power surge, and he would try to get the movie started again soon. Here followed about a ten minute break, which significantly dissipated the dramatic tension of the movie, and went on longer, as it turned out, than the whole rest of the movie.
Awesome day today. Just awesome. It was great to see Rob again. Batman Begins is friggin’ brilliant. Terrific writing and acting. It makes Tim Burton’s Batman look like Batman and Robin. Then I saw Jeff Ford and Greg Frost read at KGB, and spent a jovial and hilarious evening with friends.
Holy movie trailers, I really want to see Batman Begins.
Smash! Wham! Kerpow!
Update: I’ll be seeing Batman Begins tomorrow with my friend Rob. This is really cool, first because I haven’t seen Rob in forever, and second because he’s a big Batman fan. (He’s the one who first introduced me to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.)
Samuel R. Delany is super cool.
I’m spending this weekend over at the Hartwell manse, reading articles for the New York Review of Science Fiction. Reportedly, legendary author and critic Samuel R. Delany will be hanging out with us tomorrow and Sunday, which I’m very excited about.
I’ll be checking out the NYRSF reading tonight at the South Street Seaport Museum’s Melville Gallery (213 Water Street). Linda Addison and Gerard Houarner will be reading at 7:00 p.m., and we’ll be doing dinner afterward. This is the last NYRSF reading of the season, and since I’ll be moving to L.A. this fall, it’s the last one I’m likely see for the forseeable future.
Muchas gracias to Bill for hosting a party in his backyard tonight. I had a great time, and met many nice people. Before that, I swung by Union Square Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of Barbara Campbell’s new novel (her first) Heartwood, so that I can have her sign it at her Book Launch Celebration tomorrow. (And for those keeping score at home, this Barnes & Noble stocks one signed copy of All the Rage This Year.)
I also wandered the street fair up on 7th Avenue. For a while, there was a woman walking ahead of me holding a large poster that read: “Extraterrestrials Have Left Us a Message. They Created Us In Their Image.” And, “Science Replaces Religion.” (It’s reassuring to know, in this culture seemingly awash in soft-headed nonsense masquerading as fact, that someone is standing up for science.) The poster depicted a flying saucer beaming a giant DNA double helix down onto the earth, and then a swirl of species representing human evolution, though I wasn’t sure about the progression. Don’t hold me to this, but I’m not sure that camel -> butterfly -> chimpanzee -> human is precisely correct. The poster also listed a website.
Trailing after that woman came a small, agitated man repeatedly shouting, “Science replaces religion? Hmph. Go home! Go home!” and exhorting passerbys “Don’t look!” (At the woman’s poster.) “Don’t look! There is no message!” (from Extraterrestrials). This was proving to be a startlingly ineffective strategy for getting people to not look at the poster.
Got a nice note today from a 7th-grade teacher: “I have just completed reading ‘Lest We Forget’ with my students and they want more! They loved the story, even those who don’t like to read. The only negative comment I have received is that the story is too short. They want to know more about Morgan and Corey. Good job! I’m going to try to find some of the other short stories you have done and share with them. It’s very rare that I find something that becomes popular that quickly.”
George R. R. Martin just announced that he’s finished writing A Feast for Crows, the fourth volume in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin is my favorite writer currently working, and A Feast for Crows is the book I’m most looking forward to reading.
It’s been a long wait. The third volume in the series, A Storm of Swords, came out in 2000, so lots of people have been waiting five years for this. I didn’t discover the series until the fall of 2001, and didn’t read A Storm of Swords until January 2002, so I’ve only been waiting a comparatively easy three and a half years.
The bad news is that A Feast for Crows won’t feature many of the major characters, including Jon, Daenarys, Tyrion, and Bran. Their storylines are being bumped back to the next volume, A Dance with Dragons. For more on this, read George R. R. Martin’s explanation.