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A couple things. First thing, a new story of mine is up on Electric Velocipede Issue 23: Through the Uprights. Read it or don't.

Second, completely unrelated thing. We were driving out for a Sunday hike recently and we passed a trailer that had two flagpoles in the front yard. On one flagpole, a rebel flag (aka Confederate flag). On the other flagpole, Old Glory. Now, I'm sure I've seen this pairing before. And I'm sure it makes perfect sense to the inhabitants of that trailer. But this was the first time it struck me: NO. You've got to pick one. You either get your CSA, Lost Cause, revisionist b.s. about "state's rights," and not-so-crypto-racism, or you get the USA. You know, the Union. The folks flying the Stars & Stripes, albeit with 33 to 35 stars at the time of the war. You can't claim both sets.
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WisCon blew by even more quickly this year. One minute we were riding in from Truax Field in the hotel shuttle van, the next we were hopping in the Rowe-Bond's Honda Fit for a leisurely drive through Indiana. My con reports are pretty much cliché at this point: it was great to see friends, I did not get enough conversation time with any of them, some folks I missed entirely and that bums me out, I prefer readings to panels, beer is delicious.

The Delicious Beer track started early, during our layover at O'Hare, when I discovered Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian strong pale ale. Further delicious beers included Monk's Café Flemish Sour Red Ale, New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and Ommegang BPA. Many of these were consumed at Cooper's Tavern, a gastropub on the capitol square in Madison. Recommended, especially if you can get The Snug, the little table-sized room where the bartender waits on you via a little puppet-show door in the wall. We also got supper one night at Icon, the tapas place on State Street. Now that I think about it, this was a really top-notch year for food and bevs. We had humongous breakfast crepes at the farmers' market on Saturday morning. We had brownies and bourbon balls from the Tiptree Bake Sale. We had the local meat and cheese platter at a late lunch with Eileen Gunn and Carol Emshwiller in The Bar. I never got to try the Writer's Block, a raspberry margarita from the drink menu that bartender Brian makes every year for the convention, but it looked good on paper.

Items acquired in the dealers' room: The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, Volume 1, as well as a bunch of stuff from PM Press. For a bunch of anarchists, PM Press sure does a great job with consistent and beautiful graphic design.

Readings attended: only three, but that still meant I heard Alan DeNiro, Karen Joy Fowler, Hiromi Goto, Mary Doria Russell, Gwenda Bond, Christopher Rowe, Genevieve Valentine, Amal El-Mohtar, Meghan McCarron, David Moles, Ben Rosenbaum, Geoff Ryman, and Jen Volant. That's a lot of talent, right there. I was particularly moved by the short-short that Hiromi Goto read about memory and social media. There were a lot of other people whose readings I missed, dangit.

I read a new proto-story and that was fun but even more fun was reading the beginning of Carol Emshwiller's "Draculalucard" for the panel where Karen Fowler and Eileen Gunn and Pat Murphy and I celebrated Carol's work. Pat read a relatively new story from Carol, "Uncle E," and that really got to me, hearing Pat read it aloud (I had read it in print just before the con). Speaking of Carol: The Emshwillerians.

Panels attended: The Trials, Joys and Tribulations of Tiptree Jury Duty. There were plenty of other panels that looked interesting, but none of them trumped fiction or sleep.

Parties attended: a bunch, but the three pillars were the Rabid Transit karaoke dance party, the Strange Horizons tea party, and the Genderfloomp dance party. One of these days I will stop being such a persnickety weirdo about the songs I will dance to.

And that's about it, I guess. I'm ready for WisCon 2012, yep.
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Last weekend I attended the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in sunny Orlando, Florida, aka The Happiest Place on Earth. Ten years ago, I met [livejournal.com profile] barbmg, [livejournal.com profile] bondgwendabond, and [livejournal.com profile] colonelrowe at ICFA. So it was a good anniversary and a great time. Academics, writers, critics, and fellow travelers from all over the world get together to read, talk, argue, drink, and relax. I ended up in a reading slot with Connie Willis (who was a guest of honor as was Terry Bisson) and Jeff Ford. Connie read the first chapter of a new novel, Jeff read a story about the doppelgangers of doppelgangers, and I read the beginning of "Holderhaven," my American country house story that's in the most recent issue of CRIMEWAVE. Doing that reading was great fun, as was attending a few other readings, especially ones by Paul Park and Terry Bisson and Kit Reed. I went to a couple panels too, including one mostly cool one about fantastic elements in Shakespeare--lots of discussion of witches, ghosts, fairies, and wizards, not so much of satyrs. Terry Bisson and Andy Duncan did a spot-on version of Terry's "They're Made Out Of Meat" one night. And Andy brought a raccoon that played "Yakety Sax" on the harmonica. And....

How does this make sense to anyone who wasn't there? What is the least bit academic about a raccoon playing "Yakety Sax"? Well, the theme of the conference was "The Fantastic Ridiculous," so there you go. Looks like I've got yet another event I really need to try and get to every year.
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First, a current, nonfictional look at houses of the future. Note: I am not saying I agree w/ P.J. O'Rourke about this or about anything, nor am I particularly vouching for this essay as great writing. But it is worth reading.

Second, an early-21st-century fictional take on 1950s houses of the future, by me.

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This story, first published in 2002, is up for your perusal at Strange Horizons. I'm glad those folks wanted to reprint it. That is all.
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Here's me in my now-rare guise as architecture journalist, typing about a big red house.

And for those of you who plan to attend Readercon 2008, here's my schedule there. I hadn't planned on doing any programming at all, but:

Friday 12:00 Noon, ME/ CT: Discussion (60 min.)

The Sycamore Hill Conspiracy, or How Bad Stories Go Good. Gregory Frost (L) with Richard Butner, F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Theodora Goss, Gavin J. Grant, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Jonathan Lethem, Michaela Roessner, Christopher Rowe, _et al_

How did one particular peer workshop started by John Kessel in Raleigh, NC way back in 1985 produce remarkable and frequently award-winning fiction? What's it like to workshop a story when everyone in the room is an invited author of note? Does a workshop at this level use the standard Clarion techniques, or does it have its own style? Veterans of the Sycamore Hill conference tell all. [Since there are far too many SycHillers at the Con to fit on a panel, the plan is to have a bunch of them sit in a half-circle in front of the panelist's table and have plenty of contributions from the audience.]


Friday 8:00 PM, ME/ CT: Panel

F&SF + MFA > 0. Richard Butner, Andy Duncan, James Patrick Kelly (L), John Kessel, Sandra McDonald, Michaela Roessner

We all know that writing f&sf is taught at specialized workshops like Clarion, but you can also go to school and get an MFA in creative writing in the genre. James Patrick Kelly and his frequent collaborator John Kessel have taught writing at this level, and they're joined by four of their students. How does teaching students who are already accomplished writers differ from teaching the newbies at Clarion? Why devote so much time to polishing your craft in an academic setting when most of your peers are managing without it?
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Here's a draft of a recent story, processed by Wordle. This toy is way too much fun.

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Or not. We're back. Too many great people, not enough time. As usual, I saw old friends and met a couple of really cool new ones. And it didn't help that norovirus, or whatever it was, was selectively felling people I wanted to chat with. I have managed to avoid the plague so far, although I had a brief scare on Monday probably more related to spicy Thai food and to my ability to psych myself out. For the record, dinner each night was: tapas, tapas, Thai, sushi. Also for the record, [profile] sarah_prineas has  some really cool shoes of Spanish leather.

In inside-joke news, Niobium is a real element, o ye of little faith.

Instead of talking about any of the bad craziness, I will instead direct your attention to this baby sloth video (via Christopher).

Did I mention that there were too many great people, and not enough time?
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OK, really just five days in between VARF and WisCon 32. And soon enough I'll be in Madison. But I want to be there NOW. Tonight's big excitement includes packing, and doing some final proofing before printing out the 3,000 words of fragmentary somethingness that I'm going to read.

Virginia was a nice getaway, especially with the weather being pleasant instead of sunstroke-inducing. We went to Pyrates sets, caught a few of [personal profile] thatliardiego's shows, looked at stuff for sale but bought nothing. Hummed at the alpacas. Managed to get [personal profile] terribleturnip and the Captain and Brian and Hemloche out with us for Mexican dinner that was not half shabby. Tamales, yum.

VARF's reputation as the Little Fair That Can is well-deserved. I was always surrounded by friendly folks to chat with, including all of the aforementioned plus the talented and charming [profile] pyratelady and all the folks at the greyhound tent. [profile] skivee exhorted us to check out Mike Oldfield's "Five Miles Out." [personal profile] thatliardiego exhorted me to buy a SportKilt. There were other exhortations, mostly about heaving away and hauling away.

I am so, so, so ready to be in the Governor's Club at the Concourse. See some of y'all there.
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From my good friend codename Sumi, this bit of science news: sloths are not as lazy as previously assumed. Huh. I suppose I should consider this inspiring, or something.

Speaking of doing stuff, here's my Wiscon schedule:

156 Delicate Flowers

Reading ♦ Sunday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. ♦ Conference 2

Christopher Rowe, Richard Butner, Ted Chiang, Karen Meisner

Yep, that's it. Actually, taking a quick gander at the schedule, I am far from alone in doing the reading-but-no-panels thing.
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First off, to Alain Robbe-Grillet. I learned of his passing at the Ballardian blog. I first read The Erasers because Jim Sallis had mentioned reading Robbe-Grillet in one of his story introductions.  I was hooked quickly, even though I didn't know jack about literary theory or the nouveau roman. If you haven't read any of his stuff, start by renting Last Year at Marienbad. If you like that movie, you'll probably like Robbe-Grillet's writing.

Another much less important goodbye is me saying goodbye to USENET, which I've been reading since 1992. The only newsgroup I paid much attention to lately was alt.music.chapel-hill, and really that's just a mirror of an email list. My Internet provider stopped supporting my shell account long ago, and a couple weeks ago trn just decided I didn't have access to the news server. Tech support refuses to even look at the problem, and I don't have the time to troubleshoot it myself. So, it's as good a point as any to stop reading newsgroups, even though in many ways the setup and etiquette of the best newsgroups is much more advanced than many Web 2.0 sites. Here's to alt.drinks.scotch-whisky, long may you run.
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Chris Nakashima-Brown posted a list of books that changed his life and tagged me to do the same. I tried to stick mostly with books I read prior to meeting Kessel and falling into the deep end of the sf pool. (Thus there are no women writers in this list, and there are problematic individuals such as Hunter Thompson, which sucks but so it goes.) So, submitted without much comment:

  1. Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones.
  2. Donald Barthelme, City Life.
  3. Alain Robbe-Grillet, The Voyeur.
  4. A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner.
  5. Franz Kafka, The Penal Colony.
  6. Damon Knight, editor, the Orbit anthologies.
  7. Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
  8. Frank Miller and Bill Sienciewicz, Elektra: Assassin.
  9. Barney Rosset, editor, The Evergreen Review Reader.
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It's true, you can't copyright a title. "Wait, you mean the other CRASH, not the Cronenberg movie from the Ballard book. Oh." Et cetera. Still, it strikes me as weird that Nick Hornby's new YA novel about a skater kid has the same title as Lew Shiner's wonderful 1990 novel featuring skater kids, SLAM.
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I met Chris Barzak in spring 2001 and almost immediately ended up doing some workshopping via email with him and Dr. Crossbow and Corvus Rex. And one of the stories Chris sent around was "Dead Boy Found," which ended up in a little anthology called Trampoline. And a book that grew out of that story is One for Sorrow, which has wowed the Florida Society of Goldsmiths and will wow you too. As of this day you can now purchase from the bookselling establishment of your choice. So why don't you go do that, huh?
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Full disclosure: Lew Shiner is an old friend. He is also a great writer. He's just started a project to release his short fiction and articles on the Web under a Creative Commons license: the Fiction Liberation Front. There are reprints, there are never-before-published stories, there's even a screenplay. All through it there is the thunderous heartbeat of Lew. Go ye and read.
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Woke up at 0530 EDT on Friday to head to Wiscon. Arrived 2200 CDT at the Ratbastards Karaoke Party. In between there was a broken airplane in Detroit and a bus ride from Milwaukee and lots of waiting areas. Also, a Tequileria. That's not as good as it sounds. Karaoke was fun as usual, hugs and beers all around. Well, not all around, of course, but close enough. Regarding song selection, at this point I'm in favor of some type of "no repeats" guideline. I sang a Highwaymen song I did not know with three other white males and then I sang "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" with one other white male.

Restaurants dined in: Hawk's (great sandwiches), Chautara (decent masala dosa), Nick's (great 1950s trapped in time decor), Maza (Afghan restaurant #1), Michelangelo's (iced coffee of greatness), Kabul (Afghan restaurant #2). Governor's Club, which isn't a restaurant but which does offer a healthy way to start the day. (And an unhealthy way to end it.)

Items purchased in dealers room: Say... magazine. We also picked up our subscriber's copy of LCRW. And Gavin presented me w/ a copy of this interesting looking book on Carol and Ed Emshwiller, Emshwiller, Infinity X Two from Nonstop Press. That was it. My groaning bookshelves thank me.

I'm still ambivalent on panels; both of the ones I was on were media-related. The concom has stepped up in trying to educate moderators and attendees, but. I was amused that the first audience member recognized at the first panel I attended was a "not a question but a..." person. I seem to have missed the uber-controversial panels this year, as I always do. The ones I attended were worthwhile: feminism in YA, what writers owe readers, and the future of feminism.

People hung out with: lots. Too many to name here. And if there was a downside, it was that I didn't bluster up and introduce myself to folks I don't know as often as part of me thinks I should. So instead of talking to Sarah Prineas or Niall Harrison or Jenn Reese, I, um, didn't. It was great seeing Annie Link working the Small Beer table, and attending readings and other programming. Let's just shorten that to, it was great seeing Annie Link. Also great seeing Bill and Linda Link there. And extra-quadruple-great as per usual to see Carol Emshwiller.

Alan DeNiro rocked the mike at his reading. I wish I hadn't missed [livejournal.com profile] megmccarron at her reading, but I arrived late and I now have a BLACK MARK ON MY RECORD THAT WILL FOLLOW ME FOR THE REST OF MY DAYS. I think the reading slot I was in went well. Good stuff from [livejournal.com profile] bondgwendabond, [livejournal.com profile] colonelrowe, and Chris Nakashima-Brown.

Staying until Tuesday was once again a good idea, especially because it meant a chance to get some time with a certain overworked GoH who has a taste for black pepper and violet gelato. And, when I was doing the traditional "walk wistfully through the now empty hotel" I bumped into Timmi Duchamp for a quick chat. Go, serendipity, go.

Next year we'll get there on Thursday, on the backs of giant feminist eagles.
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