August 5th, 2005


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If awake were a foreign country, I'd be the farthest point from it right now. Or something like that. I'm asleep, typing. Last night, about midnight (I think), we had a glorious cacophony of a thunderstorm, but it knocked out the power. I got up twice in the night, disoriented, uncertain of the time, and somehow the uncertainty seems to have adversely affected my already off-kilter sleep. Blah. I just want to shut my eyes. But we must work. We must all work, else what is our worth to the world? And what greater concern have I than my worth to the kindly, loving world, I ask?

Anyway...yesterday I made pages and pages of notes for a new sf story, which I think will be titled "Noah's Raven" (the one who didn't find land). It's set on Mars, because Mars just keeps sucking me in. I read a paper on the discovery of what appears to be pack-ice on the Elysium Planitia, south of Elysium Mons ("Evidence from HRSC Mars Express for a frozen sea close to Mars' equator," 3/2005). The field of pack-ice will likely be the setting for the story. I had an e-mail conversation with Bill Schafer at subpress regarding the plot of the story and other novels and short stories that have touched on a similar theme. I am frustrated, at times, by the futile insistence of many sf readers, writers, and critics that innovation and originality are important to the "genre," as it seems fairly impossible to conceive of any new story, some story that's never been told before, and if you think it's about the hardware and the software and the science and the "high concept" — as opposed to the characters — and that that's where the innovation lies, I would say you've missed the point entirely. The science is only ever backdrop. If you ask me, and, of course, no one actually has. Also, yesterday, I signed off on the final galley and dustjacket layout for To Charles Fort, With Love. It's been almost a year now since I delivered the intial ms. for the collection, and it's good to be "putting this one to bed" (as, I understand, journalists are wont to say). And Spooky and I read the prologue of Daughter of Hounds, which is much better than I remember (if I do say so myself). The ghouls delight me, and there's just something nicely askew about the whole prologue. If Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino made a film together. Something like that.

I hope to actually begin the new story today. And read Chapter One of DoH.

And maybe wake the frell up.

Spooky found a beautiful dead wasp on my office floor yesterday. I've not had a chance to identify it to species, but she stashed it in our Dead Bug Box, which is kept on a bookshelf in my office.

In Final Fantasy X-2 there's a type of fiend, a sort of horned flying fish thing, called a Xiphactinus. Of course, those of us with some knowledge of Cretaceous ichthyofaunas will at once know this name. I have excavated several Xiphactinus, one of the great predatory teleosts of the time. You can see photos here. The name is pronounced zye-FACT-in-us (also known by the junior synonym "Portheus"). In "real" life, they didn't have horns and they didn't fly, but still. It was cool, seeing it in the game.

I've heard news that the video game version of Peter Jackson's King Kong is being made by Ubisoft, who did the spectacular Beyond Good and Evil. It will be filled with dinosaurs, and, from what I've seen of the graphics, it's gonna be drad.

Last night, we watched Michael Radford's recent adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. For the most part, it was very, very good, superbly acted, gorgeous cinematography. The trial scene was taut as taut could be. But I have to admit a strong discomfort at the play's undeniable anti-semitism. It's not something that you can pretend isn't there. However, as Roger Ebert pointed out, Shylock was perhaps the first time a Jewish character was given a chance to speak for himself and in his own defence. Shakespeare's money-lender is surely a caricature drawn from second-hand sources, but there's a fire in the character, nonetheless, and I think, at least in the first half of the film, Shylock is handled more sympathetically than in most stage productions. There are other respects in which this film suffers from the weaknesses of Shakespeare's text, namely the peculiar juxtaposition of the Shylock/Antonio affair with the antics of Portia and Nerissa. Ebert sums it up nicely, so I shall not try to paraphrase: ...watching it is like channel-surfing between a teen romance and a dark abysm of loss and grief. Shylock and Antonio, if they were not made strangers by hatred, would make good companions for long, sad conversations punctuated by wounded silences. Besides, Jeremy Irons is a babe.

Okay. I think I'm about 12% more awake than when I began this entry. Before I go forth to slay vowels and consonants and the wild punctuation, might I ask, again, that you please peruse our eBay auctions. Thanks. As the Nebari say, may you never be sucked out a faulty airlock and die horribly in the near vacuum of deep space.
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Addendum: Story, Payoff, and the Imagined Lack Thereof (Pt. 1)

Yesterday, I made the grand mistake of looking at the customer "reviews" at for The Dry Salvages for the first time since the book's release, and, of course, I came away annoyed. Even though the book's essentially sold out now, was very well-received by pretty much everyone, etc. and etc., I still came away annoyed. And mostly for the same old reasons. One of the "reviewers" (K. Freeman "reader and writer" [Ben Lomond, CA USA]) states that "I love Kiernan's writing style; I love the concepts here [but]...this book frustrated me to death," and "there just isn't enough -- not enough story, and not enough payoff." Er...right. I want to ask, just how, exactly, could there possibly have been more story in this book? If anything, there may, in retrospect, have been too much. Are two parallel and detailed narratives not enough? And as for "payoff," what the frell does that even mean, anyway? TDS is a book, not a racehorse. I most emphatically do not write stories with "payoffs." The Dry Salvages is not some by-the-numbers Hollywood action film that has to ellicit X number of oohs and ahhhs from a test audience, culminating in some big, crowd-pleasing revelation/explosion. The book is meant to tell Audrey Cather's story, and the tale of the Montelius and the Gilgamesh. And it does that. There are no holes, no missing pieces. If there's not enough story here, maybe Mr. or Ms. Freeman should seriously examine precisely what he or she means by "story" and why he or she reads and how he or she's been taught to read.

Freeman also writes that there are "annoying flash-forwards when I want to get to the real story." *sigh* There are two complete narratives in TDS, a present one (Audrey writing her story in Paris) and a past one (Piros), and they are equally important, equally "the real story." I believe this is obvious. Moreover, there are no "flash-fowards" at all, as the present of the book is contemplating the past of the book and not the other way round.


Anyway, there are copies of TDS now available in our eBay auctions. But beware: quasi-literate "reviewers" might be happier with something else, say a nice Stargate: SG-1 novelization?
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