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May 4th, 2010

Of Books and the Sea

Some days, I haven't enough for a good blog entry. Some mornings, I have enough for three. This morning is of the latter sort. Full-on spring seems finally to have come to Providence. Sunny with a chance of thunderstorms today, and a bit warm in the House. I have the fan going in my office, and the window open.

There's a very nice new review of The Red Tree up at Green Man Review.

Also, Lou Anders emailed me the Publisher's Weekly review of Swords and Dark Magic, the anthology that includes my story "The Sea Troll's Daughter" (mentioned prominently in the review). Here it is:

Swords and Dark Magic Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders. Eos, $15.99 paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-172381-0

Editors Strahan (
Eclipse 3) and Anders (Fast Forward 2) present 17 original stories that recall the classic works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. To earn the book’s subtitle of “The New Sword and Sorcery,” Gene Wolfe puts on literary airs (“Bloodsport”); Tim Lebbon contributes some of the graphic horror and moral twists of the New Weird (“The Deification of Dal Balmore”); and Caitlín R. Kiernan introduces a complicated heroine rescued by the ostensible villain (“The Sea Troll’s Daughter”). But most of the stories are more traditional tales of apprentice mages coming-of-age and down-on-their-luck mercenaries facing unexpected perils. Fans of the classics will appreciate the tie-ins to familiar series by Michael Moorcock, Glen Cook, and Robert Silverberg, plus a “fully authorized” Cugel the Clever cameo by Michael Shea. (July)

And here's the cover from the Subterranean Press limited edition of the book. I'm very pleased that the cover art (by Dominic Harmon) was clearly inspired by "The Sea Troll's Daughter," a story which is, essentially my lesbian/feminist reworking of Beowulf:



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Yesterday, we took advantage of the excellent weather to get out of the House. I'd not been Outside in about a week, what with all the work on Sirenia Digest giving me such a seemingly valid excuse not to leave. Spooky needed more beach glass for her jewelry-making endeavors, so we headed to West Cove, the best place we've found in Rhode Island for glass. As we made the familiar crossing of the Jamestown Bridge to Conanicut Island, over the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, we could see that the water was rough and choppy. There had been thunderstorms all morning. We drove to the ruins of Fort Wetherill. Instead of immediately going down to our usual spot on the beach, we spent some time exploring the granite cliffs just south of the sprawling concrete remains the fort (ca. 1940). In some places, the bluffs here tower a hundred feet above the sea. There's a clear view south and east to Beavertail. The wind was wild, but I got right up on the edge.

The rock here is a porphyritic granite (porhyritic meaning that the stone has large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass). According to my geologic map of Rhode Island, the age of the granite here is uncertain, and it's dated only as "?Late Proterozoic," so let's say 1,000 to 542.0 million years ago. That means the rocks are quite a bit older than the Cambrian and Ordovician slate and phyllite at Beavertail, two miles to the southwest.

Heading back towards west cove, walking northeast through the woods, we found a fantastic ravine the sea's cut into the granite, maybe thirty feet deep and some sixty or seventy yards long. The waves rush into it and crash loudly against the walls, throwing spray high into the air. A little north of the ravine, we investigated a beach we'd seen from a distance, but never tried to visit, as the path down to it is steep. I suppose we were feeling intrepid yesterday. The small "beach" (all cobbles, no sand) was alive with tiny wolf spiders, so we dubbed it "Spider Cove." We found a few interesting bits of glass there, before moving on to our usual beach farther north.

I needed to relax, clear my head, and let the sea soothe my nerves. But my mind was too filled with the news of what's happened and is happening and will be happening for a long time to come in the Gulf of Mexico, in the wake of the sinking of BP's Deapwater Horizon rig. I sat on the rocks, trying to hear and see nothing but the wind, the sound of the breakers, the colors of the day, but there was no way to push back the horrors of the oil spill. I felt an odd guilt, sitting there with the bay lapping at my feet. In less than an hour, I'd seen fish crows, cormorants, egrets, gulls, all manner of songbirds, a rabbit, a turtle; the woods and water and sky were alive. How easy it would be, I thought, to lose all this. How quickly a single mishap of technology could devastate and change this ecosystem, possibly forever. I stopped looking for beach glass and sat writing in my notebook:

How do I explain to someone that it is the ocean itself that I worship? Not some deity of the ocean, some anthropomorphic thing that resides in the sea, but the whole of the sea itself (Panthalassa). How do I explain how my "goddess" has been and is being defiled?

Anyway, I have some photos from yesterday (more tomorrow):

3 May 2010, Part 1Collapse )