Orts & Rinds

I’m off to Burning Man in two days. Am I ready? Yukkity yuk yuk. I still have to Playa-proof my laptop, pack, make a sign for my friend Scott’s brilliant Karma Box art project, launch two podcasts (one of which begins an ad campaign), take our parrots to be boarded (a line I can only imagine my younger self hearing my older self say), pick up the RV (what, you think I camp out there in a tent? Hellwiddat! I paid those dues a looong time ago, thank you veddy much), load the RV, and a lot of other things I’m sure I’m forgetting (oh, yeah: finish painting the hula hoops I made for my wife to bring along).

A couple of scattered things before I take off till Sept. 8:

–ARIEL launched on Tuesday and shot up to #1 on Amazon’s “Movers & Shakers” list, and to #185 on the overall best sellers. It didn’t stay there long and I didn’t expect it to — this is a reprint of a book published 25 years ago, ferchrissake. That it got up there at all is simply amazing (and I owe Cory Doctorow cappuccino for the rest of his life for the JATO units he stuck onto the book’s launch). And apparently Barnes & Noble has a LOT of ARIEL floor stands (known in the biz as “dumps”). I’m WaY sTOkEd!

–Audible.com is currently sponsoring my Podrunner podcast. Choose a free audiobook from any of 60,000 titles (including, ahem, ARIEL) when you sign up for a free trial membership.

–I’m hooked on The Colony on Discovery Channel. Big surprise, Mister Postapocalypse likes a fake postapocalypse show. It’s contrived but it’s still fascinating. I get all anthropological around this stuff. FWIW, I’m also hooked on Mythbusters (how could anyone not be?) and Deadliest Catch.

–I visited Deyan Audio yesterday to go over potential issues in translating ELEGY BEACH into an audio medium. ELEGY has a lot of — well, let’s call ’em quirks. And since I’m going to be out of town while they’re recording, they won’t be able to call me up to ask wotthehell some of my weirdness is supposed to mean, and howthehell it’s supposed to be spoken. The fact that they would call if I were around, and that I’m able to visit them and go over these things (and record scratch dialogue for the book’s narrator, and record my Afterword) is nearly miraculous. I’m doing a future blog post about my experiences at Deyan; it’s been wonderful.

–I tried to add several “What I’m Reading Now” plugins to my WordPress blog and couldn’t get any of them to work. Yeesh! Does anyone know of a decent one? Cuz, you know, the problem couldn’t be me.

–Everything around Los Angeles is on fire right now. I mean biblical, pillar-of-smoke-by-day, pillar-of-fire-by-night stuff. Smoky skies. The sunsets are nice, though. See, every silver lining is obscured by clouds.

Have a great week, everybody, & I’ll be back in about 10 days!

ariel_shelf02ARIEL is officially released today. Cory Doctorow, bless him, released a Boingboing piece on it this morning. Weirdly, I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday to pick up a copy of Cory’s short story collection OVERCLOCKED, because I’ve been reading his essays on intellectual property in the digital age for a while now, and after meeting him at Worldcon I was definitely intrigued to see what his fiction is like.

The B&N had a bunch of copies of ARIEL in two different locations. I was a bit surprised, because they’re usually pretty strict about not displaying until the official release date.  Guess I ain’t J K Rowling. Am I complaining?  Hellno!

At first it just seemed kinda cool.  Oh, look, my book’s out already. Swell! Then I thought about how long it had been since I had a book out on a bookstore shelf somewhere (at least, a non-used-book store). I’ve published (and not published) a decent amount since ARIEL in various media and categories (though to read the reactions & PR you’d think I went to a Himalayan retreat for decades, what’s up with that?). But even so, it’s been a long time since I had a book out (and with my name spelled correctly, Sooper Bonus Points fer that!). And it hit me oddly. A sort of glad melancholy. It feels good.

But I’ll be honest:  it’s ELEGY BEACH I’m really waiting for.

WorldCon – Part Three

I know there’s a ton of stuff I ought to mention about my time at Worldcon that will go by the wayside here. The truth is that I’m not a very good documetarian. I’m usually so involved in what I’m doing that I forget to record it. I forget to take pictures (so that later on I can view them and say, Oh, so that’s what my trip was like).  I don’t take notes or tweet about what I’m doing while I’m in the middle of doing it (nothing like watering down your personal experience as it happens). So I rely on my memory, and while I have a pretty good memory, I have also noticed that I go into an odd present-tense kind of mentality in experience-rich environments. Things go into short-term memory. Conversations, names, sequence:  poof, gone.

So with that in mind:

Sunday I have only one panel but I’m also supposed to DJ the con dance, and John Scalzi has asked if I will crash a panel he is on about Michael Jackson. Since I find myself with surprisingly much to say about Michael Jackson, I happily agree. The panel centered on “Thriller” as a genre work, and the panelists (Nora K. Jemisin, John Scalzi, Stephen H. Segal) all had great anecdotes and information about Michael Jackson’s importance and relevance. I live in Los Angeles and was astonished at the city’s reaction not only when Jackson died but when the ad hoc memorial service was performed. I was on the road and saw the motorcade assembling at Forest Lawn. The city had put “Closed for Construction” signs on the Forest Lawn exits off the 5 Freeway, and when the motorcade set out for Staples Center about 10 miles away, CHP shut down the freeway for it. It made a lot of sense: everyone stops for 10 minutes and then goes about their day vs. a three-hour traffic jam as a line of cars full of celebrities makes its way to downtown LA.

But here’s the thing that really got me: in a city where drivers happily attempt vehicular homicide by passing you on the right in a breakdown lane so they can get two cars ahead of you to get to their double decaf no foam latté at Starbucks, I heard not one word of complaint about the freeway closure (unless you count bombastic Republican radio commentators, but who does?). Everyone just respectfully acknowledged it and went on. I was astounded. And I think the memorial itself, along with the endless broadcast of Jackson videos, served to remind people that they had allowed a man’s eccentricity to occlude his genius and innovation. You don’t don’t have to like Michael Jackson, but there’s no denying he was a game-changer in music, video, distribution, live concerts, choreography, and many other respects.

So it was really great to be on that panel and say some of these things and hear other people’s anecdotes and thoughts.

Immediately after this I was on a panel with John Scalzi and Jason Bourget called “Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?” I sat down and learned that in fact I was the moderator. Ah. Well, who knew. I’m expecting your typical 15-20 people in the audience kinda panel. Nope. Big room.  Packed. Privacy a big deal to early adopter science fiction-type peepz. All righty, then. Grab the mic and say, “In my high school debate days they taught us to define our terms before we start arguing about them. So let’s talk about what we mean by the word privacy, and whether that very idea has undergone cultural change.”  And we’re off. Whew.

I was told it was a very interesting and informative panel. My memory of it is somewhat jumbled, because it was a 90-minute panel, I’d just finished an hourlong panel, I’d had two ginormous cups of coffee, and I had to pee so bad I was seeing yellow. (Except I clearly remember being chock full o’ malaproposims early on. Faulty wiring, I guess.) I fled the thing the second it was done. There’s business, there’s PR, and there’s having a bladder the size of a walnut.

After that I went to to the Convention Ops and asked if I could get a look at the room where I was supposed to be DJing that night. Someone else leads me to where they’ve sectioned-off the back part of the ballroom to form a long narrow rectangle.  Against one wall is a platform with some tables pushed together. On this is a Mackie mixer and an amp. These are connected to four two-way speakers on tripod stands at each corner of a 25 x 25 portable wood parquet dance floor.  The speakers are set about chest-high. There are no subwoofers.

All righty then. I believe that if you find yourself in a fully stocked gourmet kitchen, you don’t have to be much of a cook to put together a decent meal. But a great chef can do things with Hamburger Helper and make you think, damn, this is a great meal.

So I go back to the Palais four hours before my gig. They’re setting up for the Hugo Awards in the main room, separated from me by a folding partition. I spend an hour hanging banners with paracord. Then I set up my rig. Turn on amp & mixer and play something really low. Tour the speakers and be sure we’re getting sound. Do some fiddling until I do get sound. Check.

Then I take apart their entire setup. I take the cables off the speakers and take the speakers off the stands and set the stands a yard higher and reposition them and put the speakers back on. Now the bodies on the dance floor won’t act as baffles for the sound waves. I hook the cables back up and line them along the wall as much as possible (it’s hard to trip over cables against a wall) and duct tape what’s exposed in traffic areas. I replace the PA’s three-dollar power strip with my cable squid.

The illustrious con dance DJ booth
The illustrious con dance DJ booth

There’s no way I’m going to wait until after the Hugo Awards to sound check & EQ this room, so I go over to the sound guys setting up for the Hugo and let them know that it’s gonna get loud in the other room for a minute. Then I go and make it loud in the other room for a minute.

There’s no booth monitor. The sound that reaches me will be lagging behind the audio in my headphones. If I beatmatch to it, I’ll be matching to something that actually happened a quarter-second ago. If I do that the result will sound like a bag of clocks.  Or sneakers in a dryer.  No, I will beatmatch by putting on my headphones and sticking my head under the table to isolate the deck cue.

The Hugo ceremony starts.  I crawl under the table and take a nap.  The Hugos end and I start up immediately. My goal here is not to pack the room — that ain’t gonna happen; you know that the second you see a setup like this.  My goal instead is to make people sorry that they didn’t show up. And to make the people who did show up think, Damn, I’m really glad I showed up. Damn, this is a great meal.

I only played for a couple of hours. I recorded the gig and you can hear the results on my post of August 19. Though the gig went great, clearly everyone was tired (they all danced pretty much nonstop, too, which is what a DJ wants to see). Then a group of them helped me break down and carry my stuff back to my hotel. Bless their hearts!

Da Crew
Da Crew

There are parties. I skip them. The con is effectively over for me and I’m tired. I go to my room and set up my laptop and try to check my email. But my laptop, which just helped kick some serious ass for hours at the gig, is now pretty much a boat anchor.  DOA. Okay. I know better than to argue with the weather. Beddy bye time.

The planets aligned and I got to say goodbye to my new friends John Scalzi & Cory Doctorow on the way out, got to see most of da crew who helped me break down the night before, say goodbyes to people I met throughout the weekend, etc.

I headed out of the con and into the stepped-on anthill of the Montreal airport. Weather out of New Jersey was diverting, delaying, and canceling flights everywhere. Mine was an hour late and my connector in Cleveland wasn’t held. Me and three other stranded travelers stayed at a Ramada Inn. We went to the hotel bar, which looked remarkably like a woodpaneled mobile home with a pool table, got a pizza parlor to deliver us a pizza (apparently no one in Cleveland eats after 9:00 PM), drank margaritas, and traded stories for hours. Erica, Matthew, Rachel — hope the rest of your lives are as lively. What a great time that ended up being.

Worldcon 2009 – Part 2

Two panels on podcasting and a panel called “Textbooks of the Future.” The podcasting panels were interesting. Mostly attended by people seeking technical and strategic information, of which there was a wealth to draw upon from the panelists. But it was a bit odd for me because most people were concerned with podcasting their fiction or some SF-related talk show, and the general understanding was that this isn’t a primary occupation, you won’t make any money, it’s a supplement to your main career goals, etc. Which is an entirely true and realistic expectation. But here I am with not one, not two, but three of the most popular podcasts in the world, from which I have indeed earned a living and which are a main career goal (along with writing — two full-time careers in one full-time life, am I dumb or what), but which have nothing to do with audio fiction of SF. So I ended up contradicting a lot of what’s said and looking all mega-diva, when I only meant to say Look, don’t rule out success and revenue; I’m proof it’s possible.

The “Textbooks of the Future” panel ended up being just me and Geoffrey A. Landis. He and I didn’t agree on much. The underlying question of the panel was whether textbooks can prepare you for, or in some way mitigate, future shock. My contention is that, first of all, textbooks don’t adequately prepare you for the present, and second of all, “future shock” (an alarmist sound bite coined by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book of the same name to describe the whack on the noggin all of this information saturation and multitasking and ensuing cultural lag is supposed to give us) not only hasn’t come to pass, apparently something in our brains in fact gets off on all this information saturation like a dog rolling in something dead. Future shock has as its corollary the endless litany of SF novels that are essentially Frankenstein: By Thine Own Hubris Shalt Thou Be Undone. For a field that floats on a bubble of technological prognostication, science fiction is actually surprisingly alarmist.

Me & Geoffrey Landis on the Textbooks of the Future panel. Photo by jmcdaid
Me & Geoffrey Landis on the "Textbooks of the Future" panel. My T shirt says "I'm Famous On the Internet." Photo by jmcdaid

For me the highlight on Saturday was meeting John Scalzi and crashing his dinner with Cory Doctorow, Anne Murphy, and John’s wife Krissy (FWIW I tried to politely beg off and Scalzi insisted, which was actually fine with me because they were all such good company that dinner was bound to be a blast). Cory has a truly exceptional mind and is admirably adept at expressing himself.  John ain’t no slouch, either, and he’s also a pugnacious curmudgeon who goes for the jugular when he’s cornered, which I doubt happens very often, and which I confess reminds me enough of me to make me like him, which actually is unusual because whenever I meet someone who reminds me of me I usually can’t stand him or her.  But John & I were instant old friends, and I look forward to the two of us getting in a variety of kinds of trouble together.

After dinner we set up shop at the hotel bar for the rest of the night, and it became evident that Scalzi knows EVERYBODY. And Doctorow knows EVERYBODY. Whereas I have (wholly voluntarily, you understand) lived under a rock, as far as the genre is concerned, for quite some time now. Even more fun, though, John & Cory know the kinds of people you like to get into trouble with, which are usually my kind of people.

John & Cory were up for Hugo awards and it was fun to be around their excitement over it. John ended up winning and is having a blast on his blog megaphoning about it. Cory didn’t win, and I have to say that if there were a Hugo award for most gracious Hugo nonwinner, he’d win it hands-down.

I get back to my hotel room late that night and find that Neil Gaiman has mentioned the New Media panel on his blog, and in the course of that he mentioned my name. Gaimin is an insanely popular writer with an insanely devoted following. People who read his blog click its links and Google people he mentions.  People such as Steven R. Boyett.

I learn that my website account has been suspended because of the traffic.

That account hosts my writer site, my DJ/podcast site, the Ariel website, the Elegy Beach website, and my forum. Gone. Pfft. But here’s the staggering part: my podcasts generate over 40 terabytes of transfer a month. Now, most of that isn’t direct bandwidth; my podcasts’ mp3 files are hosted elsewhere. But I get about 2.5 million hits a month or so, and most of the traffic is people calling up the podcast feeds. My website doesn’t even hiccup at this.

But Neil Gaimin just mentions my name and ka-pow.

Neil, if you’re listening: You Must Use Your Powers Only for Good.

So that was a Real Fun Night of begging my site host to cut me some slack and reactivate my account, which they would only do if I would relocate the podcast feeds cuz that’s what was causing all the trouble. So I did. Type type type, beg beg beg, upload upload upload. And thank god I’ve learned to travel with all my necessary internet-related info onhand. Cuz there’s no better feeling than staggering into your hotel room in Montreal really late and half buzzed and dealing with technical support after learning that your entire online presence has been made an unperson.

That was Saturday.

WorldCon 2009

Part One:  Friday
It was a series of close calls even getting to Montreal; someone T-boned a CHP on the 405 Freeway and one of the busiest stretches of road in the world got shut down to one lane. A normally 45-minute trip to LAX took nearly two hours, and I was grateful it wasn’t longer. Barely made the flight, barely made the connecting flight, got to my hotel in Montreal 30 minutes before my panel started. Found out my room wasn’t ready. Checked luggage, hurried to the Palais d’Congres, registered with the con, got to my first panel about two minutes before it started.

So I’m at around 30 hours with no sleep, I’ve been in Montreal for about 38 seconds, and I’m about to start my first panel at Worldcon — the New Media panel with Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Melissa auf der Maur, and Tobias Buckell in a very packed room. It was a delight to meet Cory, whom I’ve enjoyed reading for years (though I’ve yet to read his fiction; almost entirely I’ve followed his wonderful writings on intellectual property in the 21st Century). I had only recently learned he was a fan of my first novel, Ariel, and I was enormously flattered by his quotes for the reprint and on the upcoming Elegy Beach.

I’ve been in books with Neil Gaiman (Midnight Graffiti) and know people who know him but had never met him before, and to be honest we only met briefly a few times at the con. I found him to be charming and gracious. I’ve been between the covers with Ellen Kushner before, too (Borderland), though I haven’t seen her in yadda-yadda years (as I said, I haven’t been to cons in a long time). Melissa auf der Maur, former bass player with Hole & Smashing Pumpkins, was an absolute delight and we hit it off immediately. The fact that she’s a babe and a half, and a redhead to boot (not that I would boot a redhead, but a booted redhead is a thing of beauty, but I digress; as you can see I’m  rendered dirt-stupid by redheadedness) was an Added Bonus Attraction. She was also a welcome non-writerly voice on the panel (I kinda switch-hit between my writerly & my DJ self). I’ve always loved musicians. Hell, I married one.

A lot of people reported this was one of the better panels of the con, so in a certain sense the con was over for me about the time I showed up. My goal wasn’t to be a Rock Star Love God (which, I’ll admit, was my goal at cons a kerjillion years ago), but just to promote my upcoming books & the podcasts. From that standpoint the con was a great success.

Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole), authors Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Tobias Buckell, Yrs. Trly, Cory Doctorow. Photo by Dr. Amy (picture links to Dr. Amy's Worldcon Flickr set)

After the panel I had time to check in to my hotel, get a shower, and run back to the Palais for my reading (on the same hour slot with James Alan Gardner and Peadar O Guilin), which naturally I had not had time to practice, but which I managed to (mostly) ace because I tend to do better under pressure. Hot water used to be my natural element. If pressured I’ll admit to occasionally making the water hot myself in order to gear up. I’m not so much like that anymore; life provides enough pressure as it is, thank you very much, and self-imposed drama sure takes up a lot of energy.

But the reading went well, and I got some very nice & much-appreciated compliments, and some bloggers reported wanting to buy Elegy Beach after hearing me read from it, so what more could you ask? Later on someone told me, “You didn’t read that story, you performed it.” Which made me feel great. I’ll admit I’ve spent a lot of time learning exactly that: how to perform instead of merely read. It helps that I am something of a ham.

I hear that Friday night was the best night for parties. I dunno. I went to the party floor, looked around, realized I was running on fumes, and went to my room and into a coma.

Burning Man in Two Weeks

temple_steve1This will be my third year at the Burning Man festival. I’ll be running around all over the place, but I’ll also be DJing the following:

—Tuesday, Sept. 2 – The Duck Pond (9:00 & Plaza) – 5 – 7 PM
—Friday, Sept. 5 – Nautilus X Art Car (mobile) – 9 PM – Sunrise

I will try to record the gigs (conditions out there are harsh, and recording can be an iffy proposition), and I always take a ton of pix and vids for my Picasa album.


Mignon Fogarty (better known as Grammar Girl) conducted an hour-long interview with me for her “Behind the Grammar” podcast. We talked about my upcoming books and the ways podcasting has influenced how I’ve tried to use new media to make the expeience of the books more inclusive and connective for readers, and about the state of intellectual property in the 21st Century. The interview will be out in a few months. I’ll link to it on my website’s News page, but meantime I highly recommend “Behind the Grammar” for anyone interested in books, publishing, and new media.

Things are starting to heat up as publication time approaches, and I’m sure I’ll have even more news to report beginning in September. The buzz surrounding ELEGY BEACH is a bit startling to me (at ComiCon the excitement from buyers for some of the major booksellers totally freaked me out). ‘ll post a report about the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal as soon as I’m able to. Right now I need to dial in this WordPress installation. 🙂

Meantime, thank you so much for reading, and for your support!

Free stuff

Schwag, Schwag, Schwag

I have some gorgeous bookmarks and 4 x 6 doublesided flyers for ARIEL & ELEGY BEACH. Email me and I’ll let you know where you can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to get some mailed to you.

Novel Items


Chapters 1, 2, and 7 are now available on the ARIEL website, You can read them on the site, download PDFs, or download ePub format for e-book readers (MobiPocket, Stanza, etc.) The first Audiobook chapter should be available on the “Listen” page of the website by the end of the week. I’m over the moon about the quality of the production from Deyan Audio (with wonderful music composed especially for the audiobook by Maureen Halderson). We’ll try to add a new audio section every week after the first one’s up.

The ARIEL audiobook will also contain an interview with me conducted by Ramon De Ocampo, the book’s narrator (whose reading is terrific). We’ll put up an excerpt on the ARIEL website as well.

ARIEL will also be published as an e-book from eReads about the same time the paperback and unabridged audiobook are released (August 25).


Elegy Beach will also be available as an e-book. Scheduled publication date is the same as for the hardcover and unabridged audiobook, November 3.

The Elegy Beach website is scheduled for launch on September 15.

So far we have received wonderful quotes from Cory Doctorow, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and more. The covers for both books have been getting great reviews on blogs, and we’re very excited about the reception both books are getting.