In the Matter of Wells v. Verne, or: The Cavorite Maneuver

H. G. Wells
Jules Verne

I think science fiction (and to some extent fantasy) writers tend to fall into one of two camps:  Wellsians or Vernians. Both men were seminal figures in the development of modern science fiction.  Both enjoyed enormous popularity in their time.  Both created landmark works that staked out iconic images and themes. Lunar exploration, extreme terrestrial exploration, genetic experimentation and controlled evolution, mechanized global warfare and weapons of mass destruction, and even the “mad scientist” are just a few of the contributions they have in common.

Wells (1866 – 1946) wrote the time-travel and alien-invasion novels by which all subsequent would be measured. Verne (1828 – 1905) wrote the “lost world” and undersea-travel books that cast a shadow over any that might follow.

Both men were often compared to one another, and it’s clear that neither was crazy about it.  Nowadays we’d call Verne a “hard SF writer,” meaning that he’s more focused on the technology and plausibility of his stories.  Wells was definitely a “what-if” guy. He once wrote that he liked to “put an impossible thing into the world” and then step back and see what happens. His bent was more sociological than that of Verne, who considered himself more of a predictor. Verne wanted to extrapolate what future technologies could emege from present ones.  Wells wanted to extrapolate what impacts such developments might have on their developers.

Wells was often taken to task for not being as plausible as Verne, for not being a predictor. He said flat out he had no interest in predicting the future; he was writing about the present, in the Heinlein sense of “If this goes on….”  Verne was often criticized for being more interested in his engineering than in his characters.

It’s not often discussed, but also not surprising, that a rivalry existed between the two men. They weren’t just competitors, they fundamentally disagreed with each other’s approach. Verne was in no way a fantasist, and once said about Wells, “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”  (Cavorite being a gravity-proof substance invented by Wells to effect travel in First Men in the Moon.)

I’ll say flat out that I fall on the side of Wells. I don’t care about the submarine. I don’t care about the gunpowder.  I care about the characters and the impact of the submarine and the gunpowder on the characters’ world. When Star Trek becomes more about the Enterprise than the people in it, I’m gone. (At some point I should blog about pitching to Gene Roddenberry when ST:TNG was in preproduction. What a laff fest that was.) I don’t care if cavorite is real. When you bring on the guy in the white coat and start explaining cavorite to me, your story becomes about cavorite. For Wells cavorite was literally a launching point for his story. The guy wanted to get to the moon to see what was there. Verne wants to write big cannon porn more than actually get where he’s going. He’s all about the stuff.

I don’t remember Verne’s characters. The only standouts are Phileas Fogg and Captain Nemo, and Fogg is a cipher (largely a parody of British colonialism; it’s worth remembering that Verne was French) and Nemo is a rationalization (Verne really loved his way-kewl ship-sinking war machine submarine but understood that he couldn’t just go putting the whammy on sea trade, so he made Nemo an antiwar activist who was one of the first embodiments of the “destroy villages in order to save them”/”war to end war” school of thought. Do you buy this? Me neither. It’s hardly remembered because the most developed character in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is really the Nautilus.)

I remember Wells’ journalist from War of the Worlds. I remember his narrator from The Time Machine.  The fact that they go unnamed is all the more remarkable. I remember virtually everyone they meet. Verne strikes me as little more than a tour guide, walking characters through scenes so he can point out the Really Neat Details of his Really Kool Ideas.  You can almost hear the narrative pauses so that we can ooh and ahh.

While I’ll grant you Wells could get bogged down in a didactic agenda (see Things to Come), his main concern is depicting what happens when the extraordinary invades ordinary lives. I’ll take that any day, even if I never discover where the extraordinary comes from. Linear thinkers trying to chart the world on graph paper have to let that go. They’ve forgotten, or perhaps never understood, that it doesn’t matter how the goddamned warp drive works. That the warp drive is bullshit. That the people who thought it up thought it was bullshit.  That it was just a way of getting somewhere so that they could tell stories. That it’s cavorite.

The Clumsy Gene – Part 2

When I practiced martial arts (which I did for 25 years) and yoga (which I did for about 7 years) I was focused, intent, and lost in the moment.  In fact yoga felt like slow-motion martial arts. Outside of these things, I am the second-clumsiest person I have ever seen.  I bang into doorways, stub my toes, and find ingenious, unique, Rube Goldbergesque ways to engineer personal injury. You could follow me around for a couple of days and have material for three more Final Destination movies.

I’ve never understood it. I’m not uncoordinated. I have reflexes, if I may say so, like a cat hockey goalie on speed. But let me spend an hour in your house (or, hell, my house) and you’ll want to redecorate in bubblewrap.

The clumsiest person I have ever met is my mother.  She could trip over a hole on an ice skating rink. She’d find a way to cut herself in a Nerf factory.  I used to wonder how she lived long enough to have children, then wonder if I got my clumsiness from her. This made me wonder if clumsiness could be hereditary, and how that could possibly be. I mean, how can you naturally select for traits that seem unlikely to let an organism live long enough to reproduce?  It’s like saying there’s a suicide gene. Scuse me?

One thing I have not inherited from my mother is a tendency to panic in emergencies.  If she cuts herself she runs around flapping the bleeding appendage and spraying blood everywhere and yelling “Somebody! Somebody!”  She does the funky chicken and her ears go flat to her head and she yells incoherently.

I once ran over my foot with a lawnmower. I was pull-starting it and the knot caught and the mower lifted just as the engine started and it landed on my foot.  I looked down at my shredded shoe and shut off the lawnmower and walked into the house and into the bathroom and took off my shoe and my sock and put my foot in the bathtub and ran water, and only then did I realize I’d only cut off the top of my shoe.  I’ve got a hundred of these stories. I used to take a certain warped pride that I remain calm in emergencies, which is good when you’re someone who tends to create emergencies.

Then I met Maureen.  At the time she’d been an ICU nurse for about 13 years.  Let me tell you right now that it sucks to go out with an ICU nurse. You can’t come home and bitch about your day.  When we were going out I was working at an ad agency.  I’d come home and say, “I got yelled at today for correcting an ad headline. How was your day”  And she’d say, “Well, I had a cardiac patient break his straps and tear out his IVs and code on me.  I had to crack his chest while his tubes bled everywhere.”  However bad your day is, your ICU nurse wins.

Being married to an ICU nurse means that when you, as a carrier of the Clumsy Gene, inevitably gack yourself on something, you will receive rapid expert medical attention. What it doesn’t mean is that you’ll get an ounce of sympathy. They just ain’t wired like that.

What all this has to do with writing

“A writer in a canoe in the rain,” someone once said (or more likely wrote), “should be able to write about what it’s like to be on the Titanic.” Man, do I relate to that. Someone else wrote (about journalism) that “all life is copy.”  I relate to that, too.

Long ago when I lived in Gainesville, Florida, I was helping my friend Kerry move to a new place.  It was a crazyhot day and I pulled a sixpack of Pepsis from the back seat of my car. This was back when Pepsis came in tall 16-oz glass bottles in thin cardboard carry cases.  I pick up the case, two bottles hit, one of them explodes, and a glass sliver flies off to open up an artery in my calf.  I look down and it’s spurt spurt spurt. I clamp it and I yell out I need a tourniquet. (Which I didn’t. Being calm doesn’t mean being right.) We clamp the wound and figure out what to do. I’ve just moved to Gainesville and I work graveyard at a convenience store and I have no money and no insurance. Kerry works at a chem-testing lab. He says, fuggit, let’s go see Randall.

Randall is Kerry’s boss. Randall works with lab rats. Randall can sew my dumb ass up.

Randall looks at the wound and says “Hold on” (his tone exactly the tone Maureen used 26 years later).  He comes back with a bottle of brandy, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a spool of thread, and a suturing needle. He tells me, look, you don’t have a lot of nerves in your leg, really.  His way of reassuring me is to take the needle and shove it through the back of his hand.  “See?” he says.  “If I hit a nerve just tell me and I’ll move the needle.”  He asks me if I want a shot of brandy.

Hellno. I want two shots of brandy. I drink ’em double plus quick too.  Kerry holds my hand and Randall kneels before me and dips the thread in hydrogen peroxide and sews up my wound. To this day I remember being fascinated by the thick layer of skin yielding to the layer of fat above the artery. On time it hurt and I said so and Randall moved the needle a little and it didn’t hurt. But I remember that the feeling of the thread sliding through the skin made me want to fwow up.

When we’re done Randall gives me some antibiotics and says, The stitches’ll probably get infected. If they turn bright red take these.

I won’t go into what it feels like to recover from an artery-deep cut with homemade stitches. Or to go back to Tae Kwon Do practice waaaay before it’s healed.

The wound turns bright red around the stitches.  I take the antibiotics. The infection goes away.  Some time later it’s time to remove the stitches.  I sterilize an Xacto knife with alcool and cut them and pull them out with tweezers. One stitch is stubborn and I apply some pressure and the Xacto knife pops through and slices into my thumb.  I look at it bleeding and think, No way. No goddamn way. I am not going to anyone about this.

Eventually it healed. To this day I can’t feel anything from the top of my right shin down to across my right instep. That is, I can feel pressure but not much more. If I hit the wound itself I get pins & needles. The nerves never really reconnected.

Almost all of this incident got transmuted into my novel The Architect of Sleep. Bentley gashes a leg and gets an infection and is delirious and bedridden. It’s important to the plot so he can have time to learn about the culture he finds himself immersed in. But the details came straight out of my life.

If you’re a writer, when something horrible happens, something just as horrible inside you stands aloof recording and reporting and thinking, Oh, I can use this. You gash yourself and something in your brain hits “record.”  Your father has a stroke and part of you becomes a journalist. It sucks — and it’s also necessary. All people hurt themselves. All fathers die. Capture that. Find the way of looking at it no one else has seen. Else you have no business being in this business.  Else what you say rings false. Especially in fantasy and science fiction, where you have to make the reader believe impossible things. The truth of details and feelings like these acts as an anchor for the rest.

The Clumsy Gene – Part 1

My bwain bwoke a toof
My bwain bwoke a toof

So tonight I wash dishes because our dishwasher’s broken, and I’m a good little doobie and I clean up afterward, and I carry the dirty strainer to the trashcan to bang it clean. Only, being me, I’ve left a cabinet door open, and when I bend to bang the strainer I gack my head doubleplus good on a corner of the cabinet door.

You know those moments where you really hurt yourself?  I’m not talking stubbing your toe and imitating Fred Flintstone for all the neighborhood to hear.  I mean when you really seriously Fuck Shit Up. Things get quiet for a second.  You have a moment of astonishing clarity in which the Times Square Scroller in your brain parades bright lights that say Wow You Just Fucked Shit Up. Yessir.  I made a little owie noise and went down to my knees and grabbed my head and felt warmth on my hand and took a look.  Oh yeah.  Scalps are heavily vascular and bleeding often seems worse than the injury really is.  I know this.  I apply pressure and say, “Maureen.  Can you come here?  I’ve hurt myself.”  I say this really calmly while I watch blood rain down on the kitchen floor.

One thing about large quantities of real blood, it looks really fake.

Mo comes in and takes a look and rolls her eyes and says, “Hold on.”  I hold on.  Literally. She comes back with a compress and takes a look and swabs and compresses.  When we’re sure we’ve got it contained enough that I won’t go bleeding all over the carpet we go to the bathroom and she fills a hypo with something I’m sure an average citizen can’t get hold of and she irrigates the wound and swabs it and appliess a fresh gauze pad and bandages it.  I look like a gunshot victim. “Don’t scratch it,” my wife says.  “I’m going back to bed.”

Half an hour later she comes into my office for a status check.  “Feeling disconnected?” she asks.  “Tingly fingers? Dizzy?”  That’s right for a thousand, Alex.

What does all this have to do with writing?  Well, I’ll get to it.  I promise.

It’s Zombielicious!

ZOMBIES, edited by the incomparable John Skipp, has just been published, and holy cannoli, this thing is gorgeous.  I’ve been looking forward to the book coming out, but I had no idea it was going to be such a very cool thing.

Some background: In the late 80s John and his then-writing partner Craig Spector published the landmark anthology Book of the Dead, a shared-world collection that took place in George Romero’s zombie universe. Besides having an intro by (and blessing of) Romero himself, the book was a veritable Who’s Who of horror at a time when amazing things were happening in the genre.  We’re talking Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, Dave Schow, Doug Winter, Joe Lansdale — the goosh factor alone was off the charts. BotD became a landmark in the field, and likely one of the instigators of the current zombie phenom.

My novella “Like Pavlov’s Dogs” was included in BotD, and I was delighted and flattered to share company with some of the squishiest guys around. I knew there was no way I could outgross these guys, no way I could slam my prose beyond the pale the way these people did for a living. Instead I opted for a widescale, kaleidoscopic narrative that used a lot of tricks and had a lot of narrative presence even while it dove into people’s minds as those very minds were shutting down (were being shut down, really). It marked the beginning of a more liberating narrative approach for me and encouraged me to work on honing similar takes on other narratives.

Flash forward 20 years.  Zombies are everywhere in pop culture and Black Dog Press has come out with what has to be the definitive anthology of zombie stories — 699 pages of shambling blueskinned braineating goodness starring the top of the pops in the field again. And who better to put this wieghty tome (literally; my car leaned to one side when I drove home with the thing) than the past master of the gnoshing dead himself, John Skipp?

John has run the gamut in this megamonster — from “Lazarus,” originally published in 1906, to stories from Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury (now there’s a name I just don’t conjure when I think of zombie stories), Robert Bloch, Poppy Z. Brite — the list goes on & on. “Like Pavlov’s Dogs” gets between the covers with this stellar bunch, and I couldn’t be more delighted. When John asked about reprinting it I was flattered but not a lot more, to be honest.  Wow, cool, “Pavlov’s” will be back in print, that’s great. I didn’t think much more about it.

Then I saw the thing at Barnes & Noble yesterday and went flubbedy flubbedy gimme gimme.  Good lord it’s impressive. Black Dog did a great job with everything from art direction to interior illustration. John’s selections are incomparable, and he reprints several stories (“On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks,” by Joe Lansdale, “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy,” by Dave Schow) that raised the bar on going too damned far. Read these aloud in a group. I dare you.  I’m usually kinda hard on my earlier self (as I should be on the arrogant ignorant bastard), but I was happy to re-read “Like Pavlov’s Dogs” and find it not that dated and a lot of fun.

Besides John’s terrific intros (he writes exactly like he talks, and it’s always great to hear John talk) and about five kerjillion stories, there are also two appendices:  a historical perspective on zombies, and an essay on the zombie in pop culture.

If you want your fiction to be some kind of literary Prozac, this definitely ain’t the book for you. It pushes, it bites, it’s filmed in Hemoscope. It’s chunky, gooshy, gross, hilariously funny, upsetting as all get out, unforgettable, and sure to be a landmark in the field. Bless you for once more asking me to play in your sandbox, John.  This time I know why the sand is red.

Ganked-Out ARIEL Contest Deadline Extended

Because a couple of other giveaways & contest are occurring at the same time, and because an odd number of you have inexplicably pristine copies, I’ve extended the deadline on the Ganked-Out ARIEL contest to Sept. 25.

The Rules:  The owner of the most nasty, gnarly, beatup dogeared puppychewed copy will win an autographed copy of the bright shiny new purty purty paperback edition of ARIEL, courtesy of Yrs. Truly. Send your pix to . Good luck and get mangling!

My Day at Deyan Audio

Deyan Audio
Deyan Audio

It’s standard when an audiobook is about to go into production for the author to provide a list of pronunciations for words and names the narrator may not be clear on. This is especially true of fantasy & science fiction, where even the title can be something likeThe Gloffnokkrz of Grlfnib 9 (whothehell wants to be seen on the bus reading this, I don’t want to know).  I turned in my list for ARIEL & ELEGY BEACH and then spoke to the audiobook’s director, Bob Deyan, owner of Deyan Audio. They’ve been in this business a long time and have produced more Grammy winners than Joe & Katherine Jackson (check out this roster!).

Bob Deyan tries to make sense of ARIEL
Bob Deyan tries to make sense of ARIEL

Bob was professional, diplomatic, and very enthused about the project. We had a discussion about narrators and tone for both books, and he auditioned several voice artists he uses often and let me listen to their recordings and select the one I thought most appropriate.  When he found out I live about 20 minutes from his studio he immediately invited me to come down to record my brief Author’s Intro to the book and listen to a recording session. Since this kind of opportunity is about as rare as final-cut rights on a director’s contract, I jumped at the chance.

Deyan Audio is a repurposed two-story house in Tarzana (yes, it’s named after Tarzan; Edgar Rice Burroughs used to live here), California. The Deyans have kept the house’s homey and inviting feel while putting a great deal of effort and expense into creating a modern, top-flight  recording studio.  You can walk into the spacious kitchen and munch out to your heart’s content, then head upstairs to one of the three studios (Tarzan, Jane, and Boy) that use Pro Tools and Genelec monitors (this was hardcore porn for DJ & Composer Steve), and wonderful anechoic little vocal booths that made me want to go home and kick my ghetto-ass home studio. (I’m just kidding, little ghetto studio. I wuv you. Don’t be mad.)

Me, Ramon De Ocampo, Bob Deyan
Me, Ramon De Ocampo, Bob Deyan

Bob introduced me to his wife Deb and the three of us became instant old friends. That happens rarely and I cherish it when it does. Bob gave me a studio tour and then took me upstairs, where Ramon de Ocampo, ARIEL’s narrator, was in session, and I listened in for a while.

Let me backtrack a little here and mention that for a while it wasn’t certain that my publisher was going to pick up the audiobook option on ARIEL. I had actually begun recording it myself in my little home studio.  Having been a podcaster for the last 3-1/2 years and a DJ for the last 10, I’m fairly well set up for it, and have learned enough postproduction skills to make a perfectly acceptable recording, at least in a technical sense.  I’d recorded the first two chapters, but I found it extremely difficult for a couple of reasons.

First of all, even after three or four hundred podcasts, I remain quite mic conscious. You can put me in a room with a thousand people and I will have no trouble at all talking to them and being fast and funny and aphoristic and all like that, but give me an empty room with a mic and I just choke. I can’t pretend the damned thing is a person. I ain’t no actor.

The second reason is somewhat paradoxical:  I’m too close to the material and too far away from it.  I have no doubt I have read ARIEL at least 50 times. I revised and proofed it as I wrote it, after it was written, for publication, for e-book publication, and for reprint. I know vast stretches of it by heart and it’s so familiar to me that I ain’t sure what the words mean anymore. But by the same token, ARIEL was written nearly 30 years ago and I’m not only not the same writer I was then, I’m not the same person. And this different person had just completed a sequel that was markedly different in style, tone, and depth. I simply didn’t know how to approach an ARIEL narration.

So Ramon De Ocampo’s voice comes from a pair of dreamywonderfulkewl Genelec speakers in a little studio in Tarzana, California, and his voice isn’t my voice, and his take isn’t mine but is the take of a professional storyteller who isn’t overly familiar with the material, and by god he sounds like my protagonist to me.

It was an odd and wonderful moment.

Ramon came out of the booth and was enthusiastic as a puppy. The guy practically is Pete: we talked martial arts and movies and books and such, and we hit it off so well that Bob threw us into the tiny booth together and hit “record” and Ramon interviewed me for 20 minutes.  (It’s included on the ARIEL audiobook; here’s a sample:

Bob’s all, I dunno why you say you’re mic-conscious, you’re fine, you’re too hard on youself. I tell him Just wait.

No, hold your hand like THIS when you speak
No, hold your hand like THIS when you speak

Then voice artist JD Jackson shows up to audition for ELEGY BEACH. Bob had suggested him and I immediately took to his voice and his style.  Bob, Ramon, and JD asked me questions authors can only dream of when it comes time to adapt their work to audio:  tone, voices, accents, delivery, rhythm. Good lord, I was in control freak heaven. I gave them suggestions (and later even recorded scratch vocal for JD, because ELEGY BEACH’s often-quirky style and even narrative layout presents spoken-word problems not present in ARIEL). I had opinions, of course, but the fun for me was in telling them I really wanted to be open to interpretations, that my take isn’t by any means the only one or even an authoritative one. I certainly didn’t want to try to direct over Bob’s shoulder, and it’s a credit to his confidence in his own work that he was so open to ideas. (On ELEGY BEACH we later mutually agreed to chuck several of my brilliant, artsy, and totally unworkable suggestions.)

boothRamon and JD (who, I should mention, are also offensively good-looking men) took off, and Bob went into the studio with me to record the Intro.  Take 1:  you choked on that one a little, Steve. Take two:  Just relax.  Take three:  Stop moving around so much, okay?  Take four:  wow, you really suck major hose at this, don’t you, Boyett?  (Bob never actually said any of those; he’s way too nice. )

To anyone who thinks that voiceover work is just someone talking to a mic, I highly recommend reading up on plosives, sibilants, mic dynamics, diaphragm projection, pop screens, flat space, and about a thousand other details. I know all this and I still suck. These people have trained to use their voices as instruments with every bit the effort, technique, and

JD Jackson, me, Bob Deyan, Ramon De Ocampo. Damn, I'm short.
JD Jackson, me, Bob Deyan, Ramon De Ocampo. Damn, I'm short.

professionalism of a studio sax player. And audiobook recording is a highly competitive industry struggling with a limping economy, transforming business models in the face of New Media, and working very hard (and for significant material investment) in a field in which even their major successes are mostly unrecognized (what, you think Bob actually brought home any of those Grammys and Audies his productions won? Think again). I came away with an enormous appreciation for what they do at Deyan Audio, and for the efforts they took to include me as a collaborator in the translation of one medium to another.

Bob, Deb, & Samson (who had just been attacked by a wolf!)
Bob, Deb, & Samson (who had just been attacked by a wolf!)

My day at Deyan Audio was simply terrific, and I left excited about the audiobooks for both novels and delighted at having made new friends.

Here are three chapters from the ARIEL audiobook:

Bits & Pieces

ARIEL e-book cover
ARIEL e-book cover

I’ll write a “real” post in a few days, I swear. Meantime here’s what’s new:

–The ARIEL e-book is now available

–ELEGYBEACH.COM is now live.

–Production just completed on the ELEGY BEACH audiobook. I’ll be writing a post on the audio production for both novels because my level of involvement was so unusual.

–My novella “Like Pavlov’s Dogs” has been reprinted in John Skipp’s Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead. It’s at Amazon & should be in bookstores in a few days. I’m really glad it’s available again; it was written in a fevered couple of weeks and marked a change in my style in which I discovered the joys of indirect discourse through an omniscient narrator and began to employ a more kaleidoscopic approach.

–I’ve promised myself that today is the day I get back to finishing the revisions for my next novel. Believe it or not the book is actually finished and revised. The poor thing has been sitting there collecting piles of other work to be finished on top of it for the last six months while it waits for me to enter the on-paper revisions into the computer. Only a couple of months away from being finished and turned in to my agent, and then I get so busy I can’t get to it. This sure sounds familiar.

Talk Talk

Yrs Trly, Ramon de Ocampo, Bob Deyan
Yrs Trly, Ramon de Ocampo, Bob Deyan

An excerpt from the 20-minute interview included with the ARIEL audiobook is now up on the ARIEL website. This was a totally impromptu interview conducted with Ramon De Ocampo, ARIEL’s narrator, the first time I visited Deyan Audio during the audio production. We hit it off right away and the interview came out great. Good thing, cuz we was way squeezed into that widdle booth.

Ganked-Out ARIEL Contest!

Cory Doctorows copy of ARIEL
Cory Doctorow's copy of ARIEL

Cory Doctorow’s review of the ARIEL reissue linked to a pic of his ganked-out copy of the original paperback, which he has read possibly more times than I have read A Wrinkle in Time (which I think I’ve read more times than any other novel). Curiously, over the years readers have sent me a few other pics of ganked-out copies of ARIEL.

Clearly these ARIEL-retentives need a nice shiny brandspankingnew copy.

Clearly the thing to do is to hold a contest.

So here’s the deal.  Send me a picture of your own ganked-out copy of the original edition of ARIEL.  The owner of the most nasty, gnarly, beatup dogeared puppychewed copy will win an autographed copy of the bright shiny new purty purty paperback edition of ARIEL, courtesy of Yrs. Truly.

Send your pix to . Deadline is noon, Sept. 17. I will be the sole arbiter of gankiness (no photoshopping, you clever devils you), and I’ll post the pic when I announce the winner.

It’s worth mentioning that the original edition in good condition is worth a bit nowadays, so you might want to think hard before you ganking-out that pristine copy just to win a new one.

Back from the Burn

bike01_thSo I’m out in the middle of shit nowhere in the northern Nevada desert exploring art projects on the playa one night at Burning Man with my friend Scott. We’re looking at this yurt that someone has set up. There’s nothing around it. Scott tells me he wishes he had a map of the Black Rock City so he could mark locations of some theme camps and art installations.  (For a week the temporary Black Rock City that houses Burning Man is the fourth-largest city in Nevada, dontcha know.)

Through the oval doorway of the yurt I can see a nice soft floor, cushions, soft lighting, a comfy space in the middle of the hostile environment.  I take some pix because it’s an inviting little oasis here.  I duck my head and step into the oval.  There’s a guy sitting inside the yurt right beside the door.  He looks up at me as I come in and says, “Steve Boyett?  I just met you at WorldCon!” In fact it’s Ryan Alexander, whom I clearly remember meeting at the dance I DJ’d at WorldCon in Montreal a month earlier.

Ryan has made postcards as gifts for people he meets on the playa.  He gives one to my friend Scott.

The postcards are a map of Black Rock City.

And people ask me why I go to this.

I’m just back from Burning Man and playing catchup.  I’ll put up a real post in a few days, and soon my Burning Man 2009 photo/video album. Meantime, if your’re so inclined, have a look at the albums for 2007 and 2008.