Bookcasting: iThink iCan, iThink iCan

Dear Mr. Jobs:

Congratulations on your recent launch of the new iPad device! I know that many pundits were more whelmed than overwhelmed (having fallen for the hype they themselves created; I recall no hyperbole out of Cupertino), but I think it is important to point out the acidic combination of bad memory and lack of foresight that allows such mavens to be hypercritical without applying the company’s past accomplishments to the likely developmental future of your wonderfully promising device. The potential is all there.

But my main point in writing you this open letter, Mr. Jobs, is to urge you to allow the e-book portal on the laudable iBooks section of the iPad to have a section devoted to free e-books, with content provided by users who format their own works using the easily available ePub platform iBooks already utilizes.

I strongly believe this would do for digital books and magazines what podcasting did for digital audio:  bring millions of eyes to the device, allow niche publications that otherwise would be unaffordable in the traditional bound-print model, democratize the end-user experience regarding popularity of such works, and give yet another voice to creative people previously unable to garner what has long been considered the imprimatur of traditional publication.

As someone who created one of the world’s most popular music podcasts, Podrunner, I can attest firsthand to the power of such access, and to the broadening, enriching, and enlightening experience of finding and directly interacting with a hitherto unidentified, and indeed unavailable audience. It is empowering at all points of the transaction, from creator to consumer. For what is the purpose of such technology but access?

I believe such a free e-book portal — call it bookcasting — would not harm the present book industry one whit.  It would instead provide an outlet and a potential audience for writers denied such by the expense and often the subjective whim of commercial publishing. The need to turn a profit would not be part of the bookcasting equation. It would allow writers the opportunity to supplant or even derive the totality of their income from reader donations.

Bookcasting would provide readers with access to perfectly fine authors denied publication because, while they may be talented artists, they are not necessarily commercial ones, and publishing them is not justified under the current and much more expensive publishing model. Readers would also have access to authors for whom there has simply not been room in a crowded marketplace with limited shelf space.

Bookcasting would even allow established traditional-publishing authors to have a venue for works outside the purview of their genre, books long out of print, or books considered too obscure or experimental for mainstream publication. It would also give traditional publishers an adjunct to offer works, interviews, and other material as a gateway to their commercial publications.

I believe that bookcasting would also usher in a renaissance of literary periodicals. Many prestigious bedroom periodicals of high repute that have been uable to remain viable due to production and distribution costs would suddenly be able to thrive, with overhead drastically reduced if not altogether eliminated.

I will be one of your first bookcast providers and one of your first bookcast readers. And I think there are millions of us out there.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Steven R. Boyett

Na’vi Don’t Surf

So this human male not only supports the oppression and subjugation of the alien creatures right in his own backyard, he even contributes to it. But through a miraculous process he ends up smack dab in the middle of the aliens themselves. Because he is brave and his heart is good, the Earth Mother Spiritual Leader and the Patriarchal Tribal Chief assign him a female to teach him the ways of the people — history, language, customs, warrior rites, the whole shebang. Other aliens don’t like or trust him, but his female mentor sees that he has the potential to be great among them. As he learns their ways he begins to realize that these people have an ancient and legitimate culture that is connected to the world in ways his own culture is no longer (if it ever was). Our hero undergoes a rite of passage in which he essentially becomes one of his adopted tribe.

Unfortunately our little human has himself initiated the process by which humans are going to invade the alien territory and destroy the aliens. Our hero switches sides, but he does not yet have the respect of the aliens because, to them, he himself is an alien.  Then the aliens learn that the hero himself is a major factor in their immediate misfortune and imminent slaughter. To gain their respect and get their attention, he must perform a heroic feat that is undeniably something only the best of the aliens themselves can accomplish. He promptly does this, gives a rousing speech that demonstrates beyond a doubt not only his allegience but the fact that he is now one of them.

Then he basically becomes Leader of the Rebellion, and even goes so far as to unite formerly hostile animals in their environment against the common enemy, riding the backs of huge vicious creatures in an all-out spectacular attack against the technologically superior invading humans.

Because of his leadership and the combined strength of formerly competing factions on the food chain, the aliens win the day and send the technophile humans packing. Our Hero is now as much an alien as he ever was a human being.

I’m talking of course about The Ant Bully, released by Warner Bros. in 2006, to immediately disappear without a ripple in the ocean of CG kid films released at the same time.

A Farewell to My Desk

I fear this post places me firmly in the Land of Mawkish Sentimentality, a porous-bordered, perfumey territory rife with poodle fur, diamondcollared kittycats, waifs with giant brown eyes, and the pervasive music of Counting Crows. The very embodiment of the Tarot Fool, I proceed regardless.

When I leave Los Angeles this weekend I am going to leave my desk behind for whoever wants it. This is causing me a certain and entirely unexpected measure of anguish.

In 1984 I was living in Gainesville, Florida, and my first novel had just come out. I had a rather amazing job word-processing for the History & English Depts. at the University of Florida. I had broken up with the first woman I ever lived with and was living alone in a rented house.  I made about five bucks an hour, was getting lots of media attention, was getting rather epic amounts of female attentiion, was selling more copies of my first novel than many of the people whose manuscripts I typed and proofed would sell in their entire career, and was absolutely miserable. I wasn’t challenged and wasn’t getting anything written, and my completely stoopid ambition was to try to give a reading at the university and achieve some kind of legitimacy in their eyes. To be King Shit of Turd Moutain.

I’d met writer David Gerrold at a convention and we’d struck up a correspondence. He lived in Los Angeles, and I was trying to decide whether I should move to L.A. to be in the heart of the movie industry, or New York, to be in the heart of the publishing industry.  I wrote David and I wrote the poet Nancy Lambert in New York and asked them questions about living where they lived — cost of living, job opportunities, pay, blah blah. David, no slouch when it came to reading people, called me up and said, look, I think you’re drowning there. I’m coming out to Florida to visit Epcot in three weeks. I’ll bring you back to LA if you want.

I said sure and gave notice at my job the next day. Three weeks and three days later I was in Los Angeles, and I never looked back. I was 23 years old.

I had very little money but wasn’t especially worried; I typed 110 WPM and my grammar skills were ridiculous; I had a job after giving myself a week off. I slept on a mattress on the floor of a room I rented from David. I had all my books in a bookcase I’d made with my friend Kerry that went together like some kind of Jenga puzzle, something only people who did not live in earthquake country could have concocted.

Tight as money was, I used my first paycheck to get myself a desk.  It was a sturdy L-shaped desk that cost around $350, which was a decent amount to pay for a desk in 1984. But I knew I was going to practically live at this desk, and make a living at this desk, and I wanted something more than some Ikea cardboard monstrosity that would crumble to dust in months.

I loved my desk. Since moving to Los Angeles I have moved — let me count here — six times, and the desk has come with me. Last move I had to sacrifice the right-hand return on the desk because my new little office didn’t have room for it. I wasn’t happy about it but didn’t have much choice. I was ergonomic about the damned desk before I’d ever even heard the term. It was all about workflow.  I used to teach a seminar at UCLA Extension called “The Writing Life,” all about practical aspects of managing a writing career, not a whit about writing itself. I devoted an entire segment, called “Arm’s Reach,” to what should be on your desk, in the drawers, in the drawer file, etc.

KayPro 10

I loved my desk.  I still love it.  It’s beat to shit, scarred, chipped, stained, and still something that might survive a nuclear blast. I wrote — let me count here — eight? Yeah, eight novels on this desk. I wrote longhand, I wrote using WordStar on a KayPro 10, I wrote using WordPerfect 5.1 on IBM PS/2 clones, and on PCs I built myself and casemodded (one to look like a Holstein cow with matching mouse & keyboard; I still use the cow copyholder & tape dispenser I painted). I’m writing this at that desk using a backlit keyboard attached to my Acer Aspire 9800 “laptop” with a 20″ screen.

I did a lot of graphic design work for my own stuff on this desk, in the heady days when I had time for such luxuries, and the desktop is covered with ruler-straight lines from X-Acto knife cuts. I learned to DJ on it, too, using Traktor 1.5, I think it was, and a SoundBlaster 5.1 audio card that was The Shit right before pro-level audio cards entered the mainstream consumer market. I had no studio monitors and learned on headhpones, which is kind of unusual.

The desk is so harshed that it will just look horrible in my office in the new place.  It’s long been time to get a nice new desk, and one will be delivered to my new house the day after I move in. This is all necessary and good. I realize that the desk about which I’ve been waxing sentimental for several hundred words now is just a beatup assemblage of wood and veneer and glue and screws.  I know that. But I can’t help feeling like I’m taking a great old dog to the vet to be put down.

I Like Chinese

Among the few things I know I’ll miss when I leave Los Angeles is Grauman’s Chinese Theater. (The Mann Corporation took it over some years back, but only cads with no sense of history call it Mann’s Chinese Theater.) It’s a venerable old warhorse of oldtime palatial theaters, among the last such in Los Angeles. The Orpheum is even bigger and more plush, but in disrepair and not used much. There’s an L.A. Theater Conservancy, Last Remaining Seats, dedicated to trying to preserve these grand dames — a losing battle, I’m afraid, as they are steadily being converted into swap meets and retail space, but a noble battle nonetheless.

Because I’m moving after being here for over half my life, I have been making a point to visit my favorite spots these last few weeks. I saw The Lovely Bones and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus at the Hollywood Arclight (though I haven’t actually seen Avatar at the glorious Cinerama Dome (the anchor of the Arclight complex) because quite frankly it’s on the bottom of my list of movies to see. Yesterday I went to see The Book of Eli at the Chinese.

The Chinese was the first theater I went to when I moved to Los Angeles in 1984. I saw Children of the Corn there. Most of the cast showed up, and so I also got my first taste of spoiled little child actors. But having come from Gainesville, Florida, seeing a movie in a theater the size of a county where the people in the movie were also in the theater was — well, not cool, and not surreal. The word that comes to mind is enframing.

Even more enframing, I saw Speed at the Chinese. The scene where the Red Line car breaks through the street and screeches to a halt outside the theater was especially fun because the theater it slides in front of is the theater I was sitting in. You couldn’t help turning your head back toward the lobby, as if trying to hear the ruckus. (Though even more enframing was Gremlins 2, which I saw at the Vista. There’s a scene where the camera pulls back to show the movie you’re watching on a screen, continues back to include the theater audience, and trucks back as someone gets up and storms out to the lobby to complain to the manager [Paul Bartel] about the film. They shot the scene at the Vista — now that was surreal.)

One of the most fun movie nights I’ve ever had was when a big group of us got together at the Chinese to see Titanic on opening night. The anticipation was huge and the crowd was electric. (Possibly the best movie night I ever had was attending the premiere of 2010 at the Westwood Village with David Gerrold and sitting with Arthur Clarke, Peter Hyams, and Harlan Ellison. Good lord. Shame the movie sucked.)

Even a bad movie is better at the Chinese, and it speaks to a day when moviegoing was an event, a sort of absorbing group ritual, instead of the distraction from cell phone conversations it serves as nowadays. I will definitely miss seeing movies at the Chinese.

FWIW

Getting my own ballot for the 2009 Hugo Award Nominations made me realize that it would probably be all wise and PR-like of me to mention that

Elegy Beach, by Steven R. Boyett (Nov. 2009, Ace/Penguin)

is eligible for nomination in the Novel category this year.

Not that you have to vote for it, you undertand. I mean, if you don’t, we’re still friends. I mean, in a superficial, don’t-call-me-to-bail-you-out-of-jail kind of way. But if you’re eligible to vote for the 2009 Hugos, there’s a chance you intended to vote for Elegy Beach but got that weird mind-goes-blank thing that happens when we walk into bookstores and grocery stores, and when we open the fridge. So I’m really just reminding you, you see.

And remember, vote early and often!

MLK

Some years ago while auditioning samples for compositions, I was listening to pieces of Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech and was astonished to realize that that the speech is — from start to finish and without variation — 125 beats per minute for over 15 minutes.

I have always thought that the “Dream” speech is about the most passionate, important, lyric, and beautifully constructed stretch of oratory imaginable. The realization that it’s also right on tempo caused me to start listening to it as a musical construction. It has a nearly symphonic structure, with distinct movements. And of course there’s that astonishing finish.

I wanted to compose something that would underscore the speech’s musicality — a simple piece that wouldn’t call attention to itself or stand independently of the speech, but act as a bed to illustrate the structure and lyric beauty of King’s amazing words.

I did absolutely no editing to the speech beyond toning down some of the applause and EQing it a bit for clarity. It runs in “MLK” exactly as it was recorded, from start to finish, and the music is composed around it. All stops, breaks, returns, emphases are exactly as Rev. King delivered them.

After many listenings my appreciation for Rev. King’s words (and passion, and hope) has only deepened, and the demonstration of their musicality fills me with a childlike wonder. I hope that you are as moved and astonished by the beauty and depth of this speech as I continue to be.

Download:  Steve Boyett – “MLK”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Movies I Will Never See

This is a quirk of mine I haven’t run across in anyone else: I won’t go see movies based on books I really love. Maybe the movie version is great; I don’t care. It won’t be a gnat fart next to the movie in my head. And whether they get it right or get it wrong, I’ll be stuck with that imagery from then on, because we are hardwired such that visual imagery takes precedence, and tends to overhwelm everything else — including imagination.

I first noticed this when I was in high school and the TV miniseries Shogun, starring Richard Chamberlain, became a huge hit. Now, by the standards of television at the time, Shogun was a very well-done show. The production values were high, they filmed on location, recruited Toshiro Mifune for gravitas and cred, did their homework, and rather successfully adapted an enormously involved and expositional historical novel.

And I wished I’d never seen it. The James Clavell novel was and remains one of my favorite books. I’ve read it a bunch of times. But after seeing the miniseries, the next time I sat down to read the novel, it was nearly impossible to not to imagine Richard Chamberlain as John Blackthorne. And while Chamberlain was good in the TV version, the dude was not John Blackthorne. And good for TV (especially at the time) ain’t gonna come close to the unlimited budget my brain has for these things. So I learned something there.

Then Mick Garris directed Stephen King’s The Stand. I knew Mick at the time, and we had a conversation one day in which he asked who I thought would make a good Randall Flagg. I told him King had thought Robert Duvall would be good in the part, and Mick said, “I was thinking of David Bowie.” Now, I think Mick said this because Bowie had just been an evil wizard in Labyrinth. In any case, once I heard that I realized that I wasn’t going to watch The Stand even if ended up being the best movie ever made.

And so began a practice of not watching movies based on my favorite books. I mean, seriously, did anyone alive think that Disney was going to do anything to A Wrinkle in Time besides gang rape it? Don’t people realize Blood Meridian is as much about the writing as it is about what happens?

When Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings came out, I was really torn. I’d liked Jackson since Bad Taste. I actually paid real money to see Meet the Feebles in a theater. I seem to be the only person who doesn’t consider The Lovely Bones a departure for him, as I am apparently the only person in the world who remembers Jackson’s excellent Heavenly Creatures. In any case, I liked Jackson and told myself that I was over LotR cuz it was one of my faves when I was 13 but so was The Omega Man, don’tcha know (well, The Omega Man still is, he said sheepishly). (One of these days I’ll blog about the unintentional blight on fantasy fiction that is The Lord of the Rings.)

So I went and saw The Fellowship of the Ring at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood (saw all of the movies there, in fact). And found myself very weirdly bifurcated about the movie. On the one hand it wasn’t remotely the vision I had for the book.  On the other hand, I thought Jackson had done about the best possible job that anyone could have done (except for some horrendous shaky-cam fight scenes and the stupid dwarf-tossing jokes that pulled me right the hell out of the movie). I had to see it again to wrap my head around Jackson’s vision, and it was like that for all three films. And much as I enjoyed the books as a kid, I no longer have the sentimental attachment to them that I once did, so I don’t mind my precious gray cells being polluted by Jackson’s imagery. I thought Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was a beautifully written novel, but I didn’t have an emotional attachment to it and didn’t mind seeing the Jackson film (which I liked a lot).

I was torn about seeing I Am Legend because the Matheson novel is so amazingly good even 50 years later, and I was weirdly relieved to see that the Will Smith version was really a remake of The Omega Man (did nobody clue in on this?); I’m pretty sure no one involved ever read the original novel.

I saw No Country for Old Men because I thought it was one of McCarthy’s weaker novels (I once quipped that it was a Miami Vice episode written by the best writer in America, and then recently learned that he’d originally written it [or intended it, can’t remember offhand] as a screenplay. See, cynicism makes you psychic. Unfortunately a real cynic knows that a real psychic is also usually a Cassandra. But I digress.) I thought it was hilarious that it won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation, because the Coens didn’t adapt a damn thing, they just made the book a movie, slavishly rendering about 95% of the novel, which is why the ending plays so oddly in a theater. It’s a book ending. But even though it was extraordinarily well done and I love the Coens, I couldn’t judge the movie at all because I knew everything I was about to see and hear. They didn’t translate it from one medium to another. But I wouldn’t see All the Pretty Horses, The Road, or the upcoming Blood Meridian (about the best-written novel I’ve ever read) even if I’d written the screenplay and was cast in the lead.

Phil Farmer’s Riverworld? Are you out of your friggin mind? I pity anyone who reads the book with that crappy imagery stuck in their head.

It’s weird to me that people tend to assume you have to see a movie if you liked the book. Sez friggin who? There’s a very real chance I wouldn’t go see a movie based on one of my own novels or screenplays for the same reason as all of the above: the movie in my head will always be a thousand times better. No one believes that when you say it, but I can prove it because I’ve never seen Toy Story 2 and never intend to, and I wrote the second draft of the damned thing.

And when I return to one of my favorite novels to luxuriate in it like some kind of bubble bath, I sure as hell don’t want David Bowie’s goddamn face in my head.

Pets that Talk — Alexander

My Webster’s lists the verb form of “parrot” as “to repeat by rote.” That was pretty much my impression of what a parrot does, too. Then I met Alexander.

Baby picture

Alexander is a Vosmaerai eclectus, a species notable for sexual dimorphism more extreme than any other in the bird world; the females look so unlike the males that they were thought to be different species until the 20th Century.  They’re native to New Guinea, but Alexander was hatched at Magnolia Bird Farm in Riverside, California. Maureen was there for it, and visited him constantly, and took him home with her five weeks later.

Alexander is a bit of a mess and something of a runt. His left shoulder is malformed and his wing won’t fully extend; he will never fly. He compulsively picks at himself (something wild parrots have never been observed to do) and has to wear a collar; otherwise, he will pull out highly vascular bloodfeathers and bleed to death. We hate the collar as much as Alexander does, and remove it whenever we think it will be safe — when he isn’t growing major feathers, which ain’t often.

Baby picture

Alexander seems about as smart as a three-year-old human being. I say this with some measure of objectivity, as someone with little prior experience of parrots and little sentimentality regarding them. I’ve seen him identify colors and objects from groups with no cueing from Maureen (that I observed, anyhow). He makes up games with consistent rules, usually involving the way an object is to be shared between him, me, and Mo, and gets flustered if you can’t figure out the rules.

And he talks. Oh, man, does he talk. I couldn’t say how large his vocabulary is, but it changes all the time, and one of the things that I’m still not used to is his ability to change inflection on words to convey different meaning, even though he hasn’t heard that word said that way before. He seems to understand that meaning changes with tone. He demonstrates this a lot around our neighbor Tiffany, because he seems to have a crush on her. (He likes girls a lot better than boys anyhow, but Tiffany is a special case for him.) He says “Hi” to her when she’s in her backyard, in a special tone he reserves exclusively for her. It sounds like a guy at a bar radar-locking on a babe a couple of stools down. You can almost here the “well, hel-LO there.”

He also imitates environmental noises (train brakes were a favorite for a while), and caws at crows with some pretty funny results if they get a look at him. The crows tend to circle and get other crows to take a look as well, refusing to believe that the picture doesn’t match the sound. I got him to say “quack quack quack” for a while, and do some Warner Bros. cartoon sound effects. Sometimes he talks in his sleep. That takes getting used to. He’s awakened yelling from nightmares a few times too. He most definitely will put words together in different combinations to form sentences he has not heard before. There’s cognition there.

Alexander loves to watch Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Lab. He laughs at appropriate moments (sometimes I hear it in stereo when he and Maureen laugh together — in identical voices). He has a thing for anything that drones, like a fan or a leaf blower, and will talk like mad when a drone is going. When Mo composes he sings along, in time and on key. I’ll never get used to hearing them do call-and-response, with Alexander basically playing “Simon” and getting annoyed if you don’t replicate his pattern (which he varies as he goes). At the end of this post are two recordings of Alexander accompanying Maureen (or vice versa, really), one a call-and-response, the other pretty much an improvised duet.

Where Murdoc is a grumpy misanthrope, Alexander is a genuinely sweet character who shares things and likes to play with others. Both birds can be counted on to sound off whenever I have a business call or phone interview, which adds that special touch of professionalism. It’s also a fitting irony that I — who have written a rather large amount of fiction dealing with what are basically sentient animals, and who have made my opinion of furries pretty well known over the years — would end up living with animals that talk.

(This audio player app for WordPress sucks the rope-veined boy bone, so I’m including download links as well.)

Mo & Alexander – Duet

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Mo & Alexander – Call & Response

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Pets that Talk — Murdoc

I don’t think you have to read me much to figure out that I’m not a very schmaltzy, widdle fwuffy bunny kinda guy, and I definitely deliberated before blogging about the birds (“The boys,” as we call them). But if John Friggin Scalzi can keep posting pictures of his christalmighty cats — a species of furry mercenary that would happily smother a baby the second your back is turned — then I can bygod talk about my birds every once in a while.

I wouldn’t really describe myself as a bird person. I love animals (except for cats, which in any case are not animals but hairy gargoyles) and grew up out in the country surrounded by lots of them. Mostly I’m a dog person. (I’m not trying to sell anyone on dogs here; I’m aware that they’re big dumb smelly fur-covered emotion manipulators. But I don’t know of any other animal that will pull a baby out of a swimming pool or help a blind man across a busy street. Hell, most people won’t do that.)

In any case, if you’re primarily a mammal-type person, parrots take some getting used to. Their body language and habits and patterns and such were quite foreign to me at first. They aren’t just feathered mammals. In fact I suspect the reaction from any parrot-owner to the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs would be mostly Duhhh. Cuz that’s clearly what they are — little feathered dinosaurs. In your own living room. Woo hoo.

My impression of parrots was like most people’s: big loud birds that echo what they hear, usually owned by eccentric people who would probably be crazy cat ladies if they were more mammal-centric. Then I became a stepfather to two of them.

Murdoc is a severe macaw. It’s illegal to import them now, and given his age and the fact that he was wild-caught, we figure he was somewhere around the last batch of his species to be brought (legally, anyhow) into the U.S. We don’t support buying wild-caught birds; the methods used to capture them and bring them to market are cruel from start to finish. Murdoc was a rescue. He’d been bought at a garage sale, which I find simply unbelievable, by a family that owned a pet shop. This family’s kids used to beat on Murdoc’s cage with a broomhandle while yelling at him. Maureen, my wife, grew up with parrots, and when she saw this she couldn’t stand it, and worked off the price for him in the pet shop. Then she set about the lengthy process of teaching him not to go full-on flapping panicked gonzo whenever a human being came anywhere near.

Murdoc is crazy. We figure he’s around 45 years old. He doesn’t talk, except to say “Murdoc” and, when the phone rings, “hello.” He’s kind of like Timmy on South Park, though; he’s learned to say his name any number of ways to make his meaning clear. He’s (understandably) terrified of sticks and strangers, doesn’t like loud noises or going outside. When I met Maureen he would attack anything that wasn’t Maureen. In the morning he would climb down from his cage in the room he shared with Alexander in Maureen’s apartment, walk into her bedroom, climb up on the bed, and walk across me to get to her. What woke me up most mornings when I stayed with Mo was Murdoc climbing the metal footboard. Mo would preen him and I would lie there imagining the damage his beak could do to me if he wanted it to.

Then one day he climbed up and didn’t go to Mo and wanted me to preen him. Which I did.  I was terrified. Gradually he warmed to me, to the point that he would let me preen him in the morning but not Mo. Then he fell in love with me and tried to kill Mo whenever she came near me. But love changed Murdoc. He would act silly. We found out he was ticklish on the bottoms of his claws, and he does this weird chokey laugh thing when you tickle them. He sings along with certain notes I hit or sounds I make. He also has a weird thing for being under things. I’m always building him a fort with pillows and a sheet, and he plays in it. He insists on exploring empty cardboard boxes, blankets, and cabinets. You’d think he was some kind of den animal. He’s insane for peanuts.

Murdoc is generally grumpy and not very social. (People and their pets, yah?) Often I feel sorry for him because he’s had a hard life and he’s pretty much broken. Mostly he just wants to be left alone. He loves me, though, and I’ve grown to love him. In fact love saved Murdoc, honestly.

Welcome to Year MMX

Apart from the holiday traffic and wallblind idiocy of drivers whose ears go flat to their head as they stop in the middle of the road in utter hawkshadowed panic, this tends to be my favorite time of year. Besides the meridian at which I look back on the previous year and look forward to the next, for some reason it’s usually my busiest and most creative time of year. I always have more projects going on and more outlets for them.

Late 2009/early 2010 is no exception. 2009 was one of the best years of my life. ELEGY BEACH and ARIEL were reprinted, with the latter — a 26-year-0ld reprint, mind you — garnering reviews and strong sales, and with ELEGY BEACH doing, as far as I can tell, quite well also. I went back to SF conventions for the first time in a decade (and DJ’d a dance at WorldCon in Montreal), and found new friends in Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, who are movers and shakers to make me feel I’m standing still. My wife went with me to Burning Man for the first time, and the event was amazing this year. My all-night DJ set onboard the Nautilus X art car was epic. My Groovelectric & Podrunner series didn’t see any fundamental change, but they stayed on top of iTunes Music Podcasts, and Podrunner made the iTunes Top 100 Podcasts list for the fourth year in a row.

2010 is starting off with a bang. Maureen and I are busily packing up the house to move to the East San Francisco Bay area at the end of this month. Normally I hate moving, but I’ve wanted out of Los Angeles for several years now, and we’ve both fallen in love with our new little town, so if the undeniable pain in the ass of relocating is the price of admission, I’m all over it. We love the community there, love the new (and much larger) house, and have lots of friends up that way, so there’s plenty of incentive.  I think about what I’ll miss about Los Angeles and, other than friends, I draw a blank. Which is always a sign it’s time to go.

But good god I have a lot of books. And this is after getting rid of about 25% of them a year ago.

I have March 1 deadlines on three projects and have to keep the Groovelectric and Podrunner podcasts going, as well as revising one novel and working on the new one. I know it’ll all get done because god knows I’ve done it all before.

AVALON BURNING, the new Change novel, is proceeding slowly, but I’m really happy with it. The FERRY CROSS THE MERCY revision is stalled, I think because this is going to take a lot of concentration and uninterrupted sessions, and that ain’t happening right now. But it will.

Here’s my interview on KFAI public radio, aired on New Year’s Eve:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(if this gives you a “file not found,” use the link below. This player app for WordPress absolutely sucks.)

Write on Radio Interview

I hope everyone had a great and safe New Year.