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Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Defense of GRRM...

Hey folks. I'm off to the coast for some camping this weekend. Should be nice, shorts and tee shirt type of days. (Sorry to folks in the Northeast right now.)

I'd like to leave you with a link...

Shawn Speakman recently did a long, in-depth and quite interesting post In Defense of George RR Martin on Suvudu. I'm sure if you're a GRRM fan you'll understand the context of that without explanation. Go take a look. It may, perhaps, make it easier to carry on the wait for A Dance with Dragons.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Detective Cat

Does this guy look slick or what?He's called The Detective Cat and he's one of several of my daughter's new prints, available for viewing at Maya Calypso Durham Talks.

I don't know about you, but I want to know this guy's story. He kinda looks like he's working undercover or something...

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sunday Won't be the Same

In some ways this is a personal thing to me. I grew up largely in the DC metro area, and we always received The Washington Post. For that matter, I even delivered the paper myself for a while. Oh how I remember the heft of the Sunday edition. Oh how I remember all the stuffing of the special inserts in the pre-dawn hours out in my garage, loading up my bike and then making my wobbly way out into the still suburban streets...

Back then, and in the years to come as I went to college and grad school in the area, I took it for granted that The Book World insert was always going to be a part of that. Always had been. Always would be. Right? It told me that books were important, and that authors were interesting, and it was my go to source for knowing what literary events were on in the city each month. As a writer, I was reviewed in its pages. I watched it connect me with readers and get people out to events. Before long I also reviewed for them. It became one of my favorite sources of book news. Even now - as I've become more and more a part of the fantasy community - I was pleased to see reviews by writers like Elizabeth Hand and Jeff Vandermeer in those pages...

All of which is preamble to saying how disappointed I am that the Post has decided to drop the section. I know it's not the end of the world, and that they'll still be book coverage elsewhere in the paper, but it's no good sign.

Honestly, as I look back I realize that knowing that there was a special section on books placed an early awareness of the value of literature in me. I may not have been reading that stuff myself at the time, but I knew that books were an important enough part of people's lives that major papers made room for them. The ritual of my mom sitting on the couch on a Sunday morning with the book section folded open looked to me like part of ritual of what it meant to be an adult.

It's because of that nostalgia that I greet this news sadly. I believe the only two stand-alone book sections are now in the NY Times and the SF Chronicle. For a country this size, that seems rather pathetic. I know, though, I know... Times change. I'm all for embracing change. I just hope that it is change that's happening here - not something more dire.

It doesn't help either that Realms of Fantasy just announced it was folding completely a few days ago. Try going to their website: this is what you get.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Graveyard Book

I just this minute learned that Neil Gaiman has won the American Library Associations Newberry Medal today! I'm thrilled by that. I haven't read the The Graveyard Book yet, but I have to admit I think about Neil at some point every day. Does that sound weird? Well, I'll offer that for one thing I'm teaching Stardust in a Popular Fiction class at Cal State University. So that's part of it.

Of course, there's more. Like I can't get over how much I admire the way Neil walks the world. I've seen him with tons and tons of fans, but he never showed getting tired or impatient with anyone. He's quite gracious, and I find the range and diversity of his work very inspiring.

What it comes down to is this: when I grow up I want to be like Neil. Considering that I'll be forty in a few months, I'm on a rather tight schedule to achieve this, by the way. Wish me luck.

(Oh, and have I mentioned that Neil has, at least on on occasion, read my blog. "Hurrah!")

Anyway, congrats to Neil. I'm sure this award is deserved, and I very much look forward to reading it myself. Here's Neil's Post about getting the news.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Secretary of Arts Petition

What do you make of this - Quincy Jones' proposal that President Obama create a Secretary of Arts post? I heard about this the other day on NPR. The petition doesn't have anything in the way of details about what this position would entail. Still, though, I went over and signed it with a few mouse clicks. I'm not really that troubled by the details at this point. I just like the notion that our new administration will be more supportive of a lot of things that are important to me, including the arts.

I know critics of something like this will say that the government shouldn't be in the business of deciding what's art and/or that the market should decide what's of artistic worth and what's not... I don't buy either notion, though.

On the first point I think government can support a diverse and healthy artistic life without becoming an arbiter of taste and worth. Living in Scotland, I can't tell you how many times I saw the Scottish Arts Council logo supporting films, festivals, art shows, musicians, writers etc. It was wonderfully diverse group, and it's painful to imagine many of those projects struggling for funding. They weren't all projects that could turn a commercial profit, but so many worthy artistic endeavors aren't. It cost so little, but I can reward us with so much.

That's my thinking on it. What's yours?

By the way, the petition is Here if you're inclined to add your name to it.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Special" Course with Edward P Jones...

at George Washington University, featuring... ME!

The description is as follows...

The English Department is pleased to announced that Edward P. Jones will be teaching a special one credit course for a small number of GW students.

English 193 (Studies in Contemporary Literature) will meet four Monday evenings in February from 6-7:30. Students will read four novels and discuss them with Mr. Jones: David Anthony Durham, GABRIEL'S STORY; Mary Lavin, IN A CAFE; Chaim Potok, THE CHOSEN; and Richard Wright, UNCLE TOM'S CHILDREN. Only ten students will be admitted to the class.

Do you know how much this excites me? Edward P Jones is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of All Aunt Hagar's Children, The Known World and Lost in the City. He's big time, having won just about every literary award and accolade this country has to offer. We've met before, and we even did an interview together a few years back for Mississippi Public Television (along with Jeffrey Lent), but still I'm thrilled that he thinks enough of my work - my first novel, at that - to include it on such a short list with those other incredible writers. I'm very pleased...

Here's the announcement.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thank You, Mr. Prez

If you know me you'll probably know I'm full of emotion today. Good ones. The kind that make my eyes water and the world go all squiggly. I'd try to blame it on the head cold I have right now, but that's not it. It's the fact that we have a new president, one that I remain amazed and inspired by. It's all too big and too multifaceted to talk about in depth. So let me just relate a small thing...

I've been trying to figure out why my kids are so amazingly happy about our new president. My son, Sage, said something to the effect that he couldn't believe we elected a black president in his life time. He's 7. Some of it, of course, is him reflecting back my enthusiasm, but there's more to it than that. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and realized another part of it.

When I was a kid in school I was always aware of the disconnect between the rhetoric of America and the reality. I heard that all men were created equal, and yet I knew from very early on that the words were true in a way our actualizing of them wasn't. All men were created equal, but not women. All men were created equal and had rights, oh but not black folks, not brown folks, not really. It was like there were two different dialogs going on the room. The teacher would say, "In America, anyone can grow up to be president". He'd smile and carry on talking, but each time it was like a separate, ghostly image detached itself, turned and spoke to me, saying, "Well, not you. Anyone, but not you. You understand that, right?" And then that ghost teacher would merge back with his/herself and carry on with the fine words, sure that they could be spoken with complete sincerity - and sure that a black kid like me really did understand that the words weren't entirely for me, not without clauses and footnotes and exceptions.

I felt that for all of my almost forty years, from what I experienced in life and from what I learned of the history of this nation. But I knew it as much as a child of 7 or 9 as I did as a father of children those ages. In many ways, it was a more savage knowledge then. It was part of the reason that my childhood was never as complete a childhood as one might hope for. There were never truly many days of innocence, because there was always that ghost-voice reminding me not to get my hopes up too high, not to confuse rhetoric with reality, not to forget that it really is a "white" house, after all. I'm sure that many, many people, whether because of race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or many other factors, live lives with their own versions of this disconnect...

Anyway, that was my childhood, my adulthood, and it's probably in my blood enough that I'll be surprised at Barack Obama's rise to the presidency over and over again for years to come. When I look at my kids this morning, though, it really does feel like they plucked a weight off and flicked it away on their fingers. Yes, of course they'd felt the weight too. I did. Why wouldn't they? But that was before today. Now, they live in a world were a mixed-race (African-American) person can be the most powerful person in the world. I think that changes everything for them. It changes how they see themselves. It changes how they see me...

Thank you for that, Mr. President. And good luck with the work to come. Lord knows I wouldn't actually want your job. It surely won't be a walk on the beach. Still, I'm glad you did, and glad you got it.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

David B. Coe Interview

You guys know David B. Coe? I've seen his books around for a while now, but I haven't been able to crack on yet. I've just read a quite interesting interview with him, though, and maybe I'll have to finally give him a try. He's promoting a new book called The Horsemen's Gambit, which is the second book in his Blood of the Southlands trilogy.

What interests me in the interview is that he seems to have a similar approach to combining serious "real world" elements with his fantastic stories. Take this question and answer, for example...

Q) Race, prejudice, ethnic identity -- That all sounds pretty familiar. Is Blood of the Southlands set in a created world or our own?

DBC) It's definitely a created world, but as with all my work, Blood of the Southlands touches on issues of great importance in what we call, for lack of a better term, the "real" world. My LonTobyn series [Children of Amarid, The Outlanders, Eagle-Sage] touched on ecological themes. Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands deal with race. I have another project that I'm working on that focuses on drug addiction. I write books that I hope will entertain. I strive to make them fun -- as I said, there's lots of action and intrigue, romance and even humor. But they also deal with serious issues that resonate with social concerns in our own lives. I do this because I find it more interesting to write books that grapple with big questions. And if some of my readers come away from the books thinking about race or ecology or substance issues in a new way, all the better.

The whole interview is here.


Take a look. He certainly seems like a nice guy, and he's living the full-time fantasy writer's dream. That's always a good thing to read about!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fantastinet Interview

The very cool Allan Dujiperou conducted an interview with me for the French website Fantastinet. Thanks, much, Allan. I love the way I sound in French. For example...

Allan : Je dois reconnaitre que j'ai lu le premier volume et que j'ai ete impressionne par… Tout ! Pour beaucoup de lecteurs, ton livre est parmi les meilleurs de fantasy. Que ressens-tu quand tu entends ca ?

Anthony : Je suis enchante ! Bien sur, c'est exactement ce que j'espere entendre. J'ai travaille dur pour rendre l'histoire complexe, avec des personnages interessants des thematiques sous le verni de l'action. Je veux ecrire des romans <<
serieux >> qui font aussi passer de bons moments au lecteur. Entendre que les lecteurs ont trouve cela dans mon travail est tres satisfaisant.

"Anthony" is me, by the way. Yeah, I like that...

Here's the interview in English.

And here it is in French.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Catalog Copy

My publisher just sent me the copy they'll be using in the catalog that will feature The Other Lands. Kinda cool to see it. Makes things feel that much more real when someone else writes up a description of the book. Makes me go, "Oh, yeah, that sounds like what I wrote! I remember that!"

Strange how unreal a novel you wrote can feel. Not until I get a bound copy in my hands do I really believe in the thing. But promo material like this helps. Here's the pitch...

(Spoilers - Don't read if you have yet to read the first book but plan to.)

The Other Lands
Book Two of the Acacia Trilogy
David Anthony Durham

CATALOG HANDLE

The thrilling new installment in the alternative epic that the Washington Post called "gripping" and "sophisticated... from the first pages, Durham demonstrates that he is master of the literary epic."

DESCRIPTIVE COPY

The apocalyptic struggle against the conquering Mein now won, Queen Corinn rules over the Acacian Empire of the Known World with a stern hand - aided by increasing mastery of the occult powers contained in the Book of Elenet. But far across the seas the mysterious inhabitants of the Other Lands seemingly control the fate of her empire - supported as it is by an underground trade in drugs and slaves. When she sends her brother Dariel on a secret mission across the hazardous Grey Slopes to investigate, it begins another cycle of world-shattering and shaping events.

In this bold and imaginative sequel, David Anthony Durham's epic imagination continues to expand the Known World of the novel into yet undiscovered lands, drawing on a literary tradition that stretches from The Iliad to George R.R. Martin.

PRAISE FOR ACACIA

"A big, fat, rich piece of history-flavored fantasy... Imagined with remarkable thoroughness." - Time


"Thrilling... Durham's new world - like our old one - is crawling with wickedly fascinating [characters]." - Entertainment Weekly


AUTHOR BIO

David Anthony Durham earned an MFA from the University of Maryland and is the author of Gabriel's Story, Walk Through Darkness, Pride of Carthage, and Acacia. Durham lives with his wife and children in California and teaches writing at the University of California, Fresno.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I May Never Be Able to Write Hard Sci/Fi

Thanks to Jay Lake for alerting me to this article: Our World May be a Giant Hologram in New Scientist. I'm not sure whether that's alarming news, good news, or just kinda weird. And I do mean I'm really not sure because... well, because I can't understand a word of what they're talking about. The article is written in English. No one word confounds me. But reading it the beginning of each sentence is draining out of my mind by the time I get to the end of it. Nothing sticks.

Like, can you follow this?

Crucially, this provides a deep physical insight: the 3D information about a precursor star can be completely encoded in the 2D horizon of the subsequent black hole - not unlike the 3D image of an object being encoded in a 2D hologram. Susskind and 't Hooft extended the insight to the universe as a whole on the basis that the cosmos has a horizon too - the boundary from beyond which light has not had time to reach us in the 13.7-billion-year lifespan of the universe...

Or...

The holographic principle radically changes our picture of space-time. Theoretical physicists have long believed that quantum effects will cause space-time to convulse wildly on the tiniest scales. At this magnification, the fabric of space-time becomes grainy and is ultimately made of tiny units rather like pixels, but a hundred billion billion times smaller than a proton. This distance is known as the Planck length, a mere 10-35 metres. The Planck length is far beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment, so nobody dared dream that the graininess of space-time might be discernable...

Space-time convulsing wildly? A hundred billion billion times smaller than anything? The graininess of space-time? Huh? I don't know... It's beyond me, and it's the awareness that such things are beyond me that make me doubt I'll ever be comfortable getting in a space ship. As much as I love reading sci/fi, it may be forever outside my ken to write it.

Strap me on a flying lizard instead...

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Silent for a Week - Stonecoast

Hi. Yes, I've been silent for an entire week. That's not because anything unfortunate happened as I traveled back from Scotland. The traveling was rather tiring, though, a long assortment of planes, trains and automobiles. But that's not all. I didn't head straight back to Fresno, but detoured and spent a week in Maine, teaching a workshop at the Stonecoast MFA Program. It's a low-residency program, wherein the students and faculty all meet up for intensive residencies twice a year. The rest of the year the students work one on one with mentors. This provides a lot of flexibility for folks living working lives and raising families, etc.

It's a pretty cool program, not least because it's one of very few MFA programs that offers the degree with a focus on Popular Fiction. Yes, at Stonecoast you can get a graduate degree while writing crime, sci-fi, historical, fantasy, even romance fiction... Of course, you still have to do graduate-level academic work, a lengthy research paper, all sorts of presentations and panels, etc. But still, the program does acknowledge the value of genre literature. My approach is to teach/critique genre material with same attention to details I give to literary fiction. Easy. And not so easy...

Anyone out there interested in being a "Master of Fine Arts" with a focus on... well, the type of fiction that qualifies as "popular"? If so, check out Stonecoast. The faculty are first rate in general, but the Pop-fiction faculty are really cool, including Nancy Holder (who has sold approximately seven dozen book-length projects, many of them set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Smallville universes) James Patrick Kelly (Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of Burn, Strange But Not A Stranger, Think Like A Dinosaur and Other Stories, among others), Mike Kimball (bestselling author of Firewater Pond, Green Girls, Mouth to Mouth, and Undone), and Kelly Link (super-cool author of Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners and Pretty Monsters).

(That photo up above is of the Stonehouse, by the way. That's where the workshops are held, along the Maine coast...)

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bridge of Allan

Left Shetland a couple days ago. Spent a few with family in Aberdeenshire. As I write this it's late night in Bridge of Allan. Must be to bed. Tomorrow I fly from Glasgow back to the US. Not to home, though. Not to home. Work calls...

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Fantasy Book Critic 2008 Review/2009 Preview

In answer to Robert's request I participated in his series having authors talk about their favs for the year, books they're looking forward to, and things coming up for them next year. It's quite a series, and he has a lot of authors participating. Take a look if you're in need of some suggestions.

Here's a bit of what I said...

"The Dreaming Void" by Peter F. Hamilton. I loved the scale of this, the variety of plotlines and engaging characters. It's all well written. Just a smart as you could ask for. Some of the plotlines are hard sci-fi feeling; some are set on almost subsistence worlds and feel more like fantasy. Nothing is really resolved in the book, but with writing like this I'm happy to read on for a few more thousand pages. Definitely my kind of book...

Check out the full post - and the site in general - HERE.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Other Lands: Book Two of the Acacia Trilogy (Hardcover)...

That's what it now says Here on Amazon.com! Small milestone, I know, but it's one more step along the way of making this book feel real. They have it slated for a September 15th publication. This far out that's not guaranteed, but if it does work I'd love that pub date. I've had winter, spring and summer publications before, so might as well give fall a try.

By the way, you could, of course, pop over to Amazon and pre-order now...

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Friday, January 02, 2009

M H Ayinde

Another blogger recommendation, this time from M H Ayinde... She's got some nice things to say about Acacia, which always makes me happy, and inclines me to point you in her direction...

See the post here, and then stick around and read about vegetarians and global warming and stuff like that...

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Nice End of Year Letter

A blast of fireworks over Muckle Bousta. Rather a surprise for the seals, I imagine...
Happy New Year, folks! Very nice to make it into another year, and very much looking forward to some big changes and developments in the next 12 months. I'll be turning 40 this year, a milestone that has come to mean a lot for me and the way I envision the coming years. I'll happily keep you informed as things develop (and I'll thank you every day for being here and being interested). I won't try to say too much else right now. I would like to post a lovely letter I just received from a reader from Sweden. I've taken his name out, but kept everything else...

My name is J and I'm 18 years old. I live in Sweden. I got Acacia for Christmas and have been occupied by it for several days. I enjoy this type of book and I hope that the story reaches the movie theatre. As I said I have been reading it since I got it and I finished just now. The book is very well written and it was really hard to read because of the large amount of emotions that burst out of you. The last 40 pages made me skip lines (that I then had to re-read) to get to the finish faster.

There are two reasons that I now write to you. First I want to thank you for this fantastic and heartripping (if that's a word that exists) story and world that I have had the opportunity to visit the past 5 days. The other thing is that I want to ask you when the other book is being released, I can't wait for it to happen (especially after finishing the first book so recently).

Finally , I want to excuse my English and once again tell you how much this book affected me, Thank You! -J

No, J, thank you. As a writer, I'm nothing without readers to bring the words I write to life. I owe more to folks like you than you probably imagine, and I couldn't be happier to be reaching readers across age, language and national borders. I'll do my best to be worthy of it.

I hope the new year treats you well, and I hope it sees you reading The Other Lands before it's over!

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