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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Religious Mind Meld

Over at SF Signal my mind has been melded with that of several other authors, including Michael Swanwick, Elizabeth Bear, Kate Elliott, Gregory Frost and others!

Check it out here: God's by the Bushel.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Other Lands at B&N

A few folks have been kind enough to mention that they'd prefer to buy The Other Lands via B&N, but noted that it wasn't available for pre-order there yet. Well, it is now: TOL at B&N.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Vibes Needed

Today, folks (and for next few weeks, actually) I'd love to have your positive energy. You see, The Other Lands concluded my existing book contracts with Doubleday. I've done all five novels with them so far, and I think things have gone quite well. Of course, each new deal brings a new set of surprises, and I've known for a few months that I was going to be pitching my next book in a free falling economy. Being prone to bouts of exuberant positivity (I'm joking about that) I decided to quit my day job before having that new contract in hand (I'm not joking about this part), and after my publisher went through a major restructuring. Go figure.

I've been working on a proposal for the concluding book in the Acacia trilogy for some time now. I chipped away at it slowly, layering in more and more details as they came to me. Fortunately, I can now say the fricking book makes sense to me! I know what happens. I see it. I like it. It exists - although only in a summarized version of about 24 pages. Oh, and at a bit more length in my head.

Recently, I sent that proposal to my agent. We went back and forth about it and about other aspects of what we'd look for in a new book deal. Yesterday we decided it was ready, and today he will have initiated the pitch and discussions with my editor. It'll be a few weeks, probably, before I know just what's gonna happen.

This is where your good vibes come in. Send them to me. Shoot them out to my editor. Make sure he knows at some cosmic level that you want this thing finished. Convince him that David and family should be allowed to eat and live indoors the next few years...

If it works, I'll be most grateful to you.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Nebula Awards

The Nebula Award Ceremony was held over the weekend. The winners are... well, winners. I could post them here, but I first saw them at Science Fiction Awards Watch, so I'll send interested folks over that way instead.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Evil Robot Monkey

How about an audio story for your Sunday morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever)?

"Mary Robinette Kowal's Evil Robot Monkey is very short and bitterly moving, about an uplifted chimp," says, Rich Horton in Locus. The story was published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol. 2 (2008), and it snagged Mary a Hugo nomination just one year after walking away with the John W Campbell tiara.

Joe Sherry at Adventures in Reading liked it. Here's Joe's Review.

Want to judge for yourself? Well, that's easy. Just pop over to Mary's site and listen to her read the story especially for you. She's a great reader, and it's a very short story, just about six minutes. You've got six minutes to spare, don't ya?

Note: I snipped this image from Boing Boing. I believe Mary did the illustration herself. Multi-talented she is...

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wild Cards!

I've been sitting on some very cool news for a little while. For the past several weeks I've been corresponding almost daily with a particular mega-bestselling author. We've been talking about whether I might be up for writing for a little series of books he's been editing for, oh, over twenty years now. He asked me to pitch some characters. I did. We batted them back and forth a bit until one in particular took shape. Then a contract came my way. I signed, and I was in! What am I talking about?

Well, the bestselling editor-very-much-in-chief is none other than George RR Martin. He needs no introduction. The ongoing series is Wild Cards, which is the terribly cool sci-fi/comics/alternative history/collaborative project that's been churning out books since 1986's Wild Cards (Volume 1). They have twenty volumes out so far, and hey, there's more to come.

First, go here and take a look at the announcement George just made about the "Fresh Blood" of which I am part.

Back? Okay, cool. Over all those volumes the series has included the work of wonderful writers, too many for me to start naming them here. I'd encourage you to look the series up, though. Even Wikipedia has quite a bit of information on it and on specific characters, of which there are many. Here's part of the intro cribbed from the Wiki page...

The series relates an alternate history of the earth after World War II. In 1946 an alien virus that rewrites human DNA is accidentally unleashed in the skies over New York City. It kills 90% of those who come into contact with it (referred to as 'drawing the Black Queen'). However, 9% mutate into deformed creatures (known as 'Jokers') and the remaining 1% gain superpowers (known as 'Aces'). There is also a class known as 'deuces' - Aces who have acquired useless or ridiculous powers, such as the ability to levitate up to two feet, or to grow bodily hair at will. The airborne virus eventually spreads all over the world, affecting tens of thousands.

It's an inspired combination of traditional comic elements spliced into a rather realistic, and decidedly dark version of our world and of the passions that drive people. The various books over the years have seen a collaborative effort among authors of the consortium, creating mosaic novels, standalone novels, and all sorts of variations, including lots of gaming variations (which is where it all began, really). The series has plumbed the depths of Jokertown and traveled right around the world.

Most of the volumes are out of print at the moment. It would be nice to see more of them back in print, admittedly, but if you're interested in giving the series a try you need not be daunted by all those hard to find volumes. Getting your hands on the first book, Wild Cards, is a good place to start. But so to is jumping in at Inside Straight, part of the newest cycle which is followed by Busted Flush.

What will I be doing in this world? Don't know yet. If I did I wouldn't be able to tell you anyway, but at the moment the future projects are in the furious planning stages. I may be in there somewhere as a writer in a future volume, and my characters may appear in other writer's stories. I can say that everyone - lead by George himself - has a great deal of enthusiasm for pushing the series into the future. I'm thrilled that he invited me in, and I'm really looking forward to how the new books take shape!

By the way... Yes, I have George's email. Yes, we correspond often. But, NO, I'm not going to ask him about A Dance with Dragons for you! You think I'm crazy?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hugo Voters Packet

This is pretty cool. Just got mine the other day.

It's due to the coordinating work of John Scalzi and many other authors, editors and the various folks involved with the Hugos and Anticipation. What is it? The Hugo Voters Packet. It's a collection of sample works from nominated writers. It comes in various formats, including pdfs of entire novels. (See below for the complete list of available materials.) I know that Doubleday offered a complete pdf of Acacia: The War with the Mein for the Campbell category. You'll find the same offered from all the Best Novel candidates (except for Neal Stephenson). The idea is that it's the best way to make sure voting members of Worldcon have access to the nominated materials of as many of the writers as possible. It's meant to encourage voting, and - better yet - to facilitate informed voting.

Thing is, it's also a pretty big perk to membership. Joining is $195 US/$250 CAD for attending membership (which means you plan on coming to Anticipation this August) or $50 US/$55 CAD for a supporting membership (which allows you to vote for the Hugos). Considering that you get rather unusual access to novels and stories in a rare format... Pretty cool.

Having said that, I should make sure I also say that you're not buying these works. You'd be receiving them as a feature of membership. It remains very important that there be no copyright infringement. These would just be for your use and ownership, and if anyone betrays that it'll likely scuttle the whole thing in future. And you'd run the risk of - at the very least - stirring the ire of some formidable word smiths.

Anyway, you could get in on this yourself, you know? Join up! Read. Vote. Come up to Montreal! It's guaranteed to be great fun. Even if you can't go, though, it's a great way to take a step further into this community. Here's a list of the titles you'd get a look at...

Best Novel

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross (Ace)

Best Novella

"The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
"The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
"True Names" by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
"Truth" by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Novelette

"Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's Jan 2008)
"The Gambler" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
"Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
"Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov's Mar 2008)

Best Short Story

"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
"Article of Faith" by Mike Resnick (Baen's Universe Oct 2008)
"Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction)
"Exhalation" by Ted Chiang ( Eclipse Two)
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)

Best Related Book

Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press) What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications)
Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)

Best Graphic Story

Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc)

Best Semiprozine

Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal - Year in Review

Best Fanzine

Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

Best Professional Artist - Art samples by:

John Picacio

Best Fan Writer - Writing samples by:

Chris Garcia
John Hertz
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer - Novels and/or writing samples by:

Aliette de Bodard
David Anthony Durham
Felix Gilman
Tony Pi
Gord Sellar

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tony Pi

Another installment of the John W. Campbell Award Nominee Series, this time with Tony Pi featured.

Tony was born in Taipei, Taiwan, but moved to Canada when he was eight. He's Canadian, and smart! I definitely get the feeling he's smart. He's got the initials to attest to it. He's got a B.A. and a M.A. in Linguistics at University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He's a member of SF Canada and the Codex writing group. (Yes, I'll admit. All these Canadian connections make the competitive part of me nervous, considering the location of this year's Worldcon. But being nervous is part of the whole deal, so be it.)

He's had things published in Alembical, Cinema Spec, Flashing Swords, Ages of Wonder, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Tales of the Unanticipated, Writers of the Future, Shred of Evidence and Flash Me Magazine, to name a few.

Here is Mary Robinette Kowal's Interview. From it, I learned that Tony is a "huge fan" of the Wild Cards Series. Cool. Again, smart man. (By the way, I'll have more on Wild Card-related stuff soon).

There's also this interview with Suzanne Church on the occasion of Tony's Prix Aurora Award Nomination. It's on a Facebook page, and I kinda dig the format. It may actually be the same as most print interviews, but the Facebook format makes it look just that extra bit interactive.

Here's Tony's Website.

For a sample story, consider Silk and Shadows, via Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And for a somewhat longer work, take a look at Metamorphosis in Amber, via Abyss & Apex.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Something to Believe In

In preparation for our move back east this summer, we've started to pack up a few boxes. Light work, just this and that every day or so. It's hard not to come across things of interest, nostalgia-making, etc. I won't punish you with too much of this, but there was this...

Gudrun just found a journal that she kept, all too briefly, when Maya was little and we were still living in Scotland. It recounts how she was out walking with Maya one day. Maya asked who made the sky. Gudrun gave a rather long, detailed lecture on the various possibilities. She moved into religious territory and - as Gudrun is not particularly comfortable in this region - she said that Maya could choose to believe what felt right to her when she is older.

Maya had a ready answer for this. She said: "I want to believe in cookies."

Got any similar child-related stories? Or favorite things to believe in?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Little Italian...

I just noticed that Il guerriero del Lago d'Argento (the second half of the English version of Acacia: The War with the Mein) received a review or announcement or just a mention in general at Mondointasca.org. If you can read this wonderful language (Italian) and are curious, take a look here.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bright Of The Sky

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Kay Kenyon at last year's World Fantasy Awards banquet. (Thanks for arranging that, Lou Anders.) She's quite gracious, and she taught me a thing or two about how to survey a room (looking for famous people and stuff) without looking like you're surveying the room. Useful advice.

Ever since then I've wanted to read her work, in particular the Entire and the Rose Series that begins with Bright of the Sky. I finally got to it, and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's sci-fi, but I find the characters, the world and the epic nature of the conflict to draw me in ways that good fantasy does. I don't quite know what I mean by that, but I felt the same way reading Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void. Her alternate universe is authentically weird, dangerous, fascinating.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say in a Starred review...

At the start of this riveting launch of a new far-future SF series from Kenyon (Tropic of Creation), a disastrous mishap during interstellar space travel catapults pilot Titus Quinn with his wife, Johanna Arlis, and nine-year-old daughter, Sydney, into a parallel universe called the Entire. Titus makes it back to this dimension, his hair turned white, his memory gone, his family presumed dead and his reputation ruined with the corporation that employed him. The corporation (in search of radical space travel methods) sends Titus (in search of Johanna and Sydney) back through the space-time warp. There, he gradually, painfully regains knowledge of its rulers, the cruel, alien Tarig; its subordinate, Chinese-inspired humanoid population, the Chalin; and his daughter's enslavement. Titus's transformative odyssey to reclaim Sydney reveals a Tarig plan whose ramifications will be felt far beyond his immediate family. Kenyon's deft prose, high-stakes suspense and skilled, thorough world building will have readers anxious for the next installment.

I particularly like Sidney's adventures among the Inyx. You'd have to read it to know what I mean, but I find the relationship between rider and mount - both sentient - to be really fascinating. Also, folks, there's the advantage that she already has three books out! The other two are A World Too Near and City Without End. They've all been well-received, and I believe the concluding volume, Prince of Storms is due out from Pyr in Jan 2010. All in all, some good reading.

Here's Kay talking for herself at SFWORLD.COM.

If you want other confirmation here are a few more reviews...

SF Site

SCIFI.COM

The Washington Post

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our Shelob - She Went Out Fighting

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Cool Is This?

I have to start this with my customary cautions. Roll internal monologue in a menagerie of accents... Terribly long shot, old chap. Quite unlikely. Odds against it, don't you know? Are you kidding me? Fat chance! Why should you be so lucky? Hollywood will gut ya, man. Rob you blind, leave you artistically debauched, make you into a cheap one night... Etc.

I could go on, but now that I've again verified that I'm a realist let's get to the wonderfully delusion part...

I recently received a thin printed and bound document that had the words you see to the left her on its simple cover. Michael De Luca. Producer of lots o movies. (Here's his IMDb page.)

What's behind the cover, you might ask? Well, I might flip the page and show you this...

And then I would cackle with glee. Yes, that's the first draft of the screenplay for ACACIA: THE FILM! It's pretty cool to have it in hand, to read through and discover... Oh, you know, I probably shouldn't talk about what's in the pages. Top secret stuff. You may think you know because you read the book, but... Again, I should stop. Let me just say that I found reading it very entertaining and even surprising. This is as it should be, though.

That's about all I can say at the moment. A screenplay exists. High-power producer type folks are calling people, doing lunch and stuff. Relativity Media is overseeing the whole thing. (Here's their IMDb page.) You never know. Maybe, one day...

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Linkage

You know when you see a link on somebody's site to somebody else's site, and you like what you read and then want to point people in that direction, but then you know you can't take credit for discovering the second author's post yourself because you only found it because of the first site?

That's what I have here. Kate Elliott recently did a post on Agents, Publishers, Aspiring Writers. (It was also about paddling, which is something close to my heart as well.)

Thing is, she wrote it in response to Justine Larbalestier's post on the topic. I liked hers too. Makes some good, clarifying points for aspiring writers. So go take a look at one also: Agents and Rejection. (She's got stylish boots, too.)

And my work here is done. I won't try to add any of my own wisdom on the subject. (Which is me trying to be wise by omission...)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Gord Sellar

Following on Mary Robinette Kowal's John W Campbell interview/promotion lead I offer some tidbits on Gord Sellar, one of my fellow finalists.

To start, here's Mary's interview with him. He's got a lot of interesting things to say, including thoughts on living in a non-English speaking country and the ways it effected his awareness of story telling choices and perspectives.

Here's an earlier interview with K. Tempest Bradford, via Fantasy Magazine.

Gord's Website is Here.

Mr. Sellar is Canadian, but he was born in Malawi and now lives and teaches in Bucheon, South Korea. (I found his series of posts on SF in Korea very interesting.) He's published lots of stories in lots of places, including Interzone, Fantasy Magazine, Asimov's SF and Flurb, to name a few. He'll also be appearing in the 26th edition of The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozier. Here's a story he published with Apex Online: Cai and Her Ten Thousand Husbands.

He's a musician too. He's "studied the saxophone, contrabass, jazz and classical music theory, and music composition, and I performed with various big bands and a live ambient-music group, in addition to leading my own ensembles and experimental groups." He even had a band of Australian and American ex pats doing an indie-rock thing. That's cool enough, but doing it in Korea is even better! Here's some video to prove it, from a performance at the Ssamzie Sound Festival. Unless I'm mistaken, that's Gord blowing the sax. Soloing, no less...



Gord is clearly living his life. I respect that very much. Honestly, I love it that these Campbell Nominees seem so bloody interesting. I don't know if I'll meet them all in Montreal at Worldcon. I hope to, but even if I don't I'm still happy to have been turned on to their work.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

For You Sad Bastards

I don't know much about this journal, but I like the spirit of this. The Marginalia literary journal wants to commiserate with you on rejection - as well as give you a wee present for it. Here's what they're offering...

"Nobody likes rejection, but every rejection gets you one step closer to publication—we mean it! For a limited time,
Marginalia is offering a Sad Bastard discount: send us ANY 10 of your rejection slips and a dollar, and we'll mail you an issue of Marginalia for your perusal."

Here's the link.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On A Different Italian Note...

I can't help but take a moment to acknowledge the earthquake in Italy. When I was writing Pride of Carthage, I had the great pleasure of taking several trips to the Mediterranean, including a long driving and camping tour of Italy. I loved it, of course, and have great memories of it. I fondly remember hilltop villages like the one in this BBC story. My heart goes out to those dealing with the destruction and loss of life.

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Sir, You Are A Liar!

I got an... uh... interesting email a few weeks back. I get these every now and then: fuming attacks by people that are sure they hate me and my novel about Hannibal, Pride of Carthage. Thing is, they rarely stay on topic that long. They quickly make it clear that they haven't even read my book. They don't seem to know that the book has been published in nine languages, read by many intelligent folks around the world, and that it did quite well in... well, Italy, for example. And, try as they might, they can't help but reveal their true colors (so to speak).

Here's an example of what I mean, unedited in any way - except that I've removed his name:

Sir, you are a liar. Truth always matters. I have studied Hannibal and war all my life and the idea of Hannibal being of southern African appearance is a re-write of history, just as it was wrong to depict the flag raising by the fireman at ground zero of the 911 incident as having a black in the group of three men who did so. When lies are perpetrated upon a people for what ever dreamed up noble reason it tends to lead to rebellion and the rejection of the values of those who perpetrated the lie by future generations. The reliefs of Hannibal and other Phoenician’s that we have closest to the time of his life depict him and they as (Caucasoid) and you know it.

Could there and was there mixing of the blood, possibly but we also know from history that ethnicity and nationalism mattered much more in history than it does today and among the elite classes it would matter even more. These same stupid arguments are made concerning the Pharaohs and Jesus as well.

Jesus was a Jew, a Semite (Caucasoid). While he came for everyone and all races are equally precious in God's site it just so happens that the Jews were Caucasoid. He blended in to the normal Jewish society so well that Judas had to kiss him on the cheek for them to know who to nab in the Garden of Gethsemane. I guess you believe the Pharaohs were from the southern African tribes as well and that they used to fly above the Pyramids. Alexander the Great, Salah a-Din, Gen. Washington , Gen Patton, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and many other very famous people were Caucasoid.

Genghis Khan, Confucius, Admiral Yamamoto, Mao and many other famous people were Mongoloid. Shaka Zulu, the Queen of Sheba, Mandela, Martin Luther King, and many other famous people from history were/are Negroid. When writing history and making points to touch the minds and hearts of future generations let us always strive for the truth and never settle for the lies or political agendas of convenience. It is sad that touchy/feely emotions are more important to you than truth.

Vr,

B.

First off, Pride of Carthage "touchy/feely"? That makes me chuckle.

Second, this left me wondering what "Vr" means. Could be Velvet Revolver. Or Voltage Regulator. Variable Resistor. Valve-Regulated. Vacuum Residue. Voltage Rectifier. Vehicle Representative. Visa Revocation. The possibilities are endless. It's possible it means Very Respectfully, but I'm not sure I buy that...

More seriously, I've never claimed - in fiction or otherwise - that Hannibal was a "southern African". I assume the author meant Sub-Saharan African. If he had read my book he'd find that my descriptions of Hannibal and his family are specific in ways that allow the reader to interpret that specificity as suits them. To me Carthage was an interesting, complex fusion of Phoenician and North African influences. The cultures mixed and mingled in many ways, and there are plenty of historical examples of intermarriage (often to solidify political unions) between Carthaginians and the various tribal powers of North Africa. I didn't have to look any further than Livy or Polybius for examples. All of this is why the root word for Punic was coined to describe them, and it's why Publius Scipio was called the Conqueror of Africa after defeating Hannibal - as opposed to Conqueror of the Phoenicians.

All of these are details that you'll see in any non-fiction work on Hannibal or Carthage. In many ways my version of things is fairly traditional. The difference, to me, is that I didn't want to whitewash the realities the moment I began writing creatively about this material - which I think we often do when visualizing the ancient world. (Friends, honestly, there's really no reason to think that ancient Romans and Greeks were Anglos that spoke with lovely British accents, but that's the norm of recent movies set in the period. It's silly. Though I like a British accent as much as the next person.) I wanted to keep the racial complexity in the book, and to keep it in without most of our Twenty-First Century, post Atlantic Slave trade baggage. That, inherently, means a colorful cast of characters that in all likelihood would not please B. Again, he probably wouldn't like my book if he read it, but my point is just that he didn't attack me for what was in the book; he attacked things he assumed were in the book. I'd argue he brought those assumptions with him, and pounced on me the moment he got me in his sights.

If he wants to base his argument on the use of the term Caucasoid he won't find my book in disagreement with that. But how many people know what the term Caucasoid really means anymore? (Here's the Wikipedia definition.) In its broadest sense it refers to the indigenous populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Asia, Central Asia and India. That territory includes peoples of so many different skin tones and cultures that I'm confident B doesn't actually mean it.

For example, how would B feel about Hannibal looking like someone from Somalia, or Ethiopia, or India? I don't think that Caucasian is what he means at all. He means white, which is a selective, very limited usage of an old term that's no longer in scientific usage. He means white, which has very little to do with the classifications he uses, but has everything to do with our lingering modern hangups.

But what about those "reliefs of Hannibal" closest to his time? Two things. First, almost none of those images/bust/statues are really from the ancient world. Two of the most famous statues, for example, were from Sebastien Slodtz (1655-1726) and Francois Girardou (1628-1715). We're talking thousands of years removed from Hannibal's life. Second, none of the coins/busts from the ancient period are certifiably authentic images. Sometimes books that show these images mention this fact. Sometimes they don't.

The bust here is from the 2nd Century AD. So it's about 300 years after Hannibal's death. That's a lot of years. But from a modern perspective it's damn old and therefore has a feel of authenticity. Only problem is that it may not be Hannibal at all. It's not like there's a carving in the back that says "This is Hannibal Barca". Sorry. There's just not. I took this image from the Wikipedia page on Hannibal. If you look at the text below the image you'll note that it says "This image may not be authentic". Exactly. The more you look up images like this and cross reference them, the more it becomes clear that none of the images we have of Hannibal were made during his life by someone that saw him in the flesh. For me, it's not wishful thinking to question the authenticity of any one image; it's just the opposite.

But, anyway, did I say somewhere that Hannibal was black? No. I've spent a lot of time talking up that Phoenicians and North African mix, and arguing that I can't really know exactly where he'd sit on the complexion spectrum. I've argued that instead of black and white the truth is some shade of brown or tan or copper. I've said that I can imagine Hannibal being considered black if he was somehow transported to the modern era and dropped down on some city street - but that's only because we've defined black so very, very broadly in America. I wrote: I think that because we'd see a brown-skinned man with curly hair, burnished by the Mediterranean sun. That's not exactly a fanatical position. It's filled with possibility, not limitations. That's the way I'll always think of Hannibal, because we're never going to know anything more definite for sure.

How did I respond to B's letter? Well, I wanted to respond with a level head, based on the facts in question and how they relate to my book. I think there are likely a whole lot of ways B and I don't see the world the same way, but I neither felt a need to try and change that with my response nor to use it to vent. Here's what I wrote back:

B,

I never said or wrote that Hannibal was of "southern African appearance". I can understand how you would find that frustrating, and I certainly know that lots of people use figures like him for their own political/social agendas.

About as far as I ever went with Hannibal was to say he and Carthage were the product of an interesting mix of Phoenician and North African influences. That's all. I was always specific about the region being North Africa. And no, I don't have any reason to believe the pharaohs were from Southern tribes or that they flew above the pyramids. That last would be silly.

I can see that these issues frustrate you quite a bit. Personally, though, I've not proposed most of the things you seem to think I have. It seems clear to me that you have not read my book. If you had, I don't think you would have felt the need to write to me as you did. I'm not saying you would have loved everything about it. That seems unlikely. But you'd at least know that I'm not driven by "touchy/feely emotions".

David.


As of yet, I haven't received a response. Thinking maybe I won't. And that's just fine.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sage's Poem

This is slightly belated, since Sage's birthday was last month. But I've just found something I wanted to share with you lot. It's the poem my father in law wrote for my son. I'll put this up here, and then eventually move it over to the correct day for the archives.

Laughton did a poem for my daughter, Maya, as well, which you can read here. When he wrote Maya's poem he did so in the days just after her birth. It's a lovely poem, but it was written before he actually knew the person that baby would grow into. Sage's poem was written some years after his birth, when he had very much taken on his own personality and discovered his own interests. That's what's reflected in this poem, and I think it's rather special.

Sage

Sage the lion cub
Sharp as a claw
Strong as sinew
Fast as fury

Sage the Humongous
Angel of Africa
Child of the Caribbean
Son of Caledonia
Brother of Beowulf

Sage the Sagacious
Houdini of Haggle
Fount of Rigamarole
Prince of Penultimate

Sage the Silent
Sage the Ear-splitter
Sage the Deaf
Sage the Charming

Sage the Jedi
Warrior of Aslan
Captain of Gryffindor
King of Karate


Aw man!

J Laughton Johnston
Shutesbury Xmas 2005

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fresno Flower

For today, one of my wife's recent photos, a bit of beauty found in Fresno...

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Aliette de Bodard

I'm kinda following Mary Robinette Kowal's lead on this, but herewith a post spotlighting one of my fellow John W. Campbell Award Nominees!

This time it's Aliette de Bodard, who Mary just interviewed over at her place: Mary Robinette Kowal's interview with Aliette. I can't tell you much more about Aliette than is available at her website, but I can mention a few cool things that might get you interested in heading over there.

Aliette lives in Paris. That's in France. Her first language in French, but she writes in English. (Puts me to shame.) In addition to being French, she's half-Vietnamese. She's published stories in Electric Velocipede, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Coyote Wild Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Deep Magic, just to name a few. She incorporates non-Western cultures into her fiction, including Indian mythology and Chinese and Aztec inspired material. Cool. I think that's terrific - and not just out of desire to see more of the world in fantasy but because those cultures are surely rich in fantastic potential. She was a Writers of the Future winner in 2007. We have, apparently, arrived at the future.

And here's a link to another story by Aliette. There are plenty more available at her website, but I just read and enjoyed this one via Electric Velocipede; it's called The Dragon's Tears.

Oh, here's another interview at Turn The Page Magazine.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The BBC Penguins

This clip is actually about a year old, I think, but I still find it... just amazing.

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