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Read all you want; we’ll make more.

I’ll be puzzling over this one for a spell.

Walmart.

Meanwhile, I’d suggest you check a copy out from the library, but even though they added ten more copies to keep up with demand, there’s still a waitlist. So if I might humbly suggest the source itself?

A journal of the urn burial.

The text has been set in Tribute, says the colophon, a typeface designed by
 Frank Heine from types cut in the 16th century by Françoise
 Guyot; specifically, a specimen printed around 1565 in the 
Netherlands.

It does no good whatsoever to call it a coincidence, that in my dilatory reading/re-reading of Nevèrÿon, I’ve ended up in the Tale of Plagues and Carnivals right about, well, now, but I have, and it is, and, well.

7.5 Historically the official reaction to plague in Europe was the one described by Defoe in A Journal of the Plague Year (1722): “The government… appointed public prayers and days of fasting and humiliation, [and encouraged the more serious inhabitants] to make public confession of sin and implore the mercy of God to avert the dreadful judgment which hung over their heads… All the plays and interludes which, after the manner of the French Court, had been set up, and began to increase among us, were forbid to act; the gaming-tables, public dancing-rooms, and music- houses, which multiplied and began to debauch the manners of the people, were shut up and suppressed; and the jack-puddings, merry-andrews, puppet-shows, rope-dancers, and such like-doings, which had bewitched the people, shut up their shops, finding indeed no trade; for the minds of the people were agitated with other things, and a kind of sadness and horror at these things sat upon the countenance even of the common people. Death was before their eyes, and everybody began to think of their Grave, not of mirth and diversion.”

Defoe’s last few lines may betray that this is the official interpretation of the response as well as the official proscription: if there was, indeed, “no trade,” why would these merrymakings need to be “forbid,” “shut-up,” and “suppressed”? At any rate, even in Artaud’s conservative schema, once “official theater” is banished during the plague, the reemergence, here and there, of spontaneous theatrical gestures in the demoralized populace at large throughout the city represents, for him, the birth of true and valid art/theater/spectacle.

And there’s everybody trying to make some sort of point by carrying on as if business were usual, going out to the bars and the Red Robins and St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans because we’re Americans and we do what we want no matter what like the coronavirus is some kind of terrorist we refuse to appease, and there’s all those videos of Italian neighborhood serenades, and there’s this, too, from a prior time of plagues and carnivals, when the ratchet managed for once not to crank to the right—

We have been quoting from an article by Hallie Flanagan, national director of the Federal Theater Project, published in the project’s monthly bulletin—a thirty-page mimeographed sheet in which the theater in all its phases comes alive with such force as t

—but there’s also all the photos of nightmarish airport lines, and now I’m thinking about another book with a plague, and a carnival, that wrote the writing of it into itself—

Last week a nightmare. Landed at Dulles and arrested in Immigration. On a list, accused of violating the Hayes-Green Act. Swiss gov’t must have told them I was coming, flight number and everything. What do you mean? I shouted at officious official. I’m an American citizen! I haven’t broken any laws! Such a release to be able to speak my mind in my native tongue—everything pent up from the past weeks spilled out in a rush, I was really furious and shouting at him, and it felt so good but it was a mistake as he took a dislike to me.

Against the law to advocate overthrowing US gov’t.

What do you mean! I’ve never done anything of the kind!

Membership in California Lawyers for the Environment, right? Worked for American Socialist Legal Action Group, right?

So what? We never advocated anything but change!

Smirk of scorn, hatred. He knew he had me.

Got a lawyer but before he arrived they put me through physical and took blood sample. Told to stay in county. Next day told I tested positive for HIV virus. I’m sure this is a lie, Swiss test Ausländer every four months and no problem there, but told to remain county till follow-up tests analyzed. Possessions being held. Quarantine possible if results stay positive.

My lawyer says law is currently being challenged. Meanwhile I’m in a motel near his place. Called Pam and she suggested sending Liddy on to folks in OC so can deal better with things here. Put Liddy on plane this morning, poor girl crying for Pam, me too. Now two days to wait for test results.

Got to work. Got to. At local library, on an old manual typewriter. The book mocks: how can you, little worm crushed in gears, possibly aspire to me? Got to continue nevertheless. In a way it’s all I have left.

The problem of an adequate history bothers me still. I mean not my personal troubles, but the depression, the wars, the AIDS plague. (Fear.) Every day everything a little worse. Twelve years past the millenium, maybe the apocalyptics were just a bit early in their predictions, too tied to numbers. Maybe it just takes a while for the world to end.

Sometimes I read what I’ve written sick with anger, for them it’s all so easy. Oh to really be that narrator, to sit back and write with cool ironic detachment about individual characters and their little lives because those lives really mattered! Utopia is when our lives matter. I see him writing on a hilltop in an Orange County covered with trees, at a table under an olive tree, looking over a garden plain and the distant Pacific shining with sunlight, or on Mars, why not, chronicling how his new world was born out of the healthy fertility of the old earth mother, while I’m stuck here in 2012 with my wife an ocean to the east and my daughter a continent to the west, “enjoined not to leave the county” (the sheriff) and none of our lives matter a damn.

Also, to design a font based on a Renaissance Antiqua had been a long held desire for Heine, who said “I am particularly attracted to its archaic feel, especially with settings in smaller design sizes. It is rougher with less filigree than the types of the following centuries thus exhibiting much cruder craftsmanship of the early printing processes.” By using a third generation copy as a model, which did not reveal much detail, allowed Heine enough room for individual decisions resulting in a decidedly contemporary interpretation while maintaining a link to the past.

When I haven’t been reading Delany, or Robinson, or Eddison, or McKillip, or Macharia, or Warner, or helping to prep our office for mandated telework, or reflexively reloading the Twitter feeds of friends, I’ve been setting the type for the revised paperbacks. It’s something I can do over there, on the big monitor: since the final (final) edits were done on the ebook files, I have to copy and paste the text a section at a time, tweaking the kerning as I go to fix the capricious judgment of the automated hyphenator, and to make sure the widows and orphans are cared for, and it’s peaceful, soothing work, handling the text in those Renaissance Antiqua shapes, re-reading this bit or that as I lay them out, remembering, re-thrilling, re-embarrassed, and I can look up and find an hour or three has passed, at four in the morning, at ten at night, but it’s, well, it’s, things get done, you know? There is a measurable sense of progress. Still. I look over to the other screen, in another window, where something-or-other has maybe been playing, A Knight’s Tale, say, or Hannibal, I mean, I really like his neckties, you know? But under it, behind it, always all around it, those tweets, that news, these people, driving us over a cliff because they will not let go of the wheel. —I have to go and walk to the office in a bit here (avoiding public transportation), making sure the skeleton crew has what it needs to keep up with the physical labor that still must be done (answering phones, scanning the paper mail, handling secure faxes, keeping the computer network up), but until then, I look away, look back, spread the letters of that line apart just enough so that Ysabel’s name isn’t split between Ys- and abel. Too much of that sort of thing catches the eye. Draws you out of the flow. Breaks the spell.

A scattered dynasty of solitary men has changed the face of the world. Their task continues. If our forecasts are not in error, a hundred years from now someone will discover the hundred volumes of the Second Encyclopedia of Tlön.

Then English and French and mere Spanish will disappear from the globe. The world will be Tlön. I pay no attention to all this and go on revising, in the still days at the Adrogue hotel, an uncertain Quevedian translation (which I do not intend to publish) of Browne’s Urn Burial.

This year, said Thucydides, by confession of all men, was of all other, for other diseases, most free and healthful.

Sufficient unto the day.

Closing the libraries is wildly grim. “The library branches’ WiFi signals will remain turned on for anyone who wants to sit outside a building or in the parking lots,” but, and yet, I mean, well. And still. —One might well note that ebooks are still available; one might well note that the 2019 Library Writers Project selections have just been announced; one might well—but still.

Folie à hirsute.

You have more likely than not seen this—

CDC beards.

—which some have likened to this—

The Barber Hairstyle Guide.

—or maybe you’re thinking of this—

The Man Who Wasn’t There.

—but me, I was suddenly, implacably flung back to this—

Sub-Genera.

—so. Anyway. —I’m not sure where I fall on the charts—Fantasy Garibaldi, I suppose, but more effusive; anyway. I’m not choosing to think about what I’d have to do to properly fit a respirator. Yet.

Myself.

In the reign of good Queen Dick.

Speaking of indulging me, I almost forgot to mention—

Trilogy.

It’s new book day! Being the almost entirely arbitrary date selected for making the ebook of Vol. 3 of City of Roses available to the general public. (Almost entirely: I didn’t finish the Foreword ’til Monday, so.) —You can buy it from Smashwords, or any of the fine ebook purveyors Smashwords supplies, which maybe might include Amazon, I guess, oh, wait, no, the book has to have sold two thousand dollars’ worth through Smashwords, first. —Ah, I’m not bothering with the Borg so much anymore anyway; it’s not like this is about selling, ha ha, books, so. (If it were, I doubt I would’ve gone with “a wicked concoction of urban pastoral and incantatory fantastic” as my logline, which replaces “gonzo noirish prose,” and I expect you all to update your marketing kits accordingly.)

Or! You could buy them directly from me. I might not respond immediately, but certainly within an hour or three, and I get to keep more of the money, so it’s a win-win insofar as that goes.

Also! Available in Spanish, though not from me. (I think I mentioned these already.)

And there’s always the Patreon. (I don’t have a SoundCloud. That I know of.) —Anyway. Ha ha! New book day!

In the Reign of Good Queen Dick.

Cartographic spoiler.

If you’ll indulge me a moment:

“Portland,” says Ysabel, spreading marmalade on her toast, “is divided into four fifths.”

“Four,” says Jo. “Not five?”

“Four,” says Ysabel. Leaning over her plate she takes a bite of toast, careful of her sleeveless peach silk top. “There’s Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast.” Her finger taps four vague quarters on the purple tabletop between her plate and Jo’s coffee cup.

“What about North?”

“What about it?”

“It’s a whole chunk of town,” says Jo, leaning back. The jukebox under the giant plaster crucifix on the back wall is singing about how you’re all grown up, and you don’t care anymore, and you hate all the people you used to adore. “Isn’t it one of the fifths?”

“There’s no one there.”

“There’s nobody in North Portland.”

“But few of any sort,” says Ysabel, shaking pepper on her omelet, “and none of name.”

“Okay,” says Jo. Stirring her coffee. “But it’s still there. It’s still a part of Portland. It’s still a fifth.”

“If you wish to be finicky, you might also note that there’s no one technically ‘in’ downtown, either,” says Ysabel, cutting a neat triangle from the corner of her omelet. “Or Old Town. So you might speak of six fifths. Or seven. But.” She forks it up, chews, swallows. “I’m trying to keep things simple.”

I always was inordinately happy with that wee early riff on Ireland’s four cóiceda (even if the Shakespeare’s a little on-the-nose). (They’re eating in the Roxy, by the way. I’m serious about being firmly set in Portland.) —So I was anyway initially dismayed to learn that the City of Roses is adding its first new cóiced since 1931:

South Portland.

I mean, “Portland is divided into five sextants” just doesn’t have the same swing, you know? And we’re going to lose the leading zero addresses in inner Southwest, which is one of those charmingly slapdash municipal solutions that seemed brilliant in the moment but now confuse the hell out of underpaid DoorDashers and Amazon delivery drones.

But it’s not like I’m rewriting the riff, and I’m not so concerned with rigorous historical accuracy—I mean, the grand struggle between Good and Evil hinges on whether or not to demolish a ramp that was torn down in 1999. (Oops. Evil wins. Sorry.) —And it’s certainly suggestive, this sudden new neighborhood, carving as it does the Pinabel’s waterfront condominiums and all that other economic development out of the heart of old Southwest. So something’s going to happen in the political situation of my fictional little kingdom—hence the spoiler warning above—only, I’m not yet sure just what that thing will be.

But I have some ideas.

It is easier to clean the kitchen if you keep the kitchen clean

is one of those astringently parsimonious bromides that isn’t worth the wisdom it reveals, but I can’t help but think it applies to the problem with bringing back blogs. I couldn’t begin to tell you why I’ve suddenly resumed a former, blistering pace, but I can say that hiatuses be damned, this blog, this long story; short pier, is now old enough to vote in most American elections. Go on, then; have a haggis—

A haggis.

“—que combina Realismo Mágico con Prosa Gonzo Noir—”

Oh, God, it’s been a good long while since I properly waxed utopian about art, and the internet, and what the internet does to art, and making art, making the making of it more possible, and making it available to anyone anywhere anytime anyhow, and if nobody was going to get filthy Stephen King rich anymore, well, how many were under the old paradigm, come on, we are all ’zinesters now, famous for fifteen people, hooray. (Link to youthfully mawkish manifesto thankfully removed.) —I mean, who saw the pivot to video coming? The rise of streaming? Back in those heady early days, we’re talking season four of Halt and Catch Fire, who could possibly have thought the World Wide Web Consortium would write DRM into the very backbone of the internet?

But though I may not so much talk the talk these days, I do still walk it: everything here is free, of course, because, I mean, my God, it’s a blog, but so is everything at the city: I mean, I’ll sell you a ’zine, charging a bit of money to cover not the story, but the printing and the collating, the folding and the stapling and the postage, and I’ll sell you an ebook if you like, but the whole thing from the get-go’s been available for free, because. —Not entirely free, mind: copyright is claimed, but the rights reserved are limited, as defined by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license, which means: so long as you say where you got it, and don’t use it for any commercial purpose, and let anyone else do the same with whatever it is you make of it—you can make of it whatever you want.

Such as, for instance, a translation.

David (Artifacs) from Spain has gone and taken advantage of this to do precisely that, translating the whole thing into Cervantes’ mother tongue, offering up to the panhispanic community Ciudad de las Rosas: “Despierta…” and El Fugor del Día and, coming next month, En el Reino de la Buena Reina Dick. And it’s a decidedly odd feeling, knowing “my” words are out there now in a language I can’t read, in sentences I can barely even begin to fumble through before reaching for a dictionary—

Cuando suena el teléfono, las arrugadas mantas se sacuden y retuercen y escupen una mano. La mano busca a ciegas, encuentra el despertador y le da al botón de «Snooze». El teléfono vuelve a sonar. Aparece una cabeza, parpadeando, aturdida. El cabello es rubio recortado cerca del cráneo, con un par de mechones largos aquí y allá, teñidos de negro, lacios. El teléfono vuelve a sonar. Ella se echa sobre él, medio cayendo del futón, agarra el auricular. “Qué”, grita.

(Note: just because I do freely offer up some rights doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be open to selling some others, should a streaming netlet desperate for content want to talk about pivoting to video. Call me. I’ll drum up some people to talk to your people.)

Adventures in Ego-surfing.

“When Pier 1 rocketed to popularity in the ’80s and ’90s, and again after the 2008 financial crisis, its competitive advantage was that it provided a combination of fashionable but affordable furniture and unique and charming home décor items that were difficult to find elsewhere. Pier 1 goods were higher quality than lower-priced competitors, but more affordable than designer brands. That moat has disappeared over the past decade as the market noted the popularity of such items and began mass-producing them for far cheaper. Long story short, Pier 1’s economic moat has disappeared, and its profitability has gone along with it.” —Margaret Moran

Retrospectacular!

It’s that time of year, when those of us still in the blogging game tell you what we did with the previous three-hundred-sixty-five, much as many of us working the fantastika mines tell you which of what we’ve done is eligible for this award, or that. —But most of what I’ve done this past year has been over at the city, finishing the third volume; writing the thirty-third chapter. The blogging here’s been slight.

But it’s also that time of the decade, isn’t it? —Accepting for the moment that one can at once aver that decades don’t begin on the downbeat of the zero, and that it’s more fun to watch the odometer roll over more than one digit; decades, after all are wholly artificial demarcations, journalistic conveniences used to trivialize and dismiss important events and important ideas (important events, and important ideas). —So anyway, I thought I’d maybe look back over what I’ve done hereabouts over not the past ten years, but another, equally artificial demarcation: since the last time I did this sort of looking-back, in 2012, for the ten-year anniversary of the pier.

Let’s see: I made an opaquely definitive statement on URBAN FANTASY, that I later repurposed as a guest-post in a marketing push for vol. 2 (I have some strange ideas on marketing); I solved in one stroke both income inequality and global warming; I defined the most important social media trend of the decade (which promptly dissipated); I engaged in some criticism, like this, about Frozen, or this, about, um, Frank Herbert, and Reza Negarestani, or this, which is about just about everything, and had a DVD’s worth of cut scenes; and also I used the supreme cinematic accomplishment of 2008 to explain the Cluthian triskele; and also I had some things to say about publishing (mass-market, and self-); a friendly comment from an international correspondent led to a momentary spark of reason; I walked away from Twitter, which was supposed to lead to more blogging (I mean, it did, but not as much as maybe I’d thought, and also, see above); and, but, before I did, I turned some off-hand twitterings to things I rather liked, on novel-shaped objects, and galactic civilizations.

Also, I sold maybe the only story I’m going to sell, and—even though I got started before 2012, or even before the beginning of the decade, still: I published all three books in the past ten years; I wrote a goddamn trilogy. —So there’s that.

What I tell you three times is true.

The thirty-third installment’s been released: the eleventh (and final) chapter of the third volume, which means: I’ve done it. I’ve gone and written a trilogy.

No. 33: carnival was ringing

And there’s work yet to be done and technical difficulties to overcome and I have to re-remember all the stuff about marketing and distributing book-shaped objects but for the moment I get to sit here on this deserted bit of beach as the tossing storm growls away over the horizon and take a deep breath and enjoy the silence, before I start vaguely to worry about what happens next. (An aftermath, yes, I do enjoy a good aftermath, but then what? And what then?)

—I guess I’d thought a Snark would have more meat on it?

A moment of your time.

Over at the city, the thirty-second novelette is appearing this week, and next; the penultimate chapter of the current volume, the third, which we’re calling In the Reign of Good Queen Dick.

And I know what you’re thinking: Kip, thirty-two novelettes—that’s a lot! —But you count it all up, it’s only 484,470 words, in toto, so far: considerably less than two Songs of Ice and Fire. (It’s also just over one Lord of the Rings; 44% of a Harry Potter; 15% of a Wheel of Time, or a Malazan Cycle, though it’s 50% of a Marq’ssan; 28% of a House of Niccolò; and 210% of a Valley of the Nest of Spiders.)

So it’s not that much, in the scheme of things. You could probably get all caught up before I’m done posting this one.

No. 32: only to sit

36 pages; color cover; three staples, each.

Ah, the glamorous life of a self-publisher.

“ – only to sit – ”

(Not pictured: the large spoon; the saddle stapler; the overnight pressing under a stack of books; the 6"x9" manila envelopes; the Patreon mailing list; the trip to the post office—)

What a week, huh?

When you go to wearily crack a “Lemon, it’s Wednesday” riff and realize it’s only Tuesday.

Help desk.

So there I am having gotten up at half-past four as one does on a holiday and I’m doing the usual thing where I’ve turned on the kettle and ground the coffee and fed the cats that woke me, and I’ve fired up the laptop and the Scrivener and the wireless headphones, and I’ve lit a candle and drawn a card, and shuffle’s hit on DJ Spooky’s Ghost World mix, that he did for the Africa Pavilion at the Venice Biennale a while back, so that’s what’s in my ears as I head back into the pre-dawn kitchen to plunge the French press and pour the coffee into the thermos, and when I turn around to get myself a cup there’s the Spouse, all unexpected, in her buffalo plaid pyjamas, a cup of her own in her hands, and I jump half out of my skin and make what she later told me was a “very small sound, for you” and anyway, ever since that, my wireless headphones lost their Bluetooth connection and can’t get it back, so is there, like, an easy fix? —Thanking you in advance.

Domesticity, with cats.

Domesticity, with cats.

(That would be the redoubtable Beezel above, Fennec below, known also as Gentleman Marmalade, and the Spouse embroidering in the midst.)