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Revolution no. 80.

In fact it will be amazing (only to us imagining it now) how quiet a world it will be. A woman awakes in her house in Sitka, Alaska, to make tea, wake her family, and walk the beach (it runs differently from where it runs today). After meditation she enters into communication with the other syndics of a worldwide revolving presidium, awake early or up late in city communes or new desert oases. Nightlong the avatars have clustered, the informations have been threshed: the continuous town meeting of the global village. There is much to do.

—John Crowley, “The Next Future

So many little countries, all mindful of death, each disinclined to long journeys. I want to go to there.


In 1964, Nikolai Kardashev, an astrophysicist involved with the Soviet SETI effort, devised the Kardashev scale: a method of measuring, on a cosmic scale, a civilization’s technological advancement based on the amount of usable energy that civilization has at its disposal.

A Kardashev Type I civilization has at its disposal all of the energy that impinges on its home planet. Using an equation suggested by Carl Sagan, humanity could be rated as a Type .7, as of the 1970s.

Not much has changed in forty years. On a cosmic scale.

A Type II civilization is any civilization capable of harnessing the total energy output of its home star. If we were to unravel the clouds of Jupiter, for instance, we could spin a globular shell one astronomical unit in radius that would be five meters thick, and trap every erg the sun beamed forth thereafter.

A rigid sphere that large would require materials far stronger than any currently known, of course. We might, instead, use swarms of orbiting solar panels to sop it up.

A Type III civilization is any civilization in possession of energy on the scale of its home galaxy. —Those civilizations which originate in dwarf galaxies or irregular clusters are at a significant advantage, here.

Type IV civilizations arbitrage speculative crises in what are to them immaterial commodities, selling short whole Local Groups. They can be detected by sudden changes in the redshift values of various economic indices.

Type V civilizations subsist entirely on the notional energy of Type I civilizations, scheming to become Type IIs. (Civilizations of Type II or better have mastered the art of radiating notional energies at frequencies too low to be heard.)

Type VI civilizations are indistinguishable from nature, and spend their time dreaming of butterflies, or are themselves butterfly-dreams—or the nearest local equivalent, of course.

(Nothing is known of Type VII civilizations. It is best not to consider them.)

When you finally come to understand dark matter, you will have the merest glimpse of the capabilities of a Type VIII civilization.

A Type IX civilization is any civilization that can successfully conceive of a Type X.

Strong female characters.

So Taran is, of course, named for a certain Assistant Pig-Keeper, from the Lloyd Alexander books that were important to both me and Jenn growing up. —It’s not the only reason she’s named Taran, but it’s the first and foremost.

You should also realize that she’s a huge fan of Batman, mostly because of the Brave and the Bold cartoons she’s seen. —She knows from Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and the Tiny Titans are a perennial fave (“Aw, yeah,” she says feistily, and one’s heart swells), and she’s already mastered certain arcana of these proprietary, persistent large-scale popular fictions that I never knew, but it’s Batman that’s captured her heart more than anyone else; go figure. (Her two imaginary friends currently—entirely imaginary, as opposed to the complex society of ponies and fairies and stuffed animals she oversees from the throne of her bed—the two imaginary friends most likely to show up these days are Batman and Moomintroll, which makes sometimes for interesting arguments in the car.) —Being such a fan of Batman, and dealing as she is with certain intimidating big-person tasks as potty-training and such, she’s come up with an alternate persona: Batmangirl (as distinctly opposed, you must understand, to Batgirl)—whenever she feels called upon to dig deep and do the right thing, she’ll puff up and proclaim: I’m not a little girl! I’m not Taran Jack! I’m Batmangirl!

It is solemnly agreed amongst all of us that Batmangirl would never pee her pants. As a for instance.

Now, Taran is aware of the books from which she got her name; once or twice I’ve read the first chapter to her, but that was back before she was tracking much of anything that didn’t have many or any pictures. But ever since the Moomin books went over as well as they did, she’s been more adventuresome about longish chapter books as read-aloud material at bedtime. (The Very Persistent Gappers of Fripp is another of her favorites.)

So the other night she pulls the Book of Three off the shelf and looks at the cover—

The Book of Three.

—and says, this is about me.

And I (solemnly) agreed: yes, it is. This is the book about Taran.

That’s not Taran, she said, suddenly, pointing at Taran in the ragged tunic, the Prince Valiant bob, brandishing a dagger so bravely against the Horned King. —That’s Batmangirl, she said. She thrust the book at me. —Read it, she said. Read to me about Batmangirl.

So I did.

Batmangirl wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of her education, decided on horseshoes. And so it had been horseshoes all morning long. Batmangirl’s arms ached, soot blackened her face. At last she dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching her critically…

(I’ve genderflopped books before, like Yolen’s and Teague’s dinosaur picturebooks, where the fact the dinosaur’s always a boy gets slightly in the way of reader-identification for those not so much; this still felt—different. Further bulletins etc.)

Pareidolic purple car.

But I can tell you anyhow

I used to drive back and forth to Seattle a lot more than I do now. And every now and then, I’d see one: a white, late-model sedan, riding low in the back like something’s heavy in the trunk, driven by an elderly couple, both of them wearing those bulky black protective sunglasses that wrap around half your face. Sometimes there’d be another elderly couple in the back seat. The men were always wearing Kangol caps.

One trip, I saw three. Different cars, I remember that. And anyway they’re always driving under the speed limit. I was always passing them.

This was all some time ago. I don’t drive up to Seattle and back nearly so often anymore.

Thinking about it, they were always headed south.

I saw another one today, is the point, between Portland and Salem: white, late-model, riding low in the back. Headed south. I was passing on the right, a couple lanes over, headed for an exit; a semi drifted between us before whoever was in the passenger seat could look over in my direction. So I don’t know if they were wearing the glasses, or the hat.

I’d rather see than be one

Homiletic truths hard-won through too much wasted effort:

It is easier to clean the kitchen if you keep the kitchen clean. —There is something deeply unfair about this fact.

Pushing the kettle too far.

Muzzy-headed, bleary-thunked, pre-coffee. Awoken by the yowling feed-me cats from a half-dream, half-Gedankenexperiment: an unknown dignitary (perhaps a FIRE executive) was tweeting snapshots of their 12-course dinner from a trendy SoHo hotspot (Toronto was rather obviously standing in for New York). A free-speech zone had been barricaded off for protests six blocks or so uptown, in the nearest available public open space; anyone caught on the streets around the restaurant by the dignitary’s security cordon was being pre-emptively detained. —Unless, of course, you’d submitted yourself already to background and credit checks (the results keyed to your genome through Xe Monsanto’s patented Trust But Verify® process) and were paying the yearly subscription fee, and so could show the cops your Presumed Innocent® citizen’s ID card—

Dialing the phone like this.

Eh, you know. February. —Mostly I’ve been busy with the city, finishing off no. 17, thinking about the end game. There are quite a lot of plates spinning, aren’t there. Hadn’t really realized just how many till the last little while. Hmm.

I was intereviewed by Joey Manley (no relation) as part of a series he’s inaugurating on webserialists; lots of backstory, if you like. —And also I reveal the title of a putative volume three, about which there has been little to no comment, as yet.

And I should probably get back to the Great Work, shouldn’t I. (Further; talk; ambit; obversity; anent; parts.) —Trouble is, it’s time to take up the role of gender for real, and tackle the safe word, and my initial angle of attack’s over a year out of date. (Does that even matter?) —Trouble also is, Requires Only That You Hate has me instead musing over a thing that might compare Bakker’s Folly with a cheap Utena knock-off; that, however, would require reading Bakker, which has not begun well. (Petty? Perhaps.)

The other day Taran told me with the indescribable solemnity of a three-year-old that, while she was a cat, and Mamma was a cat, that I was a dog, and I’d have to stop meowing. I tried to explain how gender is performative, and meowing is a learned response, but I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet.

—On the other hand, presidents crawl on the table and have sharp teeth like beavers. So there’s yet hope?

Up to now.

2002 – 2004; 2005 – 2007.


Hope is not a plan – They’d enjoy eating, take pleasure in clothes, be happy with their houses, devoted to their customs – You can feel the end even as we start – People of quality – Say nothing – Any sufficiently advanced art is indistinguishable from poetry – 20 weeks out and counting – Always already – Hope is the new bleak – Let comics be comics – Proper


Descriptivate, don’t prescriptivate – Otto’s rede – Appropriative – The essence thereof – The paradoxical genius of modern conservatism – Tlön, Uqbar, Custodis Tertius – Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? – Cross-pollination – On a clear day you can see the ambiguous heterotopia – Crap – Upton’s rede – John C. Wright is recoiling in craven fear and trembling, and I don’t feel so good myself

From November 2009 until July of 2010 there was another interregnum.


And I will spit on your grave – Why SF doesn’t work any more – I’m trying, honest, I am – Sacramento Morty’s – So, yeah, about that Patton Oswalt essay


Trapped—in a world he never made! – Vive la différence – Truth in Typesetting Department – In Soviet criticism, terms come to you! – Testing elephants – Stupidity – My last political post – Then and back again – With thanks to Liz Wallace – Gramarye

The Great Work (2010 – 2011…)

The Great Work – Further up; further, in – What we talk about when we talk about what we’re pointing to – Ambit valent – Obversity – Anent the preceding – You can add up the parts; you won’t have the sum

Tin and diamonds.

The tenth anniversary retrospective, cont’d:

The Tomorrow File (2005)

And it came to pass – Could be belongs to us – The fulness of time – Unheimlichsenke


The enemy is life – Like a seed dropped by a seabird – Those who forget are doomed – Upon hearing once more the serial bangs and muffled thuds of our crack circular firing squad, the words of—I believe it was Kissinger?—are called to mind – To Robbie Conal, “America’s foremost street artist” and staff caricaturist to the LA Weekly, on the publication of your profile of Portland’s own Mercury Studios (and guests) in Portland Monthly

From March until December of 2005, there was something of an interregnum.


If I had a hammer, I’d do something about all these goddamn nails – Malleability – A fitter and generally a more effectual punishment – Enter Sandman – In 1649, to St. George’s Hill – A mighty princess, forged in the heat of housework – I bet you wish you had – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – And, being troubled with a raging tooth, I could not sleep – 34°4'48" N, 49°42'0" E – First, they win. Then we attack them. Then we laugh at them. Then we ignore them – This machine bugs liberals – The grammar of ornament – Appositional

The koan (2005, 2006)

Koan – Let’s you and him fight – Bring him a penny, that he might see it

Jupiter drops (2006, 2007, 2009)

Jupiter drops (one) – Jupiter drops (some context) – Jupiter drops (two) – Jupiter drops (three) – Jupiter dropping elsewhere – Jupiter drops (some further context) – Jupiter drops (four) – Something to keep in mind (Jupiter drops) – Hitchcock, dropping Jupiter – Jupiter’s dropped


“Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” saith the Lord – After the late, great unpleasantness – Is that a 75mm recoilless rifle on your Vespa, or are you happy to see me? – Tipping their hand – Unzeitgemässe betrachtungen – This is Sparta – Bruises and roundhouses – Chivalry, being dead – The one true only – racing down tracks going faster, much faster – Magical white boy – Fascists are people; Liberals are people; ∴ Liberals are fascists

I think one more will do the trick.

Three hundred fifteen million five hundred thirty-two thousand eight hundred seconds.

Oh good Lord it’s been ten years, hasn’t it. And here’s me not even ready. Tenth is, what, tin? Diamonds? Tin and diamonds?

Ah, I get to be a little self-indulgent. How about some greatest hits? We’ll run through up to the end of 2004, to start. —If I missed anything you especially liked, maybe point it out in the comments or something? Thanks. (Yes, it’s a cash bar. Sorry about that. Whaddaya gonna do.)


Assume, for a moment, that I want to fling a haggis across a Canadian river – Boutique cynicism – Choice demographic – Ghosts – An attempt at sketching in prose what goes through my mind when Robyn Hitchcock begins to ramble in that engagingly undrunken monotone about the Isle of Wight before starting to contort a guitar in his own unmistakable, beautifully ugly idiom – It’s true. He do read wierd stuff (sic) – Fort Disconnect – Kid detectives. Also, how magic works. (Really) – Chickenhawks of the kulturkampf – What I have in common with Dylan Meconis – Ludafisk


Too much woman (for a hen-pecked man) – •––• •••–• ••••– – Mixed messages, or, The incoherent text – Hell – Gobsmacked. William Shatnered – The rules of engagement – Ax(e)minster and other inconsequentialities – When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall – À la recherche du temps perdu – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern walk into a bar – The mindset in question – Smoking guns at Sylvia Beach

2004 (Jan. – Jun.)

Mars, or, Misunderstanding – Mars, or, Mappa Mundi (the vague direction thereof) – Auget largiendo – Sexing the pronoun – Another data point in the wall – Three simple rules for talking about comics – 300 – Braiding – We are all Frank Grimes now – Negative space, or, Why I don’t trust æsthetes – Thin blue race – Rage – Maybe you had to be there

Revolver (2004)

Revolver (one) – Revolver (two) – Revolver (one, an addendum) – Revolver (three) – Revolver (four) – James Howard’s Romeo and Juliet, or, Revolver (an intermission) – Revolver (five) – Revolver (four, revisited) – Revolver (six)

2004 (Jun. – Dec.)

But what I really want to do is direct – Biff, pow, yadda yadda – Together again for the first time – Men are from Mars; women are from Mars, too, just a different part – How do you do. Welcome to the human race. You’re a mess – Doubleplus sprezzatura – Further up, further in – Premature, perhaps, but – Whipsaw – Atlas leans back everywhere – What goes through your mind

So 2004 was kind of a banner year? I think maybe it slows down a bit after that. —More in a bit.

Obligatory buzz:

If you were the sort of person to pay attention to this sort of thing, you might have seen the mention last week of this year’s publication schedule for City of Roses and, noting it begins with no. 17, thought to yourself: but! No. 16! It’s only half complete! When will it finally begin to be finished? —Well: starting tomorrow; running through Friday. Catch up (or further up) as needed.


For the brave at heart, I offer a peek at what passes for outlining hereabouts; if you quail at the thought, skip past: there’s pretty pictures afterwards. (At least, I hope they’re pretty.) —Those with a wonkish hunger for even more nuts and bolts on the publication of an episodic epic are invited to browse this AbsoluteWrite thread on the topic, and then this post, for the year-end wrap-up.

Years end in Kindles loading.

Maybe I should’ve reminded you all of this on Sunday, or Mega-Monday, or whatever whoever decides these things for us decided it should be called? Whichever. I was never any good at trends. —I made a book this year! Mostly unexpectedly and sort of by accident. But you can buy it for your e-reader (spanking new or otherwise), or with a paper-based reading device included for just a wee bit more—or if you absolutely must, download it direct to your Kindle or Nook or iBooks-enabled device. So if you still have some holiday madmoney uncomfortably warming your cockles, I’m here to help! —Maybe next year I should resolve to learn how to sell books..?


Oh, hey, how’s it going. I should maybe come to accept the fact that lately (the last couple of years) (whole geological epochs in internet time) this joint seems to get terribly sleepy in the summertime? So. —How you been? You still livin’ out by the airport?

Anyway, if you haven’t already seen it linked somewhere else, there’s an interview with me over at Cheap Ass Fiction (mostly about this) (No. 15 of which launches tomorrow) (oh, and I should probably mention the book? There’s a book). —And I was going somewhere with the whole urban fantasy thing, wasn’t I? Hmm. Hmm.


Oh heck I was trying to remember where I’d read this for the previous and my Google Fu was weak. Maybe pretend it’s dropped between Frank Kovarik’s question and the Girls on Film, would you?

Female characters are traditionally peripheral to male ones. That’s why we don’t want to hear them chatting about anything other than the male characters: because in making them peripheral, the writer has assured the women can’t possibly contribute to the story unless they’re telling us something about the men who drive the plot. That is the problem the test is highlighting. And that’s why shoehorning an awkward scene in which two named female characters discuss the price of tea in South Africa while the male characters are off saving the world will only hang a lantern on how powerfully you’ve sidelined your female characters for no reason other than sexism, conscious or otherwise.


It’s not like I meant to take a couple months off or anything. —Oh, hush. Y’all already got more posts outta me in Q1 of 2011 than Calvin Coolidge, put together! (And two whole chapters yonder, which the Inner Marketer made me promise I’d mention somewhere in here.)

Christ, I’ve been complaining about it almost as long as I’ve been blogging: the instant gratification of a ranty political post; the lengthy time thereafter one has to regret what one has said. And it’s not that there’s anything specific I posted in haste that I especially came to repent at leisure (recently) (well, not so much; not as such); it’s just that once I made a conscious effort to post more frequently, well, there they came: outrage pellets, guaranteed to please the crowd: it may not serve to increase US, but by god it sure as hell kicked THEM in the rhetoric!

Not that THEY ever actually noticed, but hey.

I never wanted the pier to be a political blog; I hate arguing! (Cue the Spouse’s knowing smirk.) —No, it’s true: I like forcefully stating my opinions, I can enjoy staking out the silliest possible position for or against some inconsequential thing and defending my claim with bulwarks of trivia, but the moment some actual conflict rears its head, over something that matters, I’m circling the wagons to close off the episteme: I must physically restrain myself from finding a pair of lapels I can grab. My God, how can you deny this is true? For fuck’s sake why are you repeating that lie? Who could possibly intend that consequence, can’t you see it? How on earth did you get to be so stupid?

It’s why the koan’s so important to me. I don’t know that I ever will manage a sunny heart. —Anyway. Less frequency; less pelletage. Or something. That’s my pledge to you. This week, anyway.

The irony I suppose being that whenever I’m recognized offline for my online contributions it’s inevitably the rants that get mentioned? “Man, you really knew how to fire ’em up,” said the genial older gentleman at the science fiction convention, who shall remain nameless through the simple expediency of never having caught his name. —“Well, I did start blogging again,” I said. “I’m just trying to stay away from the ranting, you know?” —“Oh, that’s too bad,” he said.

As I was saying. Evergreen perennial, this. Ah, well.

Fantasy, unlike science fiction, relies on a moral universe: it is less an argument with the universe than a sermon on the way things should be, a belief that the universe should yield to moral precepts.

Farah Mendlesohn

Then and back again.


I put the book in the envelope. I put the mailing label on the envelope. I put the cash card in the self-serve machine and get the postage and put the postage on the envelope. I take the envelope and I, aw, hell.

—I mean this isn’t happening now. This is happening about five or six hours ago. (Twenty-seven or so as I edit.) (My first-pass edits, anyway.) —What I’m doing now is I’m typing. I mean I’m not typing now. Or maybe I am but not this. Right now what’s happening is you’re reading this. I have no idea how long from this now that now is, so I have no idea how long ago by now the now was when I did all that.

But: it had to be done. I’d made a promise. Deal’s a deal.

So I put the envelope in the mailbox and sent it back the way it came.


I took the book down off the shelf. Which one first, I’m not quite sure. —And I couldn’t tell you when it was I took it down. I’m pretty sure it was after I took War for the Oaks from the endcap display because mostly what I remember about the first time I saw War for the Oaks was the electric tingle sparking between fingertip and cover art as I reached for the damn thing; call it whatever the German portmanteau is for ohmygodwhatthefuckthislookscool. —Shock of the new, basically. Borderland. Which wouldn’t have been half as shocking had I already picked up Borderland and Bordertown, what with the elves and the motorcycles and the leather jackets and the rock ’n’ roll and all. —And while I remember the cover art for Borderland and Bordertown as a major factor in why I picked them up, I don’t remember that same spark; or not so potent, anyway. —But I could maybe have picked them up first. I was after all already a fan of the shared-world anthologies, Thieves’ World and Liavek and Wild Cards; here’s one more, with fæ punks; what’s not to love? —I think maybe I picked up Architect of Sleep after I picked up Borderland because Stephen R. Boyett, but I can’t be sure; I have a vague memory of being surprised that the one Borderland story (the postapocalyptic one, that feels like it’s in John M. Ford’s idea of the place instead of everybody else’s) was by the raccoon guy, but that’s a ghost of a wisp of a memory of a thought; untrustworthy. I could easily have picked up a book with a title like Architect of Sleep on a whim in those days. Bordertown. (Still would, actually. Wouldn’t you?) (Whatever became of the long-awaited sequel[s]?) (—Oh.)

I don’t even remember if it was before I was in Brigadoon, or after. —What I can tell you is I’m sure I bought Borderland and Bordertown at the same time.

Pretty sure, anyway. —This was all a very long time ago, okay? How long? Let’s just say the shelf in question was in a B. Dalton’s and leave it at that.

Somewhat earlier.

Oh I was sunk already. I mean Tolkien, yes, and Lewis, and Heinlein and Asimov and Clarke, Alexander, Norton, Donaldson even, all of them hard on the heels of a diet of Matthew Looneys and Lewis Barnavelts and Bob Fultons and Furious Flycycles and Fat Bear Spies and Davids and Phœnices, but the thing that took off the top of my head was when Mom all unlooked-for brought home The Grey King. Magic that’s happening here, and now? —I mean, “here” was Wales, but it was a farm in Wales, and I lived on a farm, and oh who cares, I could make the jump for those songs, and that language like a secret code, and above all for the hint that something that big and that important could be just around a corner that I might see myself? Something made all the more real by how implacably and righteously unfair it was—

The rest of the books were secured post-haste. —I couldn’t sleep the night I turned twelve. I was waiting for the Old Ones, see. Maybe they’d missed me on my eleventh birthday. We’d been moving a lot.

Since then.

I was in Brigadoon, if I hadn’t been already. I graduated from high school. I saw Rocky Horror. I ran away from home the socially sanctioned way, to college; I dumped my high school sweetheart over the phone. I got an email address. (It was a much bigger deal, in those days.) I spent a summer in the Weaponshop of Isher, whose walls were held together with scotch tape; I got drunk, on beer, on wine, on White Russians. I tried acid, since I couldn’t stand smoking. I started drinking coffee in a diner in New York after seeing Crimes and Misdemeanors. I started smoking clove cigarettes. I dressed in nothing but black for weeks at a time and lost my heart beyond recall to my best friend’s sister. I saw Shock Treatment. I saw Liquid Sky. I saw Rare Air take the roof off Oberlin’s Finney Chapel. Twice. I found a Boiled in Lead album on CD. (It was harder to do, in those days.) I dropped out of college and got a job washing dishes so I could afford an 80-dollar-a-month walk-in closet that was so small I had to roll up my futon so I had room for my books. I found my heart again and sold the bass guitar I never learned how to play so I could cover rent. I was living with game designers, cartoonists, a proofreader, a botanist, a classicist, a computer archeologist. (I don’t think that’s what he ever called himself. But he made a killing, come Y2K.) Ten of us, in a five-bedroom house on a cul de sac? Somebody played me a Waterboys CD. I started dating a Jersey girl and when she moved in we swore we’d maintain separate bedrooms even as I was stashing my clothes in her dresser. Waiting for a plane in an airport in the middle of the country one of us turned to the other and said, we should get married, and the other one said, yeah, sure, only neither of us can remember which was which. We moved across the country on a whim, almost all ten of us. We got married, just the two of us, and then just the two of us got our own place. We bought a house. I backed into a career that had nothing to do with the writing I was starting to get done. We had a kid. We named her Taran, from the Lloyd Alexander books. We started buying more bookshelves for all the damn books.

I don’t know what happened to the Thieves’ World volumes. Whatever’s left might be in the attic of the house in Rock Hill? Along with that long-lost Dune Encyclopedia. The Wild Cards I’m pretty sure all got sold off. Liavek? A short while back I found another copy of the first one at Powell’s and I picked it up. The only Asimov in the house at this point is his Guide to Shakespeare which I really ought to give back to Dylan one of these days. The only Heinlein left is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. I should go get a copy of the White Hart tales; make a note of that. The original Coopers are long since lost, which is a damn shame; the old skool art direction kicked the ass of everything that’s come since; but I’ve got them on the shelves of course, along with Tolkien and Lewis and Alexander.

War for the Oaks? Bordertown? —Those books, the very ones I pulled off those B. Dalton’s shelves, tattered and worn, beat to hell, really—travel-stained, as it were—they’re up on the shelf above me as I write this. —Borderland ganged agley at some point in all that, but two out of three ain’t bad, right?

I should maybe see about replacing it.

A couple of weeks ago.

I was checking LiveJournal between Russian DDoS attacks (like you do) when I saw that Userinfo.janni had just posted the following:

If you’d like to borrow Welcome to Bordertown, and you’re willing to commit to both reading it in about a week and to them talking about it somewhere online, leave a comment below. I’ll mail you my copy, and then when you’re done, you’ll mail it back to me, and I’ll send it on to the next person on the list. (ETA: And will keep doing so until the book itself goes on sale at the end of May, however many people that turns out to be, and at that point see whether it’s still in good enough shape to keep sending around.)

And you know Stumptown was coming up and the Spouse was trying to get her presentation done and her covers drawn and her book off to the printer which doubles me up on toddler duty and I still had about 4,000 words to write as it turned out and only that upcoming week to do it and yet—I didn’t hesitate at all. “For this,” I said, “I could make the time.”

Three days later.

I got one of those big Priority Mail envelopes dropped on my desk. —Good lord, this one’s a biggun.

So the first thing I did—I’d like to say the first thing I did was read Janni Lee Simner’s story, because one should be gracious to gracious hosts, Welcome to Bordertown. but the first thing I did (after I stuck a bookmark in where Simner’s story began) was read “Fair Trade,” by Sara Ryan and Dylan Meconis, because good friends had made it to the Border, and because, y’know, comics, but mostly because I had to see the Dicebox poster hanging on the wall in the Dancing Ferret. And there it is, and there’s Farrel Din, and Alberta’s Last Thursday art-walk fits right in on Carmine Street; how weird, to find a bit of where I am now in a place I haven’t been back to in years. —And then it’s on to Janni’s piece, “Crossings,” which plays a mean little game with Team Edward, and Team Jacob, and the neatly deflatory resolution of Team Jacob is one of those things you can only do in a shared world like this: borrowing somebody else’s character whose hard set-up and expository work has already been done elsewhere in that somebody else’s story, so all you have to do is use ’em, make your point, and let ’em go back about their other elsewhere business. —So then it’s on to Will Shetterly’s story, “The Sages of Elsewhere,” because Wolfboy, because you have to check in with the folks you used to know back in the day, see what they’re up to, and he’s running a damn bookstore now. —Somebody’s getting older.

And that’s another thing you only get with shared worlds, with proprietary, persistent, large-scale popular fictions, and it’s a blessing and a curse: virtual world journalism: “I don’t know, it’s kind of like reading a newspaper. It’s not like the newspaper is inspiring, but you need to read it to see what happens.” —It’s hard sometimes to see the story qua story because you’re looking around in it, through it, past it for the bits and scraps of the larger, shared world beyond, and if something like Bordertown isn’t nearly so proprietary as the Marvel or DC multiverses, allowing individual stories the leeway they need to stand on their own merits, and voice, well—it isn’t nearly so persistent, neither: five collections of a few dozen stories, three novels, thirteen years between appearances: you’re hungrier, is the thing, for those scraps and bits.

So next it’s on to Emma Bull’s “Incunabulum,” because it’s not just characters and neighborhoods you want to catch up on, and damned if it doesn’t seem to me at least like she’s riffing a little Delany in the mix, with her declarative paragraphs, her blank Page inscribed by his wanderings about the city. —Then Nalo Hopkinson in “Ours is the Prettiest” goes and drops a whole new neighborhood (to me, at least): Little Tooth, and the Café Cubana, and Screaming Lord Neville, and the swirling madhouse stomp of the Jamboree suddenly never has not been a part of the Bordertown, even as she’s asking some pointed questions about whose magic exactly it is that gets reified by the world as it’s been in these books; and in “Shannon’s LawCory Doctorow brings the goddamn internet to the Border, or at least an internet, and the way it’s cobbled together foregrounds the sheer joy of the basic, simple idea which has nothing to do with computers when you get right down to it—though it’s a joy that’s tempered by the melancholy inherent in the story of a kid running away to live out the story of the hardscrabble internet pioneer, a story that’s long since dead and gone out here in the real. —And somewhere in and among all that I read the lyrics to Jane Yolen’s “Soulja Grrrl,” which gets performed in the background in “Crossings,” and the “Borderland Jump-Rope Rhyme” (and is it only me who thinks of Louis Untermeyer when confronted with folklorist L. Durocher? Probably) and also Neil Gaiman’s “Song of the Song” and Delia Sherman’s “The Wall” and Steven Brust’s “Run Back to the Border” (because Steven Brust) but my favorite of the songs I think has got to be Amal El-Mohtar’s “Stairs in her Hair,” which spawns or was spawned by a metaphor in Catherynne M. Valente’s bracingly chilly “Voice like a Hole”—

—which, that move right there, that’s not something particular to a shared-world book, like borrowing a character or a setting somebody else has set up; that’s just the way art gets made, you know, the usual game of inspiration and allusion and homage, only with something like a shared world, a collective enterprise like this, you get to see it happen a little more quickly, a little more clearly, you get that giddy sense of play and camaraderie that Holly Black talks about in her introduction, of a bunch of writers sitting around writing and reading and one-upping each other, that idealized circus that any bookish youth with half a hankering to write themselves would want to run away to join, to finally hear, like Jimmy Fix-It does, heading into Danceland with the rest of Widdershins in “Welcome to Bordertown,” by Terri Windling and Ellen Kushner, that you’re with the goddamn band—


The book itself drops in exactly a month; 30 days from now (as I write this, yes), Tuesday, the 24th of May. —I was gonna tell you about the contests various contributors are running, to win their advanced reading copies of the book, in case you couldn’t wait, but I took too damn long and the ones that haven’t ended already are ending today. —Still: Emma Bull was asking for ways to get there, and Nalo Hopkinson is yet soliciting menus for a king-hell meal to be cooked once you make it; go and read the entries already posted, because damn. (Oh wait there’s hope; there’s always hope; new contests keep being announced—)

It’s grand, it’s giddy, it’s gloriously stupid, it’s too earnest by half like all the best things you remember from then, it was terribly important to a great many people and I’ve no doubt at all that it will be again. In the thirteen years it Brigadooned itself away the phantastick ate up the world in a way it never has before, and the n00bs have been dreaming of rings and swords and elves in technicolors we never had back then; and it’s so much easier now with the internets and all to tell each other how to get there and what to do when you’ve made it. —If you’ve been before, you can go back. If you’ve never gone, then what the heck are you waiting for? Go! Go!