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Friday, May 30, 2008

Self-Published Books Get No Respect: The Final Chapter

posted by on May 30 at 4:00 PM

This is the banner you see on entering the Staples Center. It reads, "One of the most legendary figures of our time is ready to tell his story." Call me Ted by Ted Turner, with Bill Burke.

Self-Published Books Get No Respect V

posted by on May 30 at 3:00 PM

The title is NUMBERS: The Energy Forces In Your Name, but I really like the little "Hand-delivered" Superman someone left on top of the book

The Miracle of Flight

posted by on May 30 at 2:12 PM

My flight to Washington, D.C., is delayed by two hours. So I'm going to miss my connection to Burlington, Vermont, and since there isn't another flight to Burlington tonight, I'm going to have to spend the night in Washington, D.C. (perhaps in the airport), and fly to Burlington tomorrow.

But this has happened before and I'm pretty zen about it. Besides, flying is immoral and we frequent flyers deserve to suffer and anything the airlines can do to make the flying experience more miserable—pack us in filthy planes, charge to check bags, randomly cancel flights, strand us in ugly airports—is going to make us think twice about flying in the future and that, ultimately, will be good for the planet.


Self-Published Books Get No Respect IV

posted by on May 30 at 2:00 PM

The title is IF YOU LOVE ME, PLEASE DON'T SPANK ME!, and the boy on the cover is saying "Hey Mom. This boy looks alot like me." Also note the lacivious mushroom to the right of the boy.

Self-Published Books Get No Respect III

posted by on May 30 at 1:00 PM

This one is A Love Story That Survived Death: Dick Haymes, World War II Crooner, Hollywood Movie Star & perhaps Edward VII's heir comes to life in...Heaven Knows, Anything Goes by Dianne DeMarinis de la Vega, PhD.

The blurb that got cut off at the end there is by Roger Corman and it reads "This will make a great movie" or something close to that.

Self-Published Books Get No Respect

posted by on May 30 at 11:00 AM

On the left, a book with the author's drawing of a monkey on the cover. On the right, A Poet Gone Mad. The scroll reads: "Poetries of/reality/Brought to the/forefront./Humor/Contraversial/Political/Sarcasm/Social/Problems."

Indie Bound?

posted by on May 30 at 9:00 AM

Last night, I attended the American Booksellers Association Celebration. There was a lot of back-patting and award-giving, as many of these convention celebrations tend to be guilty of. But the big deal was at the conclusion. The ABA announced that they were doing away with BookSense, which is the outreach arm of the ABA. Most independent bookstores carry the BookSense 76 fliers, which are little four-page fliers packed with recommendations from booksellers around the country. After they announced the death of BookSense, there was a little light show and then they announced that the new slogan/website/philosophy of independent bookstores around the country was going to be...


As in, "I'm bound to be going to an independent store," I guess. When they announced that bookstores around the county were going to start carrying IndieBound fliers (Changed from the BookSense 76 to the hipper-than-thou 'NextList.'), suddenly the hall was filled with skipping girls handing out IndieBound Declarations of Indpendence and IndieBound pins and those plastic glow-necklaces that people wear at raves, only in the official color of IndieBound, which is red. People said things like "Welcome to the revolution" and "The revolution is now." Apparently, independent bookstores are becoming Russian revolutionaries.

The reaction in the hall was decidedly mixed. Not everyone seemed to be buying into the IndieBound revolution, although you can already buy the IndieBound Gear at the IndieBound website:


I've included the Declaration of IndieBound after the jump. Just for fun.

Continue reading "Indie Bound?" »

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Kind of Tourism

posted by on May 29 at 7:09 PM

Like I said, there's not a lot going on at BEA today. There are programs for aspiring writers at the actual convention center and there's bookselling school going on at the hotel, but I won't hear anything about how those went until later tonight. So I found myself in the odd (for me) position of wandering down Hollywood Boulevard with nothing to do.

Then I happened upon a building that looked like a bank. Over the door, it said "The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition." My next hour was mapped before my very eyes. I wandered inside.

The first thing you see upon walking inside the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition is a waterfall with a bust of L. Ron Hubbard. To the right, there is a welcoming desk and a woman with a weird Dutch accent. To the left, there is a giant wall of quotes from many luminaries about what L. Ron Hubbard means to them. There is a quote from Tom Cruise, Actor, of course, and Nancy Cartwright, Voice of Bart Simpson from TV's The Simpsons and so on and so on.

Then the weird Dutch lady summoned a man with a weird Dutch accent. His stripey tie perfectly matched his stripey shirt. I was to go with the man. We went through a door that required a security badge and then, suddenly, I was awash in Hubbard.

And you will be, too, if you follow me after the jump.

Continue reading "My Kind of Tourism" »

Airplane Reading

posted by on May 29 at 1:00 PM


It used to be, when I went to BEA as a bookseller, I'd try to read a classic, in order to keep my head amid all the shiny new free books. I've read The Scarlet Letter at BEA--if you haven't read that book since high school, you really should; it's amazing--and one year, pretentiously, I brought Billy Budd along with me. But since I started writing Constant Reader, every time that I've flown, I've tried to read something popular.

This time, I brought The Broken Window, by Jeffery Deaver. This is a Lincoln Rhyme mystery, which may ring a bell for you because of The Bone Collector, an adaptation of a Deaver novel of the same name starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. I've been reading these books for years--they're the definition of guilty pleasures. Lincoln Rhyme is a paralyzed forensics detective. His lover and partner is Amelia Sachs, a former model and muscle-car enthusiast who is a tough-as-nails cop.

These books are bad. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the hell out of them, but they're super-poorly written. Especially when Deaver tries to write African-American dialogue, which invariably sounds like something out of Song of the South. Rhyme sends Sachs out to investigate crime scenes left by meticulously clean serial killers. Sachs almost always winds up captured by the serial killers. And things end happily, but Rhyme remains grim.

Deaver loathed the casting of Denzel Washington as Lincoln Rhyme. You can tell this because, in just about every Rhyme mystery that has come out since The Bone Collector movie, Deaver comments about how much Rhyme looks like Tom Cruise.

Window is about identity theft, and the serial killer is of course someone who uses the system to track victims. Things are going well for the killer, until he accidentally frames Rhyme's cousin. Then, of course, he's in the shit. I read this book in one sitting, from the airport to the runway at LAX. All I can say is, if you dig on pulp geniuses--from Sherlock Holmes to Doc Savage--this might be your thing. Just don't expect anything resembling good writing.

I think that Deaver might be a little sensitive about the quality of his work, though. The dedication on this one reads:

To a dear friend, the written word.

Sure thing, Jeff. Your Nobel is right around the corner. Just keep the cheesy forensic mysteries coming.

Hoo-fucking-ray For Hollywood

posted by on May 29 at 12:00 PM


I'm officially in and registered at BEA.

In order to save a little money, I decided to split a hotel room with a bookseller from a Seattle-area bookstore. I let the bookstore pick the hotel.

This was a mistake.

I am now lodged at the Renaissance Hollywood at Hollywood and Highland, and it will kill me before the end of the weekend. The hotel is literally connected to an outdoor mall, and outside, tourists are posing for photos around the clock on the Walk of Fame. There's the Kodak Theater and a wax museum and the Guinness Book of World Records Museum and a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, too. And a Disney Store and Soda Fountain. I do not get along well with tourists.

Last night, I was walking a friend to a taxi and the sidewalk was blocked by a mass of people. It turns out that the front of Graumann's Chinese Theater was blocked for the world premiere of You Don't Mess With the Zohan, the new Adam Sandler movie about a Mossad agent (Sandler) who wants to move to America and become a hairdresser. This will no doubt be hee-larious.

I wound up in the crush of the Sandlerphiliacs. Tourists wandered into the mass of people holding their cel phones and cameras high in the air, pointed at the red carpet. "Who are we waiting for?" the tourists would say, "What's going on?" And then, after nobody would tell them, they'd take out their cameras and hold them high in the air and point them at the red carpet, figuring that they'd at least wind up with a picture of a celebrity, even if they don't know who that celebrity will be.

A woman tried to step off the curb to get a better picture, even though there was no Sandler in sight. One of Sandler's body guards started yelling at her. "What's your problem?" the woman asked him. "You are my problem. You are my very big problem,' he said. She started arguing with him until he told her to "Shut up! Shut your damn mouth!" over and over again and ushered the woman out of the mass of people.

I got tired of waiting and left, went back to my hotel, and called a cab for my friend from there. I didn't see Adam Sandler, or any of his costars, and I didn't get any photos at all. I apologize to the Sandler-happy Slog public.

Today is a slow day at BEA. There are a lot of educational programs. Almost all the booksellers are at my hotel for something called Bookseller School. There will apparently be a major announcement about ABA, the conglomeration of independent booksellers, this afternoon. Nobody knows what it will be.

I took the subway in to the Staples Center. I have learned two gross generalizations about Los Angeles already. Gross generalization number one: There are cameras everywhere, and there are signs everywhere telling you that there are cameras everywhere. There's a scary billboard of a cop's chest and it reads "I'm watching. Are you?" It feels kind of military police-y.

Gross generalization number two: There is no free wi-fi anywhere. My hotel requires a fee for wi-fi, and so does the Staples Center. My poor little Asus EEE laptop is virtually useless here. I am typing this on a rickety old Windows computer in the press lounge. Someone from some magazine is breathing down my neck for the computer. If I should disappear, blame U.S. News and World Report. I've always had the feeling that that magazine had it in for me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Offered Without Comment, a Picture of a T-Shirt Currently Hanging in the Window of a Capitol Hill Smoke Shop

posted by on May 21 at 1:40 PM


(Thanks so tipster Jasen for the photo.)

Well, Hello There!

posted by on May 21 at 12:07 PM

You get on a plane, find your seat, and there's an empty seat next to you—but not for long, because planes don't fly half-full anymore. So the person sitting next to you shows up, takes his seat, then turns to you, sticks out his hand, and says, "Well, hello there! Name's Bob!" I don't like to touch people, as a general rule, and I try to touch as little as possible on airplanes, which are generally filthy, so I'm even less interested in touching people on airplanes. But social niceties obliged to shake Bob's hand and introduce myself in return.

A connection thus established, Bob settled in for what he assumed would be a nice, long, five and a half hour getting-to-know-you conversation with his new best friend. But as soon as we were off the ground—as soon as we got the okay to use our portable electronic devices, by which time I knew more about Bob's nieces and nephews than I know about my own—I put in my earbuds and turned up my iPod. Then I pulled down my baseball hat and pulled up the hood up on my sweatshirt. Unable to hear Bob, and with Bob unable to catch my eye, I read my magazines and answered emails in peace and quiet.

I didn't want to have my hoodie up—it was hot on that airplane—and I didn't want to listen to my iPod particularly. But as there's no nice way to say, "Leave me alone, Bob, I don't want to chat with you, I want to read," I didn't have any other options.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Flower Blooms...

posted by on May 8 at 8:47 AM my old neighborhood in Chicago.

Down every street, alley and gangway, the jewel of Rogers Park can be seen. Is it the violet?

No, it's not.

Monday, May 5, 2008

In Search of...

posted by on May 5 at 4:29 PM

A "Promotional Talent and Marketing Agency specializing in 'midgets' and 'dwarf' talent" won't tell me which Seattle bars will have six sombrero-wearing, tequila-dispensing such persons on premises tonight. It's Cinco de Mayo--everyone knows that en espanol, that means "little people" (which I believe is the preferred nomenclature, though I'm not an expert as, say, someone at a talent agency specializing in such might be). Little people in traditional Mexican headdress. Si.

This Promotional Liquor Branding Event involves teams of little people "bar-hopping" in multiple cities tonight "for a 4 (four) hour 'shift' meeting & greeting, mix and mingling, handing out liquor premiums & souvenirs, taking photos with customers and patrons," according to an April 18 job posting on Craigslist titled "Midget" "Dwarf" Talent Needed:

You are "TALENT" to us and we will pay you as such….

The dwarfs will work as the client's "character" as a dwarf in a sombrero and poncho provided by our client promoting Mexican liquor while bar hopping with a group of team captains from the client's liquor company….

Our client will provide ALL costumes.

I emailed the company and inquired: Have you found your 6 Seattle Brand Ambassadors? What bars will be involved? What time will the Event begin? Might I tag along and write about it? Steven, an unspecified employee of the "Promotional Talent and Marketing Agency" (apparently called "shortfaces," according to Steven's email), replied: "In the interest of my client, I am going to need to pass on this opportunity."

I don't understand why Steven/shortfaces would pass. Surely the Bud girls never say 'no.'


(Photo via "Chillywillyrace fan" on Creative Commons.)

Tiki Bob's in Pioneer Square seems like the most likely venue for encountering such a Promotional Liquor Branding Event and its personnel. Or maybe Cowgirls Inc. Definitely Pioneer Square.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Three Things I Learned in the Last 24 Hours

posted by on May 3 at 12:45 PM

1. You can still smoke in bars in Portland, Oregon, despite the passage of an anti-smoking-in-bars-and-restaurants law here ten or so years ago. Oregon's smoking ban doesn't go into effect until January of 2009. Last night I ordered a drink from a shirtless, smoking bartender. Ugh on both counts.

2. You can stand outside bars in Portland's Pearl District with a drink in your hand—right out there on the sidewalk, like you were in Munich or London or Paris. Apparently they don't have Washington-state-style liquor control board Nazis down here making sure there's a moat and a drawbridge separating dissolute drinkers from—think of the children!—defenseless minors.

3. The student newspaper at Beaverton High School—home of the Beavers—is called The Hummer. It only seems fair.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Real Life Superheroes

posted by on May 1 at 12:00 PM


I took the above photograph of the Black Monday Society, a team of people who dress up like superheroes to protect Salt Lake City, back in November. This week, in the Salt Lake City Weekly, I write about them.

I have some problems with the photos--I can't believe that they use sound effects to illustrate the story when I write in the story about how lazy news outlets use comic book sound effects to punch up the stories about real life superheroes--but I'm happy to finally have the piece see the light of day.

If you're interested in grown men in spandex walking the city streets, how their wives feel about them doing this, and whether or not you should be worried, go check it out.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wait, Didn't They Have to Shoot Old Yeller?

posted by on April 29 at 2:07 PM

So would you really want to buy your dog a 50 lb bag of Old Yeller dog food?


It's at QFC on Broadway and Pike if you really want to tempt fate...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

To the Sick Motherfucker Who Was Masturbating/Trying to Expose Himself Through My Apartment Window Last Night

posted by on April 10 at 11:55 AM


To the rest of Ballard: I don't have much of a description--white dude, about 5'10"-6'0, I'd guess (based on where his torso fell in the frame of my window). Late 30s, a little grungy lookin', but I just saw his face for a second. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with a big Adidas logo on the front.

He was pressed up against the window in my basement apartment, his sweatshirt pulled up over his belly, pants pulled down far enough to where I couldn't see them when I briefly saw his hips, and his hand was down by his crotch and out of sight (but obviously doing something dirty). Shudder. He moved a concrete block that's outside for propping open the door to sit directly under my living room window. Before he ran away, it looked like he was trying to step up on it to get his dick up past the window sill, but he had a hard time balancing while playing with himself. Asshole.

Fuck you, dude. I called the cops. If anyone sees someone that fits that (admittedly vague) description snooping around your building/property near downtown Ballard, call the cops. Or kick him in the junk.

Try it again, motherfucker, and I'll cut it off.

Where'd All the Floppy Discs Go?

posted by on April 10 at 10:45 AM

They ended up on this car in Ballard...


And they lined all the windows with old keys too...


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ad Busted

posted by on April 8 at 9:15 AM

Someone that works at the Stranger—which smears ads all over our print edition and website—isn't really in any position to bitch about someone else, in this case an airline, forcing folks to look at advertisements. Still, I was shocked when I folded down my tray table on a recent flight and saw this...


Just when thought they were running out of places to put ads, they discover a new way to make you stare at that dude in all those Verizon commercials. I discovered, however, that this Verizon isn't that hard to peel off your tray table.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's Sunny Here

posted by on March 28 at 5:36 PM


I understand it snowed in Seattle today. I'm in Los Angeles where it's 70 degrees. I walked past The Ivy a few mintes ago where I saw no one famous dining on its famed patio. Earlier in the day I stood outside the Price Is Right's bungalow and marveled at that program's longevity. Entertaining America for 36 years—we should all be so lucky.

I'm here to do Real Time with Bill Maher tonight at 11 PM. (Real Time's bungalow is next door.) Feel free to watch the show tonight and critique my clothing here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Umm... I Don't Get It

posted by on March 27 at 2:50 PM

I saw this in Ballard this week...


(The text, if you can't read it due to the crappy cell phone camera quality, says "Never ForgetTM.")

Can anyone enlighten me?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Norwescon Wrap-Up

posted by on March 23 at 7:53 PM

Holy God, am I exhausted. And at least I can say, from the looks of the other convention-goers here, that I am not alone. By the end, the only people left standing were the ones who did not party.

The Norwescon Poetry panel, I believe, didn't actually happen. Or at least, at five past the hour, the only person sitting in the room where people were supposed to compose an epic Norwescon Poem was the panel moderator, all by himself. It just goes to show that poetry gets no respect in the science-fiction world, either. Are there poetry conventions? Are they only attended by one person at a time?

I attended a seminar on Fanfic. Fanfic, for those of you who don't know, is fan-written fiction about preexisting worlds and characters. Some people stick to just one kind of fanfic: there were a few people in the panel who were Harry-Potter-Fanfic only. Others write about different tv shows and books and movies. Slash fiction, or erotica starring fictional characters, is very popular, and ship fiction--writing romances about the relationship between two characters--is also a big deal. One woman in the room--the panel was entirely women--wrote Back to the Future fanfic and also Kim Possible slash fic.

They asked, probably hypothetically, why they wrote fan fiction, and most of the women decided that it was to fix what they perceive as mistakes in the primary text, or "To make things end better," as one teenager in attendance said. Veronica Mars, for instance, was cancelled before dealing with the main character's romantic situation in a satisfying way, and so fanfic is a way for the writer to get some closure, or to further enjoy the character.

It was an interesting look at a subculture full of its own language and terminology (some of the writers write mpreg fiction, or fiction where male characters like Harry Potter or Captain Kirk become pregnant, for instance, and fans who are online can often break out into ugly 'shipping wars,' where they argue vehemently about why this character would wind up with this or that character: to maintain the Star Trek analogy, why Kirk would wind up with Uhura rather than Spock) and in that way it was a good lens through which to view fandom as a whole. It's a rarified atmosphere at Norwescon, and hard for an outsider to completely understand. The coded language tends to work as both a shield, keeping outsiders out, but also as a latticework to keep fans feeling connected and safe.

Fans at Norwescon do seem to feel safe, be it if they're in costume or getting their motherfucking freak on at a party, or tearing up while talking about Arthur C. Clarke's death last month. Being able to watch that is kind of sweet. Sure, at times, I was ready to scream and flee--the threat of Hobbit filking is almost too sphincter-tighteningly horrifying to relay to someone not in attendance--but I also feel kind of grateful for the opportunity to see them feeling so safe, in the open, without a care in the world, for one weekend.

Norwescon Sunday: Report One

posted by on March 23 at 11:31 AM

Why, yes, that is a blow-up alien with a mouth-hole for fucking, thanks for asking!

I overheard someone talking about the parties here at Norwescon. He was explaining that he doesn't party all year and so this is his time to cut loose. I think that's a pretty common thing: I was in the bar yesterday and someone lit somebody else's hair on fire. Like, for a joke. And it worked: Everyone laughed. The poor waitress had to come over and spray Febreze to try to cover up the perm smell.

I went to the I.B.T. party last night--I.B.T. stands for Intergalactic Bank of Timbuktu. They go from convention to convention, auctioning off slaves. I arrived after the auction, so I only met one slave: a hot young Mormon boy who could do standing back flips. Standing back flips seemed to be his only trick, but he was really good at it, doing three or four in a row, on demand.

The costumes got a little crazier at the parties as the night went on. One well-built African-American man was wearing a leather vest and basically a leather cock-sack. His ass was free in the breeze. A man and women locked themselves in the bathroom to fuck. There were giant troughs filled with super-sweet Midori punch and Long Island Iced Teas and some sort of alcoholic grape drink.

People were hopping from party to party, including the so-called Party at the End of the Universe, across the street at a hotel with less-stringent party standards. One befanged young man was leading four female slaves across the street so that they could take part in the wet t-shirt contest. Now I understand why the convention booklet has rules for leashes: They weren't talking about dogs.

Today is kind of an abbreviated session, which is good because my Midori hangover is threatening to melt my brain. I am about to attend a session wherein people compose an epic poem to describe this year's Norwescon. I may not survive.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Norwescon Saturday: Report Four

posted by on March 22 at 8:00 PM

Things are not all peaches and cream at Norwescon. There are a few rumbles of dischord here at the convention. The main issue has to do with the DoubleTree hotel employees, who have been working without a contract for a few months. The union has the hotel on their boycott list, and many of the convention-goers are wearing buttons and putting pro-union stickers in the weirdest places--there was one on the underside of my bar table, which maybe wasn't the most effective placement for pro-labor propaganda--to protest the hotel management.

Secondly, and more importantly to the general convention-goer: The hotel is cracking down on parties. People have been informed that security has been increased, and that the hotel will be cracking down on loud parties. A lot of parties have moved to other hotels in protest, including a gnome-sponsored party and The Party at the End of the Universe.

Likewise, people are complaining about the turgidness of the programming: This is the first year that Lovecraft-themed panels have been allowed, for instance, and the horror fans feel seriously underrepresented. There is talk of a shadow convention, running alongside the convention, in future years. Even in sci-fi future, it seems, there is difficulty.

Norwescon Saturday: Report Three

posted by on March 22 at 7:15 PM

I saw love a-blooming today, in the dealer room. The dealer room is the place where you buy shit. There are some books, of course, but plenty more weapons and paintings of half-naked men and women riding dragons and weird statues of half-wolf, half-men creatures with six packs and disturbingly erotic stares. A young boy, not even sixteen, was looking at some action figures. A girl was standing next to him, and she said, very thoughtfully, "I never felt the need to collect figurines." The boy nodded, and then the girl said, "But they're so cool to look at!" The boy's voice filled with love for the girl: "You think?" Then they held hands. I think they'll have cute little nerd babies one day.

Also heard in the dealer's room, from an older man as he hefted a double-headed mace: "All I need now are some nunchucks and I'll be set."

And then, someone in the bar where I am now, someone loudly announced: "We are Vulcans. Give us beer!"

It's the most stereotypical thing I've heard all weekend.

Norwescon Saturday: Report Two

posted by on March 22 at 5:48 PM

Today's the day of the big masquerade ball here at Norwescon, and so there are costumes everywhere you turn: Superhero and geisha attendance is up by 250% since yesterday.

I attended a writing panel hosted by Jay Lake, a prominent writer of the New Weird. On the panel was writer Dan Simmons, this year's writer guest of honor and author of Hugo Award-winning Hyperion and twenty-four other books. The best part, for me, was when Simmons came out against publishers posthumously running any author's extra materials. "Some of those authors would have literally killed to not have that material read, and it's a violation of their trust by their families that causes it to be published," he said. Someone in the audience took offense, saying that reading Tolkien's extra materials have brought him pleasure. Simmons said, curtly, "He didn't want them published."

And that was that.

I've never read Simmons' work before, but I'm incredibly excited to read his next, nearly thousand page, novel that he just turned into his publisher. It's about Charles Dickens and, specifically, the five year period where Dickens turned evil after an illness, becoming interested in drugs and morgues and death. It's based on a true story.

Tonight are a number of sex-and-fandom-themed panels, as well as a science-fiction burlesque, and the aforementioned masquerade. Sexy times in SeaTac.

More soon.

Norwescon Saturday: Report One

posted by on March 22 at 12:03 PM

Science fiction afterparties are pretty goddamned awesome. I spent last night flitting from one party to another, although the Intergalactic Slave Traders wouldn't let me in without an invitation. Apparently, they auction slaves off. "I was auctioned off last year," said a woman dressed as a pirate, "It was a blast!" Instead, I went to another party and drank some punch called toxic waste--it was made of kiwis and grapefruits and a whole bunch of liquor and dry ice, so it smoked--and found myself pretty loaded after the first glass.

I talked with a small press publisher who was complaining about his distributors: "I finally told them they had to take 7,000 copies of my book because my warehouse--my garage--was totally full and they'd sell out of the copies and they know it and so they really ought to sack up."

I also talked with a man who used to work in a book warehouse and was nearly slain when a giant palette of Danielle Steele books nearly killed him. "Anything but Danielle Steele," he said, "would've been a perfectly acceptable way to go."

This afternoon will be a busy one for me, with lots of interviews and panels, so posts will be occasional for the early part of the day. It's just as well, really, because the convention is sort of subdued at the moment--lots of people are still hung over from the parties that riddled the hotel last night, and a lot of local families have arrived, bringing lots of little kids, which changes the mood considerably.

But not entirely: A swarm of about a dozen Japanese stewardesses were huddled in a corner of the lobby, probably wondering what kind of hell their airline booked them into this time, in the middle of all the Princess Leias and goths and evil elves, and a very old man walked up to them and introduced himself. "This is a science fiction and fantasy convention," he explained, and after they politely nodded, he asked them: "Do you know what a fantasy is? Do you know that you're my fantasy?" And then they all walked off together.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Philip K. Dick Award Winners Announced

posted by on March 21 at 9:15 PM

I just left the big awards dinner for the Philip K. Dick awards. The Special Citation, or runner-up, went to From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, by Minister Faust. I read this one, and I've got to say, I'm pretty disappointed. It's not a very good book, an unoriginal satire on superheroes and power and blah blah blah.

And the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award this year is Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison, a kind of noir-y alternate universe story. Harrison's previous serial-killer novel, Light, was excellent. Harrison's speech was read by a surrogate, since he couldn't be here, but it was a good speech, mainly about how he's all about growing beyond the idea of personality being a consistent thing, that we are a bunch of actions who are consistently retroactively explaining our actions, and that justification is what we think makes us us. It was a good speech, and people read from all seven books on the short list before the prizes was announced and there is, thankfully, no actual statuette of a prize (a Dick prize could be banned in certain states, I'm sure) because they decide to give the winners the money instead. How civilized.

Now it's time for the afterparties. I hear there are two dragon-themed parties to choose from. I might report later tonight or, if I pass out, early tomorrow morning. SeaTac loves you.

Norwescon Report Four

posted by on March 21 at 8:57 PM

I attended something called the Flower Fantasy Fashion SmackDown. I can't say that I'm exactly sure what the Flower Fantasy Fashion SmackDown is, except it involves having a host dressed as Liberace and a bunch of women dressed in flower dresses. There seems to be no actual smacking of things, down or otherwise.

I skipped out of the Flower Fantasy Fashion SmackDown to attend a seminar on The Creepy Doll in fiction and movies. It was an intense conversation, with many speakers having to shake out the fear or disgust before actually talking. The discussion actually turned, as it often does, to clowns. People hate clowns. One panelist swore that he had a neighbor who was a clown because he hated children, saying "I can be as sarcastic to them as I want and they never notice, the little fuckers."

I was talking with someone when a very large woman walked by in a schoolgirl outfit. It was great that she felt empowered enough to wear this very revealing outfit in public and all, but the person I was talking to turned to me and said: "That just put me off every single schoolgirl fantasy I've ever had in my life."

I can't tell if that's a good or a bad thing, really.

Norwescon Report Three

posted by on March 21 at 5:00 PM

The guys above are part of Vader's Fist, also known as the 501st Legion. They appear at charity events for causes like the Ronald McDonald House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation and "spread the magic of Star Wars."

I've learned that it's possible to have fangs installed for $50. I'm considering doing it, just for a little camoflage. I wonder if I can put them on my expense account.

I've also learned about the existence of Scott Bakula parties. Apparently, there's a Scott Bakula fan organization here at Norwescon that promotes the work of the Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise star. They've become known here at the convention for their wild and crazy parties, which get nuttier every year. Apparently, this year, they're trying to make sure that people know that, yes, they do throw crazy, raucous parties, but they're also really serious Scott Bakula fans. I'm going to try to track down this organization and get the skinny on both Bakula and the parties.

Last hour, I attended a discussion about the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and why they sustain themselves over so many genres and decades. One of the kind of unspoken elephants in the room was the fact that Lovecraft was a horrible writer, although one of the panelists hinted at that when he suggested that people read his books and say "Maybe I can do that!" It was an hour-long talk about a writer and his weird spiritual resonance, and it was a lovely time, exactly what I've been looking for here today.

I talked with a panelist just now in the hallway about how Norwescon has fewer actual walking-around points of interest. "It's all about the costumes now," he said. A slutty pirate girl walked by him, as if in an act of human punctuation. He seemed exasperated. I felt sorry for him.

How Was It? Bingo, Texas Style

posted by on March 21 at 4:11 PM

Did I really stand in a hot, crowded bar in Austin Texas, for forty-plus minutes, staring at a chicken's ass? You know I did.

Norwescon Report Two

posted by on March 21 at 3:00 PM

The thing about Norwescon is that it's crazy about dragons. There are dragon mascots and dragon henna tattoo booths and people with dragons on their clothing and dragons on my press pass. An artist here at the convention is "known for his drawings of dragons." There's a large metallic dragon in the front lobby, and other dragons spread throughout the hotel. I don't know exactly why this is, except for the fact that dragons are awesome.

So it turns out that filk does not, in fact, stand for Fiction I'd Like To Keep. It's science fiction and fantasy fan music. I learned this at the Filk 101 seminar I just attended. People who sing filk are officially known as filkers. When you sing filk, you are filking. I couldn't stop thinking of felching through the meeting, but I held my attention long enough to learn what to do when one of your fellow filkers fumbles a falsetto, or otherwise sings poorly. If you filk with someone who sings off-key and you can't stand it--"I'm a classically trained singer and I have absolute pitch, so it's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me," one attendee said--here's what you do: go to the bathroom when the bad filker is filking.

It turns out, though, that some bad filkers are good filk songwriters! One of the "cornerstones of the East Coast filking community" has a grating pitch to her voice, but she's a great filk songwriter.

That settled, I headed down to a discussion about Second Life.

I have nothing to say about Second Life.

That is all for now.

Norwescon Report One

posted by on March 21 at 1:35 PM

I arrived at Norwescon 31, SeaTac's biggest science fiction convention, this morning with no real idea of what to expect. Actually, wait. That's not entirely true: I expected people in costumes, and I've seen tons of those: Storm Troopers, pirates, super heroes, and lots of women dessed in what I think is best described as gypsy slut. It's hard to begrudge them the costumes, though, because they're all so damned excited: seeing friends they haven't seen in a year or a few years.

After I took about an hour to get used to the layout of the convention--rather than being spread across a convention center, it's all through the DoubleTree Hotel next to the airport--I went to a panel whose title was “Where Will All the Young Men Go?” I thought that it would be about the shrinking male demographic in sci-fi fandom, and so I went. Turns out, that's not what the panel was about. Instead, the three-man panel—author Mike Shephed Moscoe, Timothy Armstrong, and Chis Vancil—was there to talk about where they thing the young men will eventually go: space.

There are lots of issues with outer space, so much so that it has to be discussed one gender at a time: Vancil started talking by saying that “For the purposes of this panel, women don't exist.” As one non-panelist pointed out: “To paraphrase John Wayne: Space is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid.” Tell me about it: Issues with space travel include prostitution, marriage, and, even more important, as one woman asked: “Who will be the law out there?” Moscoe replied: “Sean Connery.” Sounds good to me.

Then I met the lovely ladies posted above, who are part of a Tacoma group called IKV T'Mar. They like to dress up as Klingons and do community service. They've supported a number of charities, including raising money for MS and cancer research. I bought a button from them that reads “nuqdaq yuch Dapol,” which means, roughly: “Where is the chocolate?” Now I'm going to go to panels about Second Life and something called “Filk.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Editing Graffiti on Ballard Avenue

posted by on March 13 at 3:53 PM


Ballardians don't take none of that bad-grammar bullshit.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Glam Overpass

posted by on March 10 at 1:04 PM


This overpasses/rest stop I'm sitting in--along the highway between Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago--has free wi-fi, a Starbucks, and cleanish bathrooms. It's pretty glamorous, for a highway overpass. It looks like an nicer, newish airport in here.

This doesn't have anything to do with anything, of course. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Greetings from America's Wang

posted by on March 5 at 8:11 PM


Dear everyone: I'm spending the week with my folks in central Florida, which means I won't be doing much slogging.

It also means--thanks to the miracle of time zones--that I know who wins this year's Project Runway.

Is it fierce little Christian Siriano? Pretty Jillian Lewis? Rami "Statutory Drapist" Kashou?

No spoilers here, just the non-spoily fact that this year's is the first finale to make me tear up.

Have fun! Wish you were here!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Like that Big Baggette, Don't You?

posted by on February 26 at 8:47 AM

We needed to grab some breakfast in Dublin, Ohio, this morning on our way to Ohio State University, where we plan to interview some college students about, well, you know. Anyway, we spot this French place in an older building in historic Dublin, and pulled over. When we walked in a latino cook greeted us with a "bonjour!" in perfectly accented Franish. We placed our orders, found a table, and proceeded to eat our eggs and thoroughly Americanized croissants. (In France, a croissant fits in the palm of your hand; in America, they're bigger than your face--and, no, out-of-control portion sizes have nothing whatsoever to do with America's obesity epidemic, and you're an anti-fat bigot for even bringing it up.)

Anyway, looked up from my croissant and noticed a framed picture on the wall.


Is it just my filthy mind or is there something deeply fucked up about that painting?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It's Mourning in the Malls of America

posted by on February 23 at 8:08 PM


This placard is sitting just inside the entrance of the River Park Square shopping mall in Spokane, Washington. Ugh. I'm not sure what's worse: That the management of a mall in Eastern Washington feels that it's somehow their responsibility to honor students murdered half a continent away? Or the passive wording they chose for this memorial piece of cardboard? "We honor those who lost their lives..." Um... their lives weren't car keys or contact lenses, you know. They weren't misplaced. Their deaths weren't something that just, you know, kinda, sorta happened.

Their lives were taken from them. And the responsible parties? The shooter, of course, but he had accomplices. Blame must also be assigned to an American electorate--the very same folks streaming past this placard--that tolerates a "gun culture" that wreaks so much havoc. Daniel, Catalina, Ryanne, Julianna, and Gayle didn't carelessly misplace their lives. They were done to death by the evil fucks at the NRA, the stupid fucks in Congress, and average dumb fucks who think cheap sentiment, a stupid placard, and an ugly vase stuffed with wilting roses somehow exonerates us all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Every Child Deserves a Father and a Father...

posted by on February 22 at 8:00 PM