Mike’s Prattle


Archive for March, 2006

Payday book haul

Posted by Mike on March 30, 2006

Payday was one day earlier than expected this month, so I hit a few bookstores after ordering the Howe book and, by far the most I've ever spent on one book (or album for that matter), Avram Davidson's long out of print rarity The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy. Looking forward to both.

  • Jonathan Carroll – Outside the Dog Museum (1)
  • Bradley Denton – Wrack & Roll
  • Jack Ketchum – Red
  • Edgar Allan Poe – Complete Tales and Poems
  • Gardner Dozois, ed. – The Year's Best Science Fiction Eighteenth Annual Collection (2)
  • Gardner Dozois. ed. – The Year's Best Science Fiction Nineteenth Annual Collection
  • Jack Ketchum – The Lost
  • Liz Williams – Nine Layers of Sky
  • Geoffrey A. Landis – Mars Crossing
  • Joyce Carol Oates – Zombie
  • Avram Davidson – What Strange Stars and Skies
  • Fritz Leiber – A Pale of Air
  • Avram Davidon – Masters of the Maze
  • Fritz Leiber – Ship to the Stars/Kenneth Bulmer – The Million Year Hunt (Ace double)
  • Cordwainer Smith – The Planet Buyer
  • Joe R. Lansdale – A Fine Dark Line (3)
  • Jeffrey Ford – Memoranda
  • Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling ed. – The Year's Best Fantasy  First Annual Collection
  • Lucius Shepard – Viator

The books starting with (1) I found at Crawford's on Freeport in Sacramento. They don't have a great selection at the moment, but the owners are great people and rabid Kings fans, so it's always a good chat. (2) were at Book Chek on Marconi whose new owners are also very friendly. Five of the books in that list are old paperbacks which are a lot of fun to collect. (3) came in the mail. The Lansdale was a bookclub edition, which is part of the danger of using Amazon Marketplace for purchases as it's often not worth the trouble sending a cheap book back while you still feel a little taken.


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Reading, etc.

Posted by Mike on March 30, 2006

Before I get to the books, I have to mention a great 23 appearance in last night's South Park, Eric Cartman wearing a bio suit through San Francisco numbered 23.

I'm still going through Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen, the most recent story being the incredibly imaginative "Travels with the Snow Queen." While I'm not sure I entirely line up aesthetically with Link's style, it is indeed worthy of all the considerable praise mustered upon it, very original. I also forgot to mention that I started Jeff VanderMeer's Cities of Saints and Madmen, more specifically Dradin in Love.

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Progress etc.

Posted by Mike on March 29, 2006

Been trying to find the perfect metaphor for the mood lately, kind of like the idea of an electrical applicance being left on too long. Maybe it's my recent perspective, but the creative urge has been like a flamethrower lately, it literally drove me to writing yesterday and I ended up with about 5 pages of handwritten manuscript for the first chapter. I'm going to have to learn more about London architecture for one thing and even plan a trip at some point to be able to get the visceral effect. It has been over 20 years since I was there last.

The first chapter opens in November 1887 with William Wynn Westcott going to receive the cipher manuscripts through his connections with the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. The chapter will introduce the mystery that will run through the book; Westcott is going to quickly and accidentally get a glimpse of someone he shouldn't have, a mystery that I'm going to play off as the unknown factor in the newly formed order's internal politics. I'm not sure how large the scope is going to be as I'm not sure how far I want to cover the history, whether I want to  take it to the Horos scandal or if I want to take it even farther. Essential to the progress of the novel is the disintegration of Mathers, that he was both genius and increasingly dominated by ego.

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The novel that writes itself

Posted by Mike on March 28, 2006

I'm about to order one very important book I need for this novel, Ellic Howe's documentary The Magicians of the Golden Dawn. In fact, not only can I not wait because I need more facts, but it's a book that's out of print and growing in cost. It's not hard to find books with the practical knowledge of the order in print, but those that document the history are increasingly rare. The book I'm using for research now, R. A. Gilbert's The Golden Dawn Scrapbook paints a pretty ugly picture, but gives me so much to work with that I've already started the writing. In fact, given all the recent changes, my guess is that I'm going to be scarcer than usual for a while. I'm going to probably have to set aside a day a weekend at least until it gets done. It's not waiting for my plans, the casual idea of writing this over a few years.

One idea I have that I'm not sure is entirely feasible for a number of reasons is to weave the documentary accounts of magic into the narrative so that the only fantastic elements in the book are those statements I can quote. However, I have no idea about the legal ramifications of doing so in terms of publishing, so it's something I'm just keeping in mind. There's just so much to work with in terms of the human drama, especially the idea that the frail elements of human ego can sabotage one's higher efforts and how love complicates this, that it will be interesting to see how influential this resonance is on other elements. In other words this is a broad palette and every new, learned fact uncovers another piece of the puzzle.

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Posted by Mike on March 28, 2006

Got in some goodies:

  • Edward Whittemore – Quin's Shanghai Circus (nice first ed hb no less)
  • Datlow/Windling ed. – The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Eighth Annual (pb)
  • Jeffrey Ford – The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories (hb)
  • Charles Fort – The Complete Books of Charles Fort (tpb)
  • Joe R. Lansdale – Dead in the West (hb)
  • Joe R. Lansdale – The Bottoms (pb)
  • David Madsen – Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf (pb) (this one looks utterly hysterical)
  • Ian McDonald – River of Gods (Pyr hb)
  • James Morrow – The Last Witchfinder (hb)
  • Robert Reed – Sister Alice (pb)
  • Lucius Shepard – Valentine (hb)
  • Lucius Shepard – A Handbook of American Prayer (hb)
  • Jeff VanderMeer – Why Should I Cut Your Throat? (pb)

Also got in a copy of Lovecraft's Legacy, but wasn't told it was going to be a ex-library copy so it may be going back.

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Posted by Mike on March 26, 2006

Recuperating after a very long, stressful week which is giving me some time to catch up on reading. As of this morning, I've finished Lansdale's excellent High Cotton collection, leaving one with "The Night They Missed The Horror Show" as the last story in mind, a real disturbing one. I'm about 50 pages into Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is spectacular to say the least, and also moving through Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen. "The Specialist's Hat" (I think this one won the World Fantasy Award) was very unsettling and bizarre, and possibly well worth reading again. Turning out to be an extraordinary collection, as ordered. All I need is one more Kings win this weekend and I should be ready to go in the morning.

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Posted by Mike on March 24, 2006

Locus online has posted the first chapter of Gary Wolfe's Soundings. Wolfe is probably the best critic in the speculative fiction field other than John Clute and the article/introduction discusses a lot of important facets about criticism as a legitimate enterprise. Comparing the speculative fiction field to that of the progressive music field is always enlightening, given the abysmally poor state of most progressive music criticism.

Wolfe states, "… another temptation the reviewer sometimes faces is the temptation to review a book's readership rather than the book itself, especially when that readership seems singularly undemanding." This speaks to the main issue I have with a lot of online criticism. In the progressive music field references abound to "intelligentsia" and "prognoscenti" and other mysterious, unidentified groups of purported experts, as if the idea of criticism was a popularity contest and the implication that the best way to pose one's opinion is by casting aspersions on the opinions of others. I'm of the opinion good criticism tackles the subject in question without introducing elements of cliqueishness and hipster self-adulation. Reviews that address the clothes, styles and personal habits of the stereotypical audience of any genre only tell us about the reviewer's bias and aesthetic handicaps.

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Outer Music Diary update

Posted by Mike on March 23, 2006

Both the recent creative surge and some new policies being implemented at work will be changing (and putting a hold on) my Outer Music Diary posting patterns, although it comes at a time where my attention to music is down and creativity and workload are up.

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Lansdale Mojo

Posted by Mike on March 22, 2006

Some books make you smile and laugh inside, others, like Lansdale’s High Cotton have stories with moments so funny I find myself laughing out loud on nearly every page. Just finished “Mister Weed Eater,” a tale of the good Samaritan gone tragic. It was perhaps partially funny because I couldn’t help but envision the protagonist, Mr. Harold, as Hank Hill from King of the Hill. Anyway, I couldn’t recommend the collection any higher, I’m ripping through it even reading bits in between Kings games and other stuff. Unfortunately I now want everything Lansdale I can get my paws on.

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R. A. Gilbert – The Golden Dawn Scrapbook

Posted by Mike on March 20, 2006

This turns out to be the perfect research tool for my novel, it’s the Golden Dawn a la “Days of Our Lives.” Gilbert makes no bones about it, “If it seems like I have concentrated on their follies and misdeeds, this is because the story of the Order is largely a story of follies and misdeeds.” Delightfully bitchy! One of many themes I’m interested in exploring is the discord prevalent in occult groups, it’s an element that has apparently been passed down with the flying rolls. Here lies gold.

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