Monday, November 5, 2012


I wonder how they vote
In the Americas that are unreal
In the blank spaces of Grover's Corners
In the ancient streets of Arkham
In the graveyard of Spoon River.

I wonder how it looks from the sea-foam of Klatsand
And the dandelions of Green Town
When our candidates Etch-a-Sketch reality
And drone away
What Gotham City thinks of the gold standard
How San Narciso sees Guantanamo
Who will carry the state of Utana
Or Area Code 555
On election day.

Maybe their candidates are fictions too
And it's Jed Bartlet versus Lex Luthor,
Martha Kent versus Mr. Smith.
Maybe their issues are our fever dreams
Of Manchurian candidates or super-mutants,
Mayan calendars or killer comets.

Or maybe it is we who are becoming more like they.
We dream of dystopia and world's end
Instead of paving the potholes.
It's more exciting that way.

The line can be blurry
For this is the country of Oneida and New Harmony,
Thoreau and Emperor Norton.
We like our utopias
And it can seem we're always rolling our stones
Upslope to a city on a hill.

I wonder if tomorrow's America
Looks like a lost Atlantis under rising waters
Or the broken land of Williams' Urstadge
Or King's dusty Gilead
Or all of the above.
I wonder about our ghost Americas
In this witching week of autumn light
Before the votes are all unsealed.

And in the throwing of the switch and the touching of the screen
The checking of the box and the drawing of the line
Which ones we are making real.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


We've been happily occupied visiting family and getting in the swing of the school year, so just some brief thoughts here...

Our travel plans changed, so unfortunately I wasn't able to attend Worldcon in Chicago this year. If anyone tried to contact me there and I failed to reply, I wasn't meaning to be rude, just failing to be in two places at once. (Teleportation just isn't my super power. I'm pretty good at finding stuff lost in the house, though. Although since I'm probably the one who lost it in the first place, that may not count either.) Hope everyone who attended had a great time. Congratulations to the Hugo winners!

I just got the great news that my standalone science fiction story "Waiting for a Me Like You" is slated for the November/December Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The very talented author Matthew Hughes has a new website. If you like far-future science fantasy in the vein of Jack Vance, you should definitely check out Hughes' work.

Paul Gilster's blog Centauri Dreams frequently has fascinating posts that I keep meaning to link to. The focus is on the long-term possibilities of interstellar travel, but anything related to astronomy and space exploration (and sometimes science fiction too) is fair game. Three especially interesting posts recently were about the possibility of habitable planets around white dwarf stars, the implications of contacting aliens truly more intelligent than ourselves, and a moving farewell to Neil Armstrong.

Hope the last days of your summers are treating you well.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Romance of Mars

The Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars, evading the "Mars Curse" that so often seems to plague spacecraft sent to that planet. Great news (especially at a moment when so much other news has been dreadful) and I look forward to years of new findings and images.

There was a time when it seemed as if the exploration of Mars, however exciting, had snatched away the romantic desert world of Burroughs, Brackett, Bradbury and others and replaced it with something barren and lifeless. I suppose Mars as we see it today still qualifies as "barren and lifeless," but once we started getting imagery of the surface, the romance started creeping back in.

Image taken by Viking 2 lander in 1976. Source: Wikimedia Commons
And then came these brave-seeming robotic characters -- Sojourner, Opportunity, Curiosity. They're not exactly John Carter of Mars, but they do inspire a sense of adventure. Good luck, Curiosity (and all the dedicated human beings behind you.)

EDIT: Removed hypertext link to Viking 2 image and added the actual picture to the post.

New Story and Interview

Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night (via Wikimedia Commons)
Just a note to say the September 2012 Asimov's is out now, including my new story "Star Soup," a new Great Ship series tale from Robert Reed, a time-travel character drama by Dale Bailey, and many other cool-looking things.

There is also a short interview with me at the F&SF blog about my story "Grand Tour." The questions were asked by Stephen Mazur.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Something Wicker This Way Comes*

Image © copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.
The original was cropped for use in this blog post.
(* Yes, I still have Ray Bradbury on my mind...)

My story "How the Wicker Knight Would Not Move," a somewhat grim tale from the world of Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone, is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It shares issue #99 with a cool-looking Asian-themed fantasy by Alex Dally MacFarlane evocatively titled "Fox Bones. Many Uses."

It's great to see BCS nearing 100 issues, a tribute to the hard work of its staff, Editor Scott H. Andrews and Assistant Editor Kate Marshall. Thanks for making it all happen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th

Image source: National Archives
"Thus the Congress has tied a Gordian knot, which the Parl [iament] will find they can neither cut, nor untie. The thirteen united colonies now rise into an Independent Republic among the kingdoms, states, and empires on earth... And have I lived to see such an important and astonishing revolution?"

-- The Reverend Ezra Stiles, quoted in David McCullough's 1776

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Worlds

A coloring sheet I drew for my last library storytime. The  Muppet lineage is probably obvious...
Although it seems premature to talk about details, things in my writing life have accelerated to the point where my wife and I decided it was time for me to give full-time writing a shot. (Admittedly this is "full time" to the degree I can do it while looking after the kids -- but I'm going to love that aspect of it too.) So, I have left my job as a children's librarian at Campbell Library.

I've been extremely fortunate to have a "day job" I loved, and I can imagine many scenarios where I would return to library work. (In fact, I'm already scheduled to do a little volunteering.) It's been tremendous fun, and very rewarding. There are few things as gratifying as getting the right book into a kid's hands. And then there's storytime, where I got to ham it up while reading picture books, gradually overcoming my stage fright. Plus the way that reference desk time always teaches you something new every day. And then there's all the drawing I got to do...

My library colleagues have been hugely supportive of this change, and I will miss working with them. Thanks, everyone.

I also have to emphasize how much I owe my wife. She has always looked out for me -- all the way back to the '90s when it first started looking like I might get somewhere with writing. That was a lot of typing and coaching and beta-reading and idea-bouncing and hand-holding ago. I think only a writer's partner can fully appreciate how much work that can be. Thank you, Becky.

I hope I can fill this blog with more specific news in the months ahead, but I can say that things look promising from here. Onward!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thank You, Ray Bradbury

Image credit: Jordan Busson via Wikimedia Commons

  I'm really alive! he thought. I never knew before, or if I did I don't remember!
   He yelled it loud but silent, a dozen times! Think of it, think of it! Twelve years old and only now! Now discovering this rare timepiece, this clock gold bright and guaranteed to run threescore and ten, left under a tree and found while wrestling.
   "Doug, you okay?"
   Douglas yelled, grabbed Tom, and rolled.
   "Doug, you're crazy!"
   They spilled downhill, the sun in their mouths, in their eyes like shattered lemon glass, gasping like trout thrown out on a bank, laughing till they cried.
   "Doug, you're not mad?"
   "No, no, no, no, no!"
   Douglas, eyes shut, saw spotted leopards pad in the dark.
   "Tom!" Then quieter. "Tom... does everyone in the world... know he's alive?"
   "Sure. Heck, yes!"
   The leopards trotted soundlessly off through darker lands where eyeballs could not turn to follow.
   "I hope they do," whispered Douglas. "Oh, I sure hope they know."
   Douglas opened his eyes. Dad was standing high above him there in the green-leaved sky, laughing, hands on hips. Their eyes met. Douglas quickened. Dad knows, he thought. It was all planned. He brought us here on purpose, so this could happen to me! He's in on it, he knows it all. And know he knows that I know.
   A hand came down and seized him through the air. Swayed on his feet with Tom and Dad, still bruised and rumpled, puzzled and awed, Douglas held his strange-boned elbows tenderly and licked the fine cut lip with satisfaction. Then he looked at Dad and Tom.
   "I'll carry all the pails," he said. "This once, let me haul everything."
   They handed over the pails with quizzical smiles.
   He stood swaying slightly, the forest collected, full-weighted and heavy with syrup, clenched hard in his down-slung hands. I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn't forget, I'm alive, I know I'm alive, I mustn't forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that.

-- Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Knights and Tourists

Some good writing news... First, the May/June 2012 Fantasy and Science Fiction has appeared, and includes my science fiction story "Grand Tour," along with a lot of very cool-looking stuff, including a new novella by author and poet Fred Chappell.

"Grand Tour," like "The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife" (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #90) and the upcoming "Star Soup," share a universe I figure I'll call the "Nightgift" universe, after the starship many of the characters will serve aboard at some point in their lives. I'm not sure how extensive the series will eventually be, but I like the idea of telling the tales of various people who cross paths aboard a starship, including aspects of their lives before and after their stints on board.

The second bit of good news is that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has accepted a new fantasy story, "How the Wicker Knight Would Not Move," which, like "The Lions of Karthagar" from Black Gate 15, is a standalone story set in the world of Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone. Needless to say, I am a very happy camper.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dad and Toddler, Day Before Easter

Do you want to run around?
Jiejie is practicing piano.
The sidewalk is made of concrete.
We stay on the sidewalk.
The tree is made of wood.
The lamppost is made of metal.
We stay on the sidewalk.
No. We stay on the sidewalk.
there are weeds growing out of the sidewalk, and there's the tiny stump of a small tree that grew right out of the sidewalk until they cut it down but they still couldn't get rid of the stump and I've tripped over it twice like it was an invisible brick
This wall is made of brick.
This wall is made of concrete.
The sidewalk is made of concrete.
This window is not made of metal, it's made of glass.
No, we stay on the sidewalk.
No, we stay on the sidewalk.
the weeds make me think of forests in the deep parts of my mind where journeyers go on long hard adventures to claim magical beautiful things of wood or metal or glass or stone with which to defy magical cruel things of wood or metal or glass or stone and none of it is very much like entertaining a two-year-old while his sister has a piano lesson
The car is metal.
That is not our car. We don't touch it.
That car behind the window is broken. When a car is broken we take it to a mechanic. A car has lots of pieces.
oh how he loves cars
We have to turn back here.
We have to turn back here.
it's Easter tomorrow it will be busy it is always busy
We stay on the sidewalk.
Yes, there's the broken car.
between sidewalk cracks and the pieces of a broken car there is a light that shines through and I know it because I know the glow of it on his face
The tree is wood.
The signpost is metal.
We're going back to Jiejie. On your mark, get set, go.
No, this way.
light like sunrise at a tomb with the stone rolled away
Let me pick you up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Under Strange Skies

The current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has something by me, alongside the intriguing-sounding story "Scry" by Anne Ivy, as part of their special science-fantasy month. I hope you'll check them out. (Plus, next issue, there'll be even more science-fantasy, courtesy of Yoon Ha Lee and Megan Arkenberg.)

I also got the great news recently that my story "Grand Tour," featuring a younger version of the protagonist of the BCS story, is slated for the May/June 2012 Fantasy & Science Fiction. And just to make me downright giddy, a third story in that universe (though not featuring that particular character) is in inventory at Asimov's.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cosmology and Undeath

Just resurfacing again to say that my poem "The Vampire Astronomer" is up in the current issue of Strange Horizons.

Strange Horizons relies on donations, so if you're unfamiliar with them, check out their site -- including their extensive archives -- and if you like the content, please consider supporting them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mermaids Resurface

My Gaunt and Bone story "The Mermaid and the Mortal Thing" has been reprinted at the online magazine Lightspeed. Check out the magazine! The current issue has free stories by Brooke Bolander and Keith Brooke, with more to come later in the month. You can also buy the full issue as an ebook, which includes a new story by Lucius Shepard (the link goes to a recent interview.)