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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the roses.

Portland is a place where rich ones run away to settle down and grow flowers and shrubbery to hide them from the massacres they’ve caused.

Woody Guthrie

—posted 5 days ago

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Three hours widdershins.

So! Readercon. —There was gonna be a whole long con report thing like I haven’t done in a long long time but; but. It just wasn’t gelling. (A taste:

And then out in the hall there’s Greer Gilman, and here’s me, stammering at the sheer impossibility of taking up that one time, too many years ago, when on a whim I pulled an unassuming yellow mass-market paperback from the shelf of a Harvard Square bookshop and opened it up and there on the first page fell into those, those sentences, those goddamn words, that voice; the cadences which tug at my fingers even now, ringing and echoing will I or no in whatever I try to write myself—how—how do I, how do I take that, all that, and fit it somehow all into a flatly simple “Gosh, I, I really like your stuff.”

(—There was quite a bit more in that vein. So: not such a loss?) —Anyway. In and amongst the starstruck knee-knocking (I gave a copy of Dicebox to Samuel Delany! I pestered Ellen Kushner for a photograph! I told Paul Park how much I like Starbridge!), the old friends-rendezvousing (Emily Care and Epidiah drove down for lunch! I completely failed to recognize Vinnie!) and new friends-making (David Shaw made me a drink! Sofia Samatar made me stammer! Natalie Luhrs didn’t glue my hand to my beard! Daniel José Older thinks I look like Kevin Kline!), the Friday doldrums (I made a complete fool of myself in re: storyability! I was suddenly convinced my impostor syndrome wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as anyone else’s!) and the Saturday redounds (the cheeky Butts in Literature panel! the impromptu dance party!), the book-securing (American Shore! Starboard Wine! the Ben Jonson chapbooks!) and panel-attending (Theater and the Interrupted Ritual! Plot Without Conflict! a showing of The Polymath! The Gothic in 19th Century Science Fiction! Variations on the Theme of Unreliable Narrators! the aforementioned Butts!), I went and—gave a reading? did a reading? read?

I stood before a small (but select) crowd and read, aloud, words I had written: a first, for me. —That introductory party scene, and also the scene where the Axehandle confronts Mr. Lier—or was it vice-versa?—because one should always give some time to the antagonists, but mostly because my favorite magic tricks are the ones where the magician tells you exactly how they’re doing what they do even as they pull it off before your very eyes. (But perhaps I’ve said too much.) —It went well, well enough; thanks especially to Carrie Bernstein, Joshua A.C. Newman, Sofia Samatar, Felix Gilman, and Emily Wagner—small, as I said, but select.

Photo by Sofia Samatar.

—The Monday morning after—after helping tear down and pack up with the unflappable Stefan Krzywicki and the inimitable Jess Nevins and then cart across what felt like half this half of Massachusetts, and believe me when I tell you we will none of us hear that saying about the monkeys and the circus the same way ever again, and then there was a good eight hours of blissful oblivion in a basement room walled with more board games than I think I’ve ever seen in one place (and I, you should understand, have seen quite a few)—after that, on Monday morning, I sat down to breakfast with Emily Wagner. —I haven’t mentioned Emily much yet, have I.

“You know,” she said, as she forked up a bite from a blueberry pancake that was more blueberry than pancake. “This is all Amal’s fault.”

Amal El-Mohtar, honey-poet, critic of note, harpist and fencer, who’d challenged me to a duel, who’d boomed out my name when she learned I’d arrived, who’d pushed me out into the hall to meet Greer Gilman when I stammered something about those words, that voice. —“How do you figure?” I said, sipping some coffee.

“She wrote the poem,” said Emily. “In the Bordertown collection that you reviewed, and you liked it, and I said that I liked that, on Twitter, so you followed me, and I followed you, and here we are.”

And I looked around the here where we were, this train station refitted as a steampunk diner—excuse me, this diner decorated in an æsthetic of “Neo-Victorian Whimsy” (plus rivets), forty-five minutes or so north, by car, from Harvard Square, twenty-three years away from that unassuming yellow paperback, still on my shelves, an eighth of a day ahead of where I live now, across the country, a distance I’d be flying back later that day, a distance I’d covered the Thursday before, at the invitation of Readercon, at the urging of this person sitting across the table from me, this old friend I’d just met this weekend, this new friend I’ve known for years, as words, on a screen, who did an enormous amount of work to help pull all this together, the panels, the books, the readings, the butts, the dancing, the writers, the readers, and me and my knocking knees; who insisted I stay in their basement when I needed an extra night and was willing to drive through a Boston rush hour to get me where I needed to be—

I bought her breakfast. It was the least I could do.

—posted 16 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of stuff.

The role of “stuff” in fantasy fiction remains vitally important to fantastical stories and potentially serves to discipline fantasy readers into valuing certain cultural artifacts over others. Wikipedia has a page dedicated to a sizable—and incomplete—list of fictional swords with names. Certain artifacts are imbued with symbolic qualities (eg. King Arthur’s Excalibur and Holy Grail) and some magic systems are reliant upon material things (eg. wands in Harry Potter). Though economic systems within fantasy literature are usually underdeveloped or neglected by authors, artifacts remain fetishized, used both as a way of adding authenticity to the secondary world (the presence of swords signals to readers that they are situated within a particular genre and provides a pathway for authors to play with certain tropes), and developing the protagonist’s identity. But from where does this economic model originate and how, if at all, does this conceptualization of stuff impact present-day nerd consumerism? Because while the role of economic exchange is left ambiguous in much fantasy literature, the centrality of stuff like wands, crystal balls, amulets, and named swords is not.

Sarah Shoker

—posted 71 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the out-of-doors.

This principle, it seems to me, is the ceaseless action of secluding oneself. Imagination about travel corresponds in Verne to an exploration of closure, and the compatibility between Verne and childhood does not stem from a banal mystique of adventure, but on the contrary from a common delight in the finite, which one also finds in children’s passion for huts and tents: to enclose oneself and to settle, such is the existential dream of childhood and of Verne. The archetype of this dream is this almost perfect novel: L’Ile mystérieuse, in which the manchild re-invents the world, fills it, closes it, shuts himself up in it, and crowns this encyclopædic effort with the bourgeois posture of appropriation: slippers, pipe and fireside, while outside the storm, that is, the infinite, rages in vain.

Roland Barthes

—posted 76 days ago

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Portland, divided into four fifths.

If you, Dear Reader, are not yourself intimately acquainted with the geography of the City of Roses, and find yourself occasionally wondering which went where when, yr. correspondent might direct you to a map of sorts, that easily fits most hands.

—posted 106 days ago

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Where were we?

No. 21: Gallowglas


That’s, I guess, where we were.

Beginning Monday: City of Roses no. 21, “Gallowglas.”

—posted 124 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
Another secret of magic.

The magic in any particular story will do what it will do, regardless of what it ought to do. Sometimes I like a magic that brings order and redistributes resources in almost exactly the same way money does, and sometimes I like a chaotic magic that’s reminiscent of another effect of money… (If we’re going to look at power dynamics within fiction at least let’s keep an eye on all sources of power!) So it all depends.

Helen Oyeyemi

—posted 163 days ago

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That first brontolithic beat.

Webfiction World Readings.

Fes over at the Webfiction World has gone and read aloud Act II of “Prolegomenon”—the party scene—so, if you ever wondered what it all would sound like…

—posted 169 days ago

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No less than a kingdom.

Season one covers.

Have some books. “Wake up…” collects chapters 1 – 11; The Dazzle of Day collects chapters 12 – 22; the first season omnibus, Autumn into Winter, collects all 22 in one handy ebook—so you should get the two, or the one, but not all three, unless you’re feeling especially generous. —You can buy copies through Amazon, or Smashwords, or Payhip, or (of course) me; you can add them to your Goodreads or LibraryThing shelves; you might, if you need a little more convincing, read some reviews and interviews first.

No. 21, “Gallowglas,” will see its free online premiére on Monday, April 21st, with no. 22, “Maiestie,” to follow. Until then, you’ll need to secure a copy of The Dazzle of Day or the omnibus (or the paper chapbooks, of course) to read them. —And after that? Well. Whatever comes next is after that.

—posted 176 days ago

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The state of the City.

The Dazzle of Day.

It is done; it has been done. It is, more to the point, available for preorder over at Smashwords, and of course direct from the source. (I’d offer up the Amazon link for Kindle and paperback editions, but it seems Amazon doesn’t bother to offer preorder capabilities to self-publishers.)

On (or after) February 25th, then, you’ll finally get to learn what happens next, for a value of “next” limited to those events which are depicted in nos. 21 and 22 of City of Roses. (Unless, of course, you’ve ordered paper copies of those chapbooks, in which case, check the mail.) —Don’t ask about the stock market, lottery tickets, or sportsball scores; prophesy’s a delicate business at best.

While you’re waiting, you can add Vol. 2 over on Goodreads, or talk it up hither, or yon. Beginning in April, let’s say Monday, April 21st, “Gallowglas” and then “Maiestie” will begin their serialization here, to round out the web-based, freely available collection. —Meanwhile, I’ll be over on the couch with a pile of books and madly scribbled scraps of paper, trying to figure out what happens in the next next.

(Oh, also? I’ll be at Readercon this year, for pretty much sure and certain. Further on which when more is known.)

—posted 206 days ago

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