What’s Desmond Reading?
A Stone in Heaven by Poul Anderson.
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The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel
I make a habit of visiting the annual Friends of the Library used-book sale in Oil City, PA, each July. This year, I ended up buying about fifty books, but when I got them home I put them aside and only just now have I gone through them.
Part of the fun is the detritus that often shows up in a random selection of old books. Two years ago, mixed in with my purchases from the 2016 edition of this very same book sale, attentive readers will recall that a found a plane ticket, a couple of lottery tickets, and a photo of an unknown couple.
Last year’s sale was unproductive in this vein, but there was some small pay dirt this year. In a copy of Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, I found the following quite yellowed file card.
“Falling Free Lois McMaster Bujold
“Baen 1998 Read May 94
“Very readable–my kind of story.
“Bionic mutants 1000 strong are created by some corporation for freefall space work but become obsolete by techno advances–company policy is to kill them (are not legally human–are bio constructs). Have 4 arms and no legs (no gravity–don’t need legs)–are saved by engineer type).
“Cannot get over 4 legs [sic] 8.0 Possible top 100.”
I don’t know what possessed my cross-temporal correspondent to make such extensive notes. I wonder if he or she did this for every book, and to what end? It seems like the sort of thing I would have tried, but lost interest in after a few books. I hope you got whatever you needed out of this meticulous practice. I recently read my first Bujold earlier this year and quite enjoyed it; I was already looking forward to reading Falling Free, and your crosstime recommendation has only enhanced my anticipation.
It hasn’t been a banner year for story publications for me thus far; not in terms of absolute numbers, and certainly not in terms of word count. My longest story was “Look for the Union Label” at two thousand words and change, and “Scorn Not the Least” weighed in at an even thousand. (Info on both pieces can be found in previous blog posts.)
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel: two new publications to announce.
And they total six hundred and six words between them.
Nevertheless, every little bit counts. So here we go. “Human Wheels Spin Round and Round” appears in Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 27, edited by Daniel Arthur Smith. It’s a brief (506-word) look at self-driving cars, but there are several other nifty stories included for your reading pleasure.
Additionally, a drabble of mine (a drabble is a short story of exactly one hundred words) has just appeared online. “Strung Out in Alientown,” a story of chocolate and poor self-control, is up at Martian: The Magazine of Science Fiction Drabbles. This one appeared in a print magazine called The Drabbler in 2009, but plenty of time has passed and I’m happy to present it to a wider audience.
Another announcement (that makes three for this year, which approaches some sort of record, I think):
My story’s title was inspired by the identically-titled poem, written by Saint Robert Southwell in 1595. This was Southwell’s attempt to give the small and meek creatures of the world their due. Needless to say, I interpreted the title a little differently.
As part of its “Flashback Friday” feature, Escape Pod is rerunning its 2011 audio adaptation of my 2009 short story “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy,” with new commentary by publisher Alasdair Stuart. Partly based on a semi-true story! How can you resist? Check it out!
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to the Drabblecast‘s 2014 interpretation of that very same story. Compare and contrast! (The audio player is all the way at the bottom of the page.)
Just out from Cloaked Press: Spring Into Scifi: 2018 Edition.
Check out my piece, “Look for the Union Label,” wherein we explore the state of the android repair business in the mid-twenty-first century. It’s an attempt at humor. Successful? The world will have to decide. What am I actually making fun of in this story? Unions? Robots? Broadway shows? I’ve never been sure myself, but apparently it works. There are two reviews on Amazon as of this post, and they seemed to like it. Surely that’s good enough.
Stuff I read in 2017. That’s it.
I see it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’m not sure why. I’m not a blogger; this was only ever going to be a means of announcing story publications anyway. I’ll try to do better. At any rate, a few things have happened since last I emerged from hiding, and, for the benefit of this blog’s three readers. Here they are:
(N.B. All of this information, and all other publication info, is always available on the Bibliography tab of this here blog.)
Stuff I read in 2016 (I wish I had found time for more…):
Shameless self-promotion: I have a new story out as of last month called “You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign if Strict Time Records Are Not Kept.” By far, it’s the longest title I’ve ever employed. It’s a direct reference to something, and I wonder if anyone stopping by will recognize it. If you’re under about thirty-five years of age, probably not. Answer at the bottom.
The particulars: “You Can Not Have…” appears in the anthology Keystone Chronicles, edited by Juliana Rew and published by Third Flatiron Press. The premise: any interpretation of “keystone”; that is, something on which other things depend for support, the heart or core of something, the crux, or central principle.
Our Problem-Child: Langerfeld the Moon by Marilyn K. Martin
Hunt, Unrelenting by Sierra July
Coding Haven by Brandon Crilly
Splinters by Maureen Bowden
Desol 8 by Edward Palumbo
Telling the Bees by Judith Field
Daman by Zerrin Otgur
You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign If Strict Time Records Are Not Kept by Desmond Warzel
Racial Memory by Gustavo Bondoni
The White Picket Fence by A. P. Sessler
Every Planet Has One by John Marr
See You on Hel by Bear Kosik
The Keystone Mine by John M. Campbell
How Far Away the Stars by Sam Muller
To Their Wondering Eyes by Sharon Diane King
TANSTAAFL by Bascomb James
Rejection by Larry Lefkowitz
I Should’ve Known Better by Art Lasky
Remembrance of Saint Urho by Damian Sheridan
The title: “You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign if Strict Time Records Are Not Kept” is a direct quote from Gary Gygax’s first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, one of the core rulebooks of the original version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The book was completely chaotic, with no chapter or section breaks, and information imparted in seemingly random order. It’s a glorious dog’s-breakfast of odd charts (prostitute encounter table, anyone?), oft-ignored rules (encumbrance, psionics), and awesome Gygaxian prose that fortified the vocabularies of all of us gamers who were lucky enough to read it (abjuration, castellan, hobilar, menhir, troglodyte…). Right in the middle of a relatively pedestrian section on time management, the above title appears out of nowhere in URGENT CAPITAL LETTERS.
I’ve always been amused by that phrase, and this is one of those cases where I chose it as a title and then wrote a story to fit. “You Can Not Have…” isn’t a D&D-style story at all; rather, it’s a humorous time-travel piece (in fact, fair warning: this one’s a little wacky, even for me). I hope some of you pick up the book and check it out.
One of the libraries in my area held its annual book sale fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. I scored twenty books; not bad, but I’ve done better. The SF/fantasy selection was slim pickings as usual (and if I get there more than thirty minutes after they open, some other nerd always beats me to it and swipes everything), but the key is to search every table, because a lot of stuff gets misfiled.
I can usually find something interesting. Last year I found several first printings of Vonnegut paperbacks in near-perfect shape, as well as an immaculate copy of the first paperback printing of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1963, priced at sixty cents). What happens, I think, is that Granddad, the avid reader, never gets rid of anything, and when his time’s finally up, he’s accumulated an attic’s- or storeroom’s-worth of books, all read once and then laid gently aside. Enter his children and grandchildren; all they want is to empty the house as quickly as possible so they can move in or put it on the market. It doesn’t occur to these regressed-to-the-mean troglodytes even to open the boxes, much less put down their phones and sort through them for something that might grab their attention. Off it all goes to the book sale without a thought. It’s a theory, anyway.
One often finds things tucked inside used books; bookmarks, usually, or innocuous slips of paper pressed into service as bookmarks. In going through my recent acquisitions, though, I found a few I’d classify as unusual.
In a paperback copy of The Husband by Dean Koontz I found a boarding pass for Delta flight 752 from Denver to Atlanta on July 25 (the year is not specified). Congratulations to Louis T. Fantacone for scoring Zone One seating, though I’d have thought Koontz a trifle déclassé for that neighborhood.
In a copy of Fantasy: The Best of 2001 edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, I found two Mega Millions tickets dating from March 2014. They were purchased via the South Carolina lottery, which means, I believe, that they would have to be redeemed in South Carolina. For a few hundred bucks, it wouldn’t be worth bothering; I’d probably just look up a random Humane Society location in that state
and mail them the tickets as a donation. For a jackpot, though, I’d make the trip. Of course, observant readers will have noted that the tickets are no longer valid, and it’s been well over a year since they could have been redeemed. I checked the numbers anyway; of course I did. They didn’t win. I’m glad of that. I’d shudder to think what I might have done if they had.
I also snagged a paperback edition of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Per the copyright page, this edition originates in 1969, but is in its eighteenth printing, which probably places this particular copy sometime in the 1970s. Tucked inside was this photograph:
Handwritten on the back is “Bill Hawkins — Irene / Horner Campground” (as best I can make out, anyway). I doubt googling would do much good; most people of the age they’d be today leave very little trace on the web. I did find one vague, offhand reference to a Horner Campground in New Jersey, but no details were available. Assuming they were a couple, I’d like to think they’re alive and still together. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but on the off-chance anybody does know one or both of these people, point them in the direction of this blog (and ask them what they thought of Brave New World; I haven’t read it yet). And if they’re no longer with us? Well, having someone think and talk about us after we’re gone is the best that most of us can hope for, and they’ve achieved it.
If I had more poetic sensibilities, I could find some higher significance in the convergence of these three objects from such disparate places as Georgia, South Carolina, and New Jersey/wherever; the way they all ended up in a small northwestern Pennsylvania town, and ended up sharing a destiny together in my bag of books. You know, the way Thomas Hardy did with the Titanic and the iceberg. But I can’t. I just think it’s interesting.