Lovecraft’s Nightmares

by wjw on February 21, 2017

H.P. Lovecraft was notoriously afraid of fish.  (As well as Jews, Italians, Irish, Negroes, and immigrants generally.)

But Lovecraft was afraid of ordinary fish.  Cod, for example, or maybe prawns.  What he didn’t know was that the sea was full of stuff that would have caused him to shriek, gibber, and drop away in a dead faint, as his hero Randolph Carter was wont to do when confronted with an eldritch monster from the depths of space and time.

Behold some examples.


Lampreys.  They bore into fish, and maybe even people, in order to suck their blood.  (I’m kind of with Lovecraft on this one.  Lampreys are incredibly creepy.)


What we have here is a mantis shrimp.  (Photo by Scott)  These are ambush predators, up to 18 inches long, that live in holes dug into the sea bottom.  The two protrusions on top are in fact the world’s most advanced, elaborate eye system.  (16 types of color-receptive cones, plus spectral tuning ability.)

When prey wanders within range, the mantis shrimp lunges out of its lair and attacks with specially-adapted front legs resembling those of a praying mantis.  These legs come in two varieties: spears and smashers.  The spears impale the target, the smashers crush it.  Thanks to a special spring-loaded joint, the smashers can smash through a clamshell, a crabshell, a test tube, or an aquarium wall.  In either case, the attack is faster than a .22 bullet, giving the victim no time to respond.

Here’s a video showing the mantis shrimp in action:


This, God help us, is a Bobbitt worm (Eunice aphroditois).  [Photo by Jenny]  The worm was discovered about the time Lorena Bobbitt was in the news, and the name is not entirely without foundation.

Another ambush predator, the Bobbitt lives in a hole in the sea floor, its snapping jaws open like the jaws of a bear trap.  When something tickles one of its feelers, the jaws snap shut with such force that fish are often sliced right in half.  As if this weren’t bad enough, the worm also injects venom into its prey.

The Bobbitt worm can be up to ten feet long.  That’s a hell of a lot of appetite.

Another fine video showing the Bobbitt in action:

Contrary to legend, the female Bobbitt does not castrate its mates.  (They’re broadcast spawners, and there’s nothing to slice off.)

But that doesn’t mean they won’t castrate you.

(Whatever you do, don’t tickle the worm!  Especially underwater.)

Who knows what hideous ichthyic monstrosities Lovecraft would have imagined if he’d known about these critters.  Assuming, of course, that they didn’t drive him completely ’round the bend.

Want to find creepy stuff in the ocean?  You don’t need to travel to R’lyeh.


Totally Not a Game

by wjw on February 17, 2017

An Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.

Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in pranks .

He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.

“Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong-nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer,” Karnavian said. “She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents .”

I wrote this book.  Didn’t I?


My Boskone Schedule

by wjw on February 15, 2017

I’ll be in Boston this weekend for Boskone 54, one of my favorite conventions.  It’s large, it’s literate, it has a very large percentage of professional attendees, and even after all these years it’s still about the books, which is clear the second you walk into the large dealer room, with table after table of (often rare or obscure) volumes by your favorite authors.

At Boskone, events on Friday afternoon are free (including a couple of mine, apparently).  So if you want to see me (or Brandon Sanderson or Jo Walton or any of the other fine guests), but lack the dosh for a ticket, come on Friday afternoon and you’ll be very welcome.

Here’s my schedule, if any of you want to stalk me:

My Toughest Book

Friday 15:00 – 16:00, Burroughs (Westin)

What makes a book difficult to write, or difficult to write well? Is ignorance of the subject matter a barrier? Is knowing too much? We’re always told to “write what you know,” but can this be a trap? How about troubles with plot, character, dialog, or pacing? Our panel of authors recall which of their works had the most arduous gestation.

Brandon Sanderson, Charles Stross, Walter Jon Williams, Darlene Marshall (M), Allen M. Steele


Roger Zelazny: _Lord of Light_

Friday 17:00 – 18:00, Marina 3 (Westin)

This Hugo-winning and Nebula-nominated novel created a sensation 50 years ago. Does it still excite the modern reader? Was its mix of SF and fantasy elements influential on other writers, or did it stand alone? Are the Hindu/Buddhist elements mere decoration, or do they provide a backbone for the story and its world? The book’s episodic structure allows individual chapters to contain complete stories. How do those stories coalesce to create a complete novel?

Walter Jon Williams, Jordin T. Kare, Paul Di Filippo (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Jo Walton


Indie Pub Your Backlist

Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, Marina 2 (Westin)

Do you have old stories that were published ages ago, now lingering in drawers, gathering dust — not getting read? Independent publishers can be a great resource for letting your stories see the light of day again, and drumming up interest from new readers. We’ll discuss ideas on revitalizing your backlist and finding indie publishers for your unpublished early gems.

Walter Jon Williams, Joshua Bilmes (M), Richard Shealy, Juliana Spink Mills, Craig Shaw Gardner


Autographing: Craig Shaw Gardner, Steven Popkes, Melinda Snodgrass, Walter Jon Williams

Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

Ms Melinda Snodgrass, Craig Shaw Gardner, Walter Jon Williams, Steven Popkes


Digital Rights and Other Small Press Traps and Issues

Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Marina 4 (Westin)

How has the revolution in (and evolution of) digital technology affected the SF publishing field? What has the popularity/promise of e-books and of e-publishing in general done to demand, and to the whole publishing process? What are the complications of these media, barely out of their infancy? What do writers, readers, and publishers need to know to avoid running into trouble in these exciting (but dangerous) digital waters?

Darlene Marshall (M), Walter Jon Williams, Neil Clarke


Kaffeeklatsch: Walter Jon Williams

Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, Harbor I – Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

Walter Jon Williams


Best Book EVER!

Sunday 13:00 – 14:00, Harbor II (Westin)

Some books are good. Some books are great. And some are the BEST BOOK EVER! Let’s dish over the works that stand out — that changed the way we think about reading — as well as those that fed our appetite for fine fiction and made us hungry for more. What does it take to top your list of all-time great reads?

Maryelizabeth Yturralde, Walter Jon Williams (M), Emma Caywood, Richard R. Horton


Valentine Special

by wjw on February 14, 2017

sleeper1I’ve written a long Valentine’s Day love letter to Croyd Crenson, Roger Zelazny’s character in the Wild Cards series, thus kicking off a new series, “My Favorite Wild Cards Character (that I didn’t create).”

And while you’re visiting, check out the other content at


Cold Night Special

by wjw on February 13, 2017

IMG_4084A cold, miserable, drizzly day just begs for this cioppino, with shrimp, tilapia, oysters, scallops, and littleneck clams.  Enjoyed along with a tart cabernet sauvignon from Marlborough.

Happy eating, y’all.


An Imaginary Conversation in Which I Triumph Totally

February 11, 2017

As opposed to “an actual conversation,” here’s one I wish I could have.  With any number of writers. ME: I enjoyed your new novel, but there was one part that puzzled me. HIM: What was that? ME: The part about the squidlike alien beings who were fans of Sonic Youth.  I mean, the book’s set […]

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Fly, My Little Ebooks! Fly!

February 11, 2017

May I just stand in croggle-eyed amazement and point out that the 99-cent sale on The Rift is the best ever? The sale was supposed to last one week, but it was extended into the second, and now the third, because the book just kept selling! Shows you what might have happened twenty years ago, if the […]

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Unto the Breach

February 7, 2017

So I’m pleased to announce that I have signed the contract for three more Praxis books. Now I announced the offer in September of 2015, but it took until now to negotiate the contract. What with publishers becoming more monolithic— only five left standing, after all— and feeling threatened by Amazon and new technologies, they’ve reacted […]

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Five Beats per Second

February 5, 2017

An excerpt from the surreal Helzapoppin‘, starring the comedy duo Olsen and Johnson. (Not to mention Slim & Slam, Shemp Howard, and Elisha Cook, Jr., as “the writer.”)  A film which, with its dreamlike action and constant breaking of the fourth wall, would nowadays would be considered metafictional, except the word didn’t exist back in […]

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An Actual Conversation

February 2, 2017

HIM: I don’t know, it’s so hard.  I used to have all these friends, and we talked all the time, but now I can’t keep track of them all. ME:  I think I may have a solution. HIM:  ?? ME:  You know that device in your pocket?  The one you use for texting and browsing […]

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