Terran Prize Awarded!

by wjw on April 22, 2019

LIU Huiying photo 2The Terran Prize for 2019, sponsored by George RR Martin and consisting of a scholarship for a foreign writer to this year’s Taos Toolbox Workshop, has been awarded to Chinese author Zhou Wen (昼温.)

Zhou was born in Jinan, Shandong province, and has a double B.A. in English and finance, and a Master’s degree in translation from Shandong University. She is currently enrolled in the Chinese University of Hong Kong for another Master‘s degree in translation.   She is 24 years old.

As a translator, she has translated into Chinese several Marvel and DC comics, including Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench.

As an author, she’s been published in the Florilegium: Chinese Literature Today, the magazine Life Week, and the new media account Non-Existence. Her short story Silent Syllables won the China Science Fiction Readers’ Choice Award.

Zhou says: “I believe language is the most magical product of the human brain, while writing is also a magic with language. I often use linguistic theory as the core of my story, because language can touch everything in the world and every heart of mankind, as well as trigger a strong resonance among lonely souls. In my works, characters often find their way through a deeper understanding of language.”


The Mead Story

by wjw on April 22, 2019

A friend laid some home-brewed mead on us, and last night we opened a bottle and shared it with some friends who’d never had mead before.  A strong, sweet honey odor and a taste to match.  Pretty nice.

All of which reminded me of the time I tried to brew some mead.

I was maybe nineteen and had found a recipe somewhere.  I bought the ingredients, and my friend Jeff offered the use of his kitchen.

Jeff was my age and into theater, and in fact lived in a theater annex.  The theater was a former church in Old Town, and the attached parsonage had been turned into an apartment.  Jeff shared this apartment with a roommate, a middle-aged gay man (also into theater) who lived with his teenaged boyfriend.   Relations among this diverse cast of characters were amiable, especially considering how eccentric we all were, though I was a little surprised by the duo’s habit of wandering around the apartment in very little clothing. I suppose that if I were as buff as they, I might have been seen in Speedos more often myself.

So Jeff and I brewed up our mead, which was decanted into a two-gallon glass container.  Jeff had a fridge in his bedroom closet, and the mead was put to rest in the fridge overnight, with a “floating cap,” a screw cap left very loose, to allow fermentation gases to escape.  When we went to sleep, I crashed in a sleeping bag on the floor of Jeff’s room.

Around four in the morning there was an enormous explosion as the mead detonated.  The floating cap had not floated far enough.  The detonation not only blew open the refrigerator door and sprayed the closet with glass shrapnel, it knocked down the refrigerator shelving and threw the contents of the fridge onto the floor.

It was dark and no one had any idea what had happened.  I thought there had been some horrific accident and was doing my best to escape my sleeping bag, which resisted with all its power.  Jeff assumed we were under attack, leaped atop his bed, seized his broadsword, and began issuing battle cries.  (Jeff was totally the sort of person who would have a broadsword waiting by his bed.)

This was the situation when the two roommates arrived and rather sensibly turned on the light.

So, reader, picture the tableaux: two nearly-naked men in Speedos, one lunatic waving a broadsword and screaming “SOULS FOR ARIOCH!“, and me engaged in mortal combat with my sleeping bag.

The rest of the evening was anticlimactic, featuring as it did cleanup.  The room reeked of mead for weeks.


Inverted Soup Bowl

by wjw on April 17, 2019

IMG_0191Tonight’s sunshower sunset.


Soldier of Arete

by wjw on April 16, 2019

Gene_Wolfe,_2005Alas.  According to multiple sources Gene Wolfe has died at the age of 87 in his Illinois home.

I’ve been on a mini-binge of Gene’s books lately, mostly recently Home Fires, and I think the mini-binge will have to continue.

I admired Gene’s plain, clear style, which was an ideal surface beneath which to hide the machinations of his unreliable narrators, and to gracefully unwind his diabolically complicated plots.

(Not that all his unreliable narrators were deliberately trying to deceive.  Some just weren’t very bright, or had limited access to information.  One was dead.  Latro in the Soldier series lost his memory every time he went to sleep.  The point was that, for whatever reason, readers couldn’t fully trust the stories they were being told, and had to navigate Wolfe’s terrain with eyes open, just as his narrators did.)

And sometimes the readers were better informed than the characters were.  If you were paying attention, you’d know that Patera Silk in the Long Sun series had been enlightened by the God of Abraham.  Silk consorts with publicans and sinners, has a relationship with a prostitute, Hyacinth, and has an obligation to save the world, or at any rate the Whorl.  But he manages to sideslip the fate that is intended for him, marries Hyacinth, and slip-slides away to, apparently, live happily ever after.

Gene became a Catholic in order to wed Rosemary, but he must have had an unconventional view of his own religion.  The Long Sun books could be read as a long allegory of the Gnostic Heresy, for example.  (Not that this should deter you from reading the books, which are Gene’s masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned.)

In person Gene was amiable and erudite and willing to be amusing, though he also had a steely temper that would sometimes flare (though I never witnessed it in person).   He’d fought in Korea and also boxed— Gene and I once compared our boxing scars.  (Well, mine weren’t boxing scars, they were inflicted by a martial artist wearing boxing gloves, so they should count..)  Gene got his scars during the same bout, and so had I (though in my case it was supposed to be practice).

And Gene could be inspiring, sometimes when he wasn’t intending to be.  During a convention panel about workshops, when listening to Gene, the entire plot of Aristoi unfolded in my head, as if I were Patera Silk being enlightened by the Outsider.  I have no memory of what Gene was saying, except that I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about Aristoi.

Harlan Ellison said of Gene that he was “engaged in the holy chore of writing every other author under the table.”  A chore at which he succeeded, and mightily.


Metropolitan for the Masses

by wjw on April 11, 2019


My novel Metropolitan is now on sale for $0.99, or for whatever $0.99 is worth in your local currency.  The ebook may be found at the following online retailers:

 AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords, Apple, Google, Kobo

[NOTE: the price has not yet dropped on Kobo, but it should.  Very soon now.  Really.]

I’m stupidly proud of this book, and I think that if any of my works is remembered 100 years from now, it will probably be this one.

Here’s your night’s blurb:

NOMINATED FOR A NEBULA AWARD. Walter Jon Williams’ classic science fantasy Metropolitan is once again available for a new generation of readers.

Aiah has fought her way from poverty and discovered a limitless source of plasm, the mysterious substance that powers the world-city. Her discovery soon involves her with Constantine, the charismatic, dangerous, seductive revolutionary who plans to overthrow, not simply the government, but the cosmic order . . .

“A spectacular blend of fantastic science, high politics, and low intrigue . . . Williams’s world and characters are richly imagined yet utterly real.”
–Melissa Scott

“Entertaining . . . Williams understands that science fiction can breathe life into language . . . [His] writing is always lean, lively and engaging.
—New York Times Book Review

“Blends SF aspects with noir stylings to create a potent atmosphere or urban dystopia . . . Ever the expert storyteller, Williams provides more than enough suspense.”
—Publishers Weekly


No Longer Anonymous

April 9, 2019

Friend of the blog Anonymous— I presume not the entire hacker collective— tells me that the audio book of City on Fire is available! Go forth and listen! (While checking to see where I could find the book, I discovered that the reader reviews of City on Fire on Amazon all properly belong to a more recent book of […]

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April 4, 2019

This year I am once again in Portales, NM, the cultural capital of the Llano Estecado, for the Jack Williamson Lectureship.  The usual gang of fun-lovers is here, including Connie, Courtney, and Cordelia Willis, Toolbox survivors Sheila Hartney and Lauren Teffeau, Emily Mah, Sarena Ulibarri, and many others. Cordelia, who works in a crime lab […]

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Toolbox Nominees!

April 2, 2019

Once again Hugo voters have inexplicably failed to recognize my greatness, but I’m very pleased to note that they have recognized the greatness of a number of veterans of Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy. Kelly Robson got a novella nomination for “God, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.” Simone Heller received […]

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Microsoft Hurts Kitten!

March 30, 2019

Microsoft continues their slide down the slippery slope into security work by going after the Iranian hacking group Charming Kitten, also known as Ajax, Phosphorous, and APT35.  They’ve successfully petitioned a court to take over the group’s 99 domains, which were used in spear-phishing attacks on journalists and dissidents. Last summer, they also took down a […]

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“Black as the Pit From Pole to Pole!”

March 27, 2019

I have lately been enjoying some examples of black humor, which may confirm my moral depravity the eyes of some of you, but if so I think you’re wrong.  According to Wylie Sypher, black comedy strengthens the oppressed and damages the morale of the oppressors.  “To be able to laugh at evil and error means […]

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