Beautiful Artifact

by wjw on June 12, 2018

IMG_2806A goodie arrived in the post today.  My own personal copy of the signed, illustrated, slipcased limited edition Subterranean Press hardback edition of The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois, and featuring my story “The Triumph of Virtue.”

There are other stories as well, by minor authors like George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, CJ Cherryh, Elizabeth Bear, Daniel Abraham, Scott Lynch, and many more.

Each story is illustrated by Ken Laager, and there are also full-color plates and a dust jacket.

The Subterranean web site says it’s out of print, but that just means that every copy has been bought up by dealers, and you’ll have to buy from them.

The limited edition goes for $250, but I’ll bet you can find it cheaper here and there.  There is also a “lettered edition” for $750, but apparently I don’t get one of those.

Sometime in the next year, it’s likely you’ll have a birthday.  You’ll want something nice for your birthday, right?  Just sayin’.

[For more about The Book of Swords, look here and here.]

{ 1 comment }

Stable Relationships for Spies

by wjw on June 12, 2018

250px-Emblem_Stasi.svgOne TV drama I watched from first to last was The Americans, about two married Soviet spies living in D.C. in the 1980s.  Mr and Mrs Jennings bugged American officials, ran networks, eliminated defectors, seduced informants, raised one of their two children to be a spy, and racked up a surprisingly large body count among the enemies of socialism— including coming within an ace of assassinating Casper Weinberger.

Turns out that the East German Stasi had a manual for all that.  Unlike the Jennings family of the KGB, who were more or less thrown together just before setting out for the West, the Stasi emphasized recruiting couples who had both a committed relationship and were committed to Marxist-Leninism.

The sacrifices, risks, and importance of the job also meant that it could only be performed by the most loyal communists. Candidates would need “Marxist-Leninist convictions, knowledge of the processes of social development, and an understanding of the requirements of the current and future class struggle.” In particular, they had to be reliable Party members who had demonstrated unwavering loyalty to the Soviet Union. Finally, to provide companionship and support in long and lonely missions, potential residents needed to be married to a willing co-conspirator.

Whether running a spy ring in the West or being separated for operational reasons, “harmony and stability” in the marriage was critical. Recruiters would need to collect reliable facts on the subject, including the couple’s respective pre-marital relationships, power dynamics, and points of tension.  The manual also called for the collection of intelligence on the couple’s sex lives, including whether “both partners are satisfied” and “which wishes are being voiced and fulfilled.” To gather these facts, the Stasi manual helpfully suggested surveilling the candidate couple’s apartment and reading their mail.

If the KGB had followed that line of inquiry with the Jenningses, they might have saved themselves a lot of grief.

Following the manual, the DDR succeeded in getting at least 30 illegals inside West Germany, which meant at least 15 couples happy in bed and happy working for world revolution.

Where are those illegals now, I wonder?  Still running their networks on behalf of a cause that collapsed nearly thirty years ago?  Earning a nice salary working for some Russian oligarch?  Or quietly retired, being wheeled around the old folks’ home by Turkish guest-workers?

Unless a bunch of new files turn up, we’ll probably never know.

{ 3 comments }

Small Batch

by wjw on June 10, 2018

I’m fond of a whisky of a cold evening, and sometimes a warm evening too, and I’m particularly fond of Scotch.  I’ve enjoyed Irish, too, but I’ve never much cared for bourbon or rye.

Maybe I was onto something without knowing it.  Turns out that a lot of American whiskies labeled “small-batch” or “hand-crafted” are all produced in the same distillery in Indiana.

Bulleit “Frontier” Whiskey, for instance, is owned by multinational spirits conglomerate Diageo. For years, it sourced much of its bourbon and rye from MGP, a wholesale distiller. Only after the brand became established did Diageo open a distillery in Kentucky, where the product has been made since 2016.

 Templeton Rye — marketed as Al Capone’s favorite whiskey and proud product of Templeton, Iowa — is also distilled by MGP. Tincup Whiskey, a self-described “mountain whiskey” replete with commercials conjuring a frontiersman image and Rocky Mountain ethos, is mostly MGP, too.

Since “small-batch,” “hand-crafted,” and “craft” have no legal meaning, anybody can apply the terms to their product.  I can employ those terms any time I make a pitcher of margaritas.

And nobody’s saying that MGP (the country’s fifth-largest distiller) makes crap whiskey.  It’s just that when MGP’s product is marketed by another label, that label might choose to market its product deceptively.

So next time you look at a small-batch bourbon or rye, and the label tells you that’s it’s made using great-grandpappy’s recipe from before Prohibition, you might want to be a little skeptical, and see if the small print on the label says “Distilled in Indiana.”

As for producing the well-known 10-year-old straight bourbon, it’s understandable why Widow Jane sources that — opened in 2012, the distillery isn’t old enough to produce a 10-year varietal.

As for me, I’ll stick to Scotch.

{ 7 comments }

Still Lurid

by wjw on June 8, 2018

IMG_2803Here’s another lurid sunset photo.  I think this one has little or nothing to do with any forest fires that may still be burning, but more to do with the cloudburst that passed just before I snapped the picture.  The setting sun is causing storm clouds to glow red.

The big forest fire in northern New Mexico has completely dropped out of the news over the last four days, which tells me that the fire is more or less contained and that the evacuated towns of Cimarron and Ute Park were not incinerated.

Cimarron has an interesting history.  It was founded around 1850 by Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell, a mountain man turned land baron, who at one time was the largest private landowner in the United States.  He owned this huge stretch of mostly empty land in Colfax County, and he had a problem with squatters who homesteaded the area without his permission.  He build Cimarron because he could, and because he thought his land was so vast that it needed a kind of capital.

One of the town’s landmarks is the St. James Hotel, once a territorial-style showplace, now a B&B.  Jesse James stayed there, under his alias RH Howard, and so did the Earp family, Bat Masterson, Kit Carson, and others.

When the hotel was renovated in 1901, they found more than 400 bullets in the ceiling over the bar.  The builders, aware of the danger from local gunslingers, built the ceiling of extra-thick timbers so the guests above wouldn’t be killed in their sleep.

So that landmark, and many others, are spared the flames, at least until the next fire comes to Droughtland.

{ 0 comments }

Read Like a Dinosaur

by wjw on June 4, 2018

9780974161990_p0_v1_s550x406When I was out of town a new collection from Mad Cow Press arrived on my doorstep, a collection that features my story “Dinosaurs,” which was nominated for a Hugo Award.

From the title, A Fistful of Dinosaurs, you might guess what the collection is about, and if you have any doubts remaining, a glance at the cover should resolve them.

In addition to “Dinosaurs,” the story features “Think Like a Dinosaur” by James Patrick Kelly, and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”— none of which, it must be admitted, have actual dinosaurs in them, but which instead feature our ideas about dinosaurs.

But there are plenty of perfectly genuine dinosaurs rampaging through the collection, provided by writers like Steve Rasnic Ten, Richard Chwedyk, Bruce Holland Rogers, Robert J Sawyer, Lou J Berger, Carol Emschwiller, Denise E Dora, Rebecca Hodgkins, Wayne Faust, Mario Acevedo, Kent Johnson, Lucy Taylor, and Jamie Ferguson.

The collection can be ordered from your favorite bookstore, so if you’re ready for some saw-toothed, flesh-rending action, you should definitely check this out.

{ 2 comments }

Lurid

June 1, 2018

The sunsets are murky and disturbing these days.  Droughtland is burning down. The snowpack last winter was one-third of normal, whatever “normal” is these days, and the forest fires have already started.  A fire— “one hundred percent uncontained” —is raging in Ute Park in the north of New Mexico, and other fires blaze here and […]

Read the full article →

Nemesis

May 31, 2018

Here I am preparing for a new career as a Bond villain.  All I need is a white Persian cat and a volcano lair. As part of my preparation for this career shift, I’ve had an operation for a cataract.  Which was done in a couple hours in the doctor’s offices, by a specialist flown […]

Read the full article →

Whereat I Have Been

May 30, 2018

I spent all last week at the Rio Hondo workshop, which I ran with the able assistance of Maureen McHugh.  The company was excellent, the critique smart, and you’ll all be seeing the workshop’s stories appearing in magazines and anthologies over the next couple years. And, not least, the food and drink were really excellent. I […]

Read the full article →

Passing of a Titan

May 29, 2018

Here’s a photo of Gardner Dozois and me, taken quite a number of years ago.  I believe we are at a signing or other function and no one else showed up, despite our tempting passers-by with our manifestly seductive appearance. Gardner passed away a few days ago of complications from an infection.  He was 70. […]

Read the full article →

A T. Rex is Reading My Mind!

May 17, 2018

This edition of Dinosaur Comics pretty much sums what’s been going on in my head since I bought the latest model MacBook. If part of this isn’t showing up on your screen (darn MacBook anyway!), click on the art to get the whole picture. Copyright (c) 2018 by the excellent Ryan North.

Read the full article →

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.