I’m pleased to announce that my story, “Legend of the Secret Masterpiece,” will appear in the upcoming steampunk-wuxia anthology, Shanghai Steam. It’ll be released at World Fantasy Convention, November 1-4, 2012.

From ancient China to a future Mars, from the British Empire to the Old West, 19 authors show you worlds with alcohol fuelled dragons, philosophical automatons, and Qi-powered machines both wondrous and strange in tales of vengeance, paper lantern revolutions, and flying monks.

Shanghai Steam is a unique mashup of steampunk and the Chinese literary genre known as Wuxia (loosely translated as martial hero).

Stories by:

Camille Alexa, Shen Braun, Amanda Clark, Ray Dean, Tim Ford, Laurel Anne Hill, Minsoo Kang, William H. Keith, Crystal Koo, Frank Larnerd, Emily Mah, Derwin Mak, Brent Nichols, Frances Pauli, Jennifer Rahn, Tim Reynolds, Julia A. Rosenthal, Nick Tramdack, K. H. Vaughan.

This was my Week 6 Clarion West story, so big thanks to Charles Stross and all my CW2011 classmates who helped me workshop this tale!


It’s nice that the Weird Tales publisher rescinded their baffling decision to publish an excerpt from poorly written, racist novel Saving the Pearls: Revealing Eden.

However, in the process they also nuked the original page and comment thread.

I think that’s a shame. So for lulz, because my comment was one of those nuked, and because urge to pile on is sometimes irresistible, I’ve ganked an earlier version of the page from google cache.

Because the copy/paste function didn’t let me copy the names of the posters, I’ve screenshotted it all for now. (Unfortunately there were some comments that were lost because of the time the cache was made, if anyone else has screenshots of the lost comments I’ll be glad to add them.)

It will be sure to go down in the annals of fail.

Presented w/o further comment.

Edit: Thanks to Sean Wallace for a better screencap.

Second edit: Since people may want to copy/paste from Marvin Kaye’s original post,  I’m including a text version too.

I have been an anthologist and magazine editor for most of my life, and as of last year became copublisher and editor of Weird Tales, America’s oldest fantasy magazine. In the upcoming issue, we are publishing the first chapter of Victoria Foyt’s SF novel, Saving the Pearls: Revealing Eden (the subtitle after the colon is an indication that the story will continue in a subsequent novel).

Weird Tales seldom prints SF, but this story is a compelling view of a world that didn’t listen to the warnings of ecologists, and a world that has developed a reverse racism: blacks dominating and detesting not just whites, but latinos and albinos, the few that still survive of the latter are hunted down and slaughtered.

It is the same literary technique employed in the off-Broadway musical a few years back, Zanna, Don’t!, set in a world where homosexuality is the norm, and a pair of heterosexual lovers are therefore socially condemned.

Racism is an atrocity, and that is the backbone of this book. That is very clear to anyone with an appreciation for irony who reads it.

I have noted the counterarguments that some Amazon readers have launched against the book and its author, and while I strongly disagree, this is America and they have the right to express their opinion(s).

But I also have been told that they have not stopped there, but also have attacked Amazon readers who describe the book in positive terms. I do not know if this is true, but if it is, it is mean-spirited, espcially if they have not read the entire book before condemning it, a charge that has also been leveled against some of them. Again, I do not know if this is true, or an exaggeration, but if these actions have, in fact, been performed, than I wish those who have done so a blessing and a curse.

The blessing is to wish they acquire sufficient wit, wisdom and depth of literary analysis to understand what they read, and also the compassion not to attack others merely because they hold a different opinion.

The curse is an integral part of the blessing…for if they do acquire those virtues, they will then necessarily look at their own behaviour, and be thoroughly ashamed.




Unlike certain memes, I’ve been busy working on a large number of new projects… and so this blog has been getting a little less love. 

But I hope to bring a world of writing analysis, fun quotes, devious technical breakdowns, and JRPG screenshots back to you as soon as I can.



I’ve been following the Cerebus Kickstarter with interest. Dave Sim, the comic’s creator, has already raised $40,000 from nerds to turn his 300-issue magnum opus into digital form.

I was one of the nerds…

Cerebus and its associated columns, letters, etc, is very interesting reading if you’re interested in the technical and business aspects of making comics. The formal stuff Dave Sim does in this comic, especially when it comes to lettering, is so ingenious. Gerhard’s beautiful backgrounds never falter either. Don’t start reading at the beginning, some say to start with Church and State or High Society… I found a copy of Melmoth by chance at the Mercer County Public Library when I was a kid.

The story starts off as the story of a magic ardvark in a sword-and-sorcery setting, but after 40 or so self-published issues the storyline took on many political dimensions. Cerebus, the barbarian aardvark main character, becomes prime minster, pope, houseguest, bartender, and lover. Cameos of famous historical figures like Groucho Marx and Margaret Thatcher are everywhere.

From Jaka’s Story

But questionable later storylines that had comics fans up at arms at Sim. I was one of these too… I’d waited a long time to get to the epic end of this absorbing saga, and I get 100+ issues of strangely hypnotizing anti-feminist stuff that is also some of the best technical work in comics.

Later in the comic’s 300 issue self-owned self-published run, Sim underwent a religious conversion to a credo based on his own deductions about women in Canada, the Beatles, Modernist writers, etc. Then he started reading the Torah. As a result, the comic’s themes don’t hang together — but that’s perhaps to be expected from a comic book that took 25 years of the guy’s life to make.

Cerebus disappointed me as a reader, but as a technician, I was always delighted… that’s the frustrating thing about Dave Sim and Gerhard’s comic.

From Going Home


Space Argument


Saw this on M John Harrison’s twitter & had to repost it…

There’s a genre that ought to be called Space Argument…


…In Space Argument, cyphers with made up names would go on & on at one another for page after page, taking up positions…


…on problems that don’t now & almost certainly never will exist. It would be serious stuff, with proper rhetoric, &…


…eventually it would always come down to arguing about the words in use, 73% of which would be made up…


…& have nothing resembling a real concept attached to them, so that when you argued about the word you weren’t arguing about anything…


…Some people like books of that kind, Space Argument books; but I can only read a page or two without screaming & wanting to kill…


…Essentially I’d rather have Lizard Men from Deep Time.

Not a bad analysis amirite?

“The Comeback,” an old story of mine (originally written fall 2009 and subsequently rewritten) is up at Phantasmacore.

It’s about romance and regret in a steampunk world where martial arts has become big business.


Check it out!

Conventional wisdom says that readers enjoy crime novels because they like picking up the clues that let them try their hand at solving the mystery. Readers of fiction in all its forms also like picking up the clues to the emotional implications of a character’s actions, body language, and dialogue. When you revise your manuscript, look for the specific ways you offer those deeper dimensions.

Don’t Murder Your Mystery

One of the things I was constantly hearing at Clarion West was that you can sometimes get a bigger effect out of a reaction description if you omit the abstract agent of “shock” “pity” “horror”, or whatever it is that causes the reaction.

Horror ran up Cynthia’s spine as she whirled to face him.


A cold tingle ran up Cynthia’s spine as she whirled to face him.

The claim is that in this case, the second sentence is superior to the first because it permits the reader to reconstruct from context what the first states flatly.

If it’s not already evident from context that Cynthia feels horror, something’s wrong with the scene.

In fiction (as well as maybe in reality) abstraction rarely wins out over concrete detail, especially gestural detail.

Apropos of gesture, I recently read in The Secret Language of Success that children who learn to speak early tend to be less aware of body language than kids who speak later. Presumably this is because linguistically apt kiddos are forced to rely on body-language less.

And those early talkers are probably more likely to grow up and become writers than the other kids…

As a result, writers may have a double challenge when it comes to writing Cynthia’s reaction. Not only do we need to sublimate our “core content” (horror) into gestural language that people can understand, but we may be at a disadvantage when it comes to noticing gestures at all. 

Because I’m the kind of person who never pays much attention to body language unless it’s Saturday night and I’m trying to find out if a cute boy wants to kiss me, I was frustrated by this realization.

So much so that it could only come out in a 4chan-style greentext story…

>spend 15 years in school paying attention to language’s propositional content and ignoring body posture, speech tics, etc

>think I’m ignoring the inessential in favor of what Really Matters

>become fiction writer

>realize that you can’t write good scenes without being a good observer of gesture & posture

Nevertheless, we’ve got to learn how to use body language, so we might as well get started now. The comfort of course is that we body language illiterates can at least choose other details… some of the time. The rest of the time, we’ve just got to learn how to watch people.

It was always such little details rather than the lofty ideas which went straight to her heart.

-W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

On the topic of detail winning over abstraction, I also have a nice music theory quote to share. In his edition of Berlioz’ Treatise on Instrumentation, Richard Strauss remarks that a single bow marking is…

often more effective than the most eloquent expression marks such as “gay”, “grazioso”, “spirited”, “smiling”, “defiant”, “furious”, etc. Our worthy instrumentalists and their dear conductors pay very little attention to them.

As a writer, I’ve finally accepted the fact that a very good proportion of Hemingway’s iceberg beeds to stay the hell below the water-line. The question now becomes one of finding oblique ways of using concrete details to state what might (less effectively) be put flat on the page.

I wish I could say more about how to do this, but it’s probably the number one challenge I’m facing right now as a writer. Maybe I’ll never get over it.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: