shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


i'm a liar baby

I have a mysterious illness and also no desire to tally the subscriptions from Mr. Rowe's email for the drawing so:

You can still subscribe until midnight tonight and be entered into the drawing.

The drawing for the prize will happen Sunday night or Monday. In other words: as soon as we get home. (I have to go to North Carolina and get Mr. Rowe, you see. And there may be some holiday shenanigans as well.)

I'll post some quizzes at UnCommonwealth for a last password hurrah before he gets access to the interweb and changes it!

Updated to add: Even a mysterious illness can be made better by a little impromptu shopping expedition. Ah, the slight tinge of guilt mixed with the joy of new clothes (on sale, of course): is there anything quite like it? Didn't think so.


what to get your nephew for xmas

The newly made-over Number One Hit Song* goes to the Wired NextFest Opening and does tell:

There were those robot vacuum cleaners that everyone's so fucking hot about. And, finally, there was the Philip K Dick android.

I loved the Philip K Dick robot. It was set up in a trailer that was supposed to be his living room and was sitting on a ratty couch with top of its head missing and a bunch of wires sticking out the back. It had been loaded with every word that PKD had written or said in an interview and could answer general questions (where were you born? What's your favorite movie? Etc.) as well as talk about his work. It was fitted with face recognition software too, so it scans the crowd looking for faces and looks you right in the eye when it talks to you. That was creepy enough, but the fact that you can tell exactly how much it hated the fact that you, unlike him, were alive and not on display was didn't help. I talked to the guys who built it as I waited in line and asked them if they were ever creeped out themselves. One of them told me that as they were getting ready to bring him to Chicago (from Memphis), a cord got wrapped around the robot's arm and, as they walked away, the arm seemed to move by itself, causing him to freak out.

*Extreme Blog Makeover, coming soon to an imaginary television near you

this is timely

Quinn Dalton has a piece on the dangers of anonymous fiction reviews over at Mediabistro:

I know from my limited experience with book reviewing—I've only written a couple over the past few years because it is time-consuming, and you don't get paid much, if at all—that it takes a certain amount of courage to attach one's name to a review, particularly when the verdict isn't all positive. Chalk it up to a fundamental weakness in human nature, but as a reader, I want to like the book I give my time and imagination to. Still, I'm willing to point out the flaws and failures, too, and let the readers decide whether the subject matter or the author, if an already-known entity, still attracts them enough to take their chances.

While I agree that anonymity can foster greater honesty in reviews, I believe it also combines a false image of objectivity with the freedom to go beyond honesty into gratuitous harshness. Former Kirkus reviewer Jonathan Taylor recalled how he occasionally enjoyed writing scathing reviews, and that, furthermore, "I was even happy that it was anonymous, that my opinion and my voice were cloaked in whatever institutional authority Kirkus had."

lipton vs. btk

Check out this eerie photographic choice over at Blottered.

Blottered's an excellent multi-contributor blog that deals with crimes and the news stories they yield. I've been loving it ever since the wiley Ms. Weinman linked to one of her own posts there a week or so ago.

last call for fabulous prize

Just a quick reminder that there's one day left in the subscription drive for Say... Reup or buy a new subscription and lock in a $5 per issue price (U.S.) and get a chance to win a limited edition chapbook that looks like this:

In the US, only 10 dollars:

In Canada, only 11 dollars:

Other countries, only 12 dollars:

Or at Project Pulp.

Getting to Glasgow's not cheap people!

read till you drop

Dan Wickett, over at his fab new blog (welcome to the darker side), has an e-panel with reading series directors. It includes one lovely and talented Erin Keane.

In response to one question she sez:

You know, usually our readers are an absolute delight, but of course there’s always one…. The aforementioned publisher did have a dud. This one guy, an older gentleman, was the first in a line-up of three poets. He had been rescheduled from another month and didn’t really fit with the other readers (he writes a lot of short meditative nature pieces while the other two are rollicking postmodern fun types), but we started to be concerned when he asked for a chair to sit in on stage. Well, OK. He might have health problems. Then he dragged what looked like a metric ton of poems, both loose and bound, up on stage, sat down, and proceeded to read for at least a half-hour. Our readers get 10 minutes each, and we have to time our shows down to the minute because there are other events scheduled for our space after us. We tried to catch his eye to give him a signal, but he never looked up from the pages. At all. It was agony, he’d give a 90 second set-up for a haiku. It was like he was reading to himself, no sense of the audience or the feeling in the house. Any time I think that the audience isn’t having the best time ever, I worry that we’ve lost them for good. The audience was one massive set of rolled eyes, and what’s worse, the next two readers had to cut their sets short because of him. I felt so horrible for the other readers because they had traveled to be there, too. Embarrassing and awful, and the Sit Down Time Bandit (who’s somewhat of a Big Name in Kentucky) will not be invited back.

A nice way to start the morning.


happy mail

Today, an issue of F&SF* with THREE stories by women in it (and one of them M. Rickert, yay!). And also, a package from Unbridled Books containing Deborah Noyes' first novel Angel and Apostle, which looks amazing. I thought the Noyes-edited YA anthology Gothic! was excellent. The people at Unbridled seem to have uniformly wonderful, interesting taste that drives what they publish; I am becoming a huge fan.

Good mail day.

*They haven't actually updated the website yet, doesn't look like.


So, sometimes our wireless network goes down and Mr. Rowe works the special magic, usually on the phone with the Raleigh Web Bunny for a consult. It was down this morning when I got up. I jiggled the cords going into the modem, gave up and ate breakfast. I figured I'd just go to the library for the rest of the week.

Until Mr. Rowe revealed the secret of the wireless magic: UNPLUG everything and PLUG it back in.

Works like a charm.

Anyway, someone blew the quiz game, but I will persist even having been discovered. Perhaps with even more hideous quizzes by the day. Because now that he knows he also knows he. can't. stop. the. quizzes. until. at. least. Friday.

Go see. (And send heinous quiz pointers.)

It's back to the book for me. Writing. Almost forgot what it's like when it's going well.


big bride

Somehow I missed Mr. Schwartz's detail of a certain monstrous wedding:

You are cordially invited
to witness the union of
Marta Stuyvesant-Brown
To Godzilla, King of the Monsters
3 O'Clock P.M.
Saturday, June 18


is it April Fool's again already?

"Writer Zoran Zivkovic's mystifying incarceration in Belgrade Zoo." With accompanying photo of extremely amused-looking author. He's apparently being tortured/inspired by a flute-playing fellow inmate.

(Via JL.)

This reminds me of all those fundraising drives when I was in grade school where you raised money and they would "arrest" your teachers or whoever and keep them in an extremely public jail cell for whatever amount of time you paid for. I loved it that there was always at least one teacher who bolted, as if it was a real jail. Once, our gym/math teacher stole a school bus to escape.

let's talk about slush

JJA over at The Slush God Speaketh interviews Ms. Kelly Link about slush, the limitations of SF, slush, stories she likes, slush, favorite time-killing techniques, and slush.

Good little interview - go read! (And I say it's good not just because she says "The Voluntary State" is her favorite story of the year. Really.) (I knew that already.)

And, oh, by the way: have you bought Magic for Beginners yet?

monday hangovers

Scott Esposito points you to a list of free stuff by a bunch of great authors, courtesy of The Guardian.

Longish thread over at The Dark Cabal about gender exploration in SF, pro and con.

A MeFi entry linking to various things (RIP). Oh, how I loved that site back in the day.

Beatrice mentions the latest electronic boook giveaways by Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross and the impact on sales (linking to this Book Standard article). I still believe that Alan DeNiro summed up the whole Science Fiction Writers of America controversy over piracy and the fear fear fear of giving away work for free here. Aargh, matey!

Laila Lalami adds to the growing body of raves for The Hummingbird's Daughter, which is definitely on my TBR list

Why cyclists wear black pants (thanks, Justine!).

What quiz will I post next?


things to do while the cat is away

Since the "What are you going to do with yourself this week?" emails are rolling in re: how the Bond/George Rowe the Dog homefront denizens plan to fill their hours while Christopher is off doing the Sycamore Hill thing, I thought I'd make an informative list.

1. Mr. Rowe said he was going to ask me to guest blog. He actually didn't, because that was just a joke. However, I do know his password. I also know that he really doesn't like putting up results to whatever little quiz is of the moment and that sort of thing, though sometimes he will if I make him. So each day this week I'll be posting the results to a little quiz over at UnCommonwealth. It's up to you to decide whether I answered the questions as myself or as I thought he might answer them. And YOU CAN PLAY ALONG: I urge you all to pick these up on your own sites and make sure you say Via Christopher Rowe -- you see, there's no Internet and barely any phone up at Syc Hill, so he will only find out about this when he comes back and begins to catch up on his blog-reading. Here's the first one, appropriately enough asking "Which Bond Girl are you?"

2. Clean the house and keep it clean all week.

3. Write a fucking lot. I plan to get as close to finishing as possible or actually finish the revision on Girl's Gang. (Note: This item will consume most of my "free" time.)

4. Take George the Dog outside whenever he wants to go.

5. Water the plants and pray for rain.

6. Sleep on the side of the bed with the alarm clock. Hope that brain can be reset to recognize that when it goes off it means me.

7. Finish A Princess of Roumania.

8. Run a toll booth.

9. Okay, not really. I will need all my peeps on hand when I run the toll booth, as you know.

10. Whatever I want. Thus meaning I could decide to do none of these things after all. But I probably will do them anyway. But only because I want to.

trust your kid who reads

The Wall Street Journal notices that many YA books deal with "adult" subject matter in a sophisticated way. Gasp! Teach Me gets mentioned, as does How I Live Now. (And, uh, yeah, OF COURSE, The Rainbow Party, which I am sick sick sick of hearing about.)

It's the summer book season: Do you know what your child is reading? To appeal to teens brought up on suggestive music videos and cable-TV shows, publishers are releasing more books full of mature themes and unflinching portrayals of sexual activity, with young protagonists the same age as their target readers. One publisher is venturing beyond its titles on dragons and bunnies with "Claiming Georgia Tate," about a 12-year-old girl whose father pressures her into a sexual relationship and makes her dress like a prostitute. In "Looking for Alaska," prep-school students watch pornography and pass the time binge-drinking. Coming this fall is "Teach Me," in which a male high-school teacher has sex with a student.

And kids seem to be responding: Young-adult fiction -- which has come to be associated with the edgy titles -- is one of the book industry's healthiest segments. Targeting the 12-and-up age group, the segment's sales are up 23% since 1999, according to estimates by industry analyst Albert Greco, a Fordham University marketing professor. (Adult sales in the same period were down slightly more than 1%, according to the Book Industry Study Group.) The young-adult category's top seller by far is the "Harry Potter" franchise, and when the series' last book came out in 2003, Mr. Greco estimates it accounted for almost half of the segment's $406 million in sales. But for children who've outgrown young wizards or just want something else to read, publishers are releasing more risqué titles in the young-adult segment, many of them aimed at teen girls. Last year, even without a new "Potter" book, overall revenue in the young-adult segment increased to $410 million, estimates Mr. Greco. In all, there were more than 21,000 new kids' titles released in 2004 -- double the number in 2002, according to R.R. Bowker in New Providence, N.J., which collects publishing data.

They also sifted through 100 of the season's top YA titles and make some recommendations on whether parents should read first and for propriety of material.


Mr. Rowe has been delivered to the Middle of Nowhere in the Mountains of North Carolina to discuss stories with a bunch of other folks for the next week. The trip was relatively painless and there was the joy of seeing Mrs. and Mr. Tingle Alley. Kelly brought me some goodies from BEA, including an ARC of one of the titles I've been most awaiting this year -- Paul Park's new book A Princess of Roumania. It's FABULOUS so far, completely living up to the hype. You will want this book. This is what high fantasy should be. I'll have more to say once I've finished it.

(And if that doesn't convince you, go read this recentish interview with Park about it.)

And, of course, the best thing of all is that Kelly's new collection Magic for Beginners is now a real live object that you can procure and not look up from until you've read the whole thing, and that Maureen McHugh's awesome new collection Mothers and Other Monsters with the Best Cover Ever is also now available. Beautiful hardcovers. You need them both immediately. Your life is otherwise incomplete.


early weekend hangovers

Off to Asheville tomorrow afternoon, where we'll see Mrs. and Mr. Tingle, among others, New Fabulism will be read, and all will be merry.

The Onion: 2056. (Thanks to whoever I swiped this from; I've forgotten.)

The moon really is low. (Via Jeff.)

Elizabeth Clementson says down with MFAs over at MobyLives. Many of world's greatest novels would have never made it through the workshop process. Picture James Joyce being told that Ulysses is "too ambitious." Or Harper Lee being told that that Boo Radley character needs further development. Or Gertrude Stein being told, "Gertrude, The Making of Americans, is inaccessible. You need to cut the fat out and rework these sentences."

Janni Lee Simner's been thinking about arcs. (Story arcs, not the kind with animals or from publishing houses.)

A new favorite, the Vertical Books blog, yields up a couple of fabulous things: Tom Cruise Kills Oprah and a timely observation about Michael A. Orthofer's initials. (Go, Complete Review, go.)

See you later, crocodiles.


it's dark out there

... and hot and full of fireflies.

Anyway. Time for another not-very-satisfactory post.

I suggest melatonin 3 mg -- sometime ago, someone asked about melatonin in the comments and I forgot to answer. (I believe it may have been Jimmy Beck, but I will not swear on Bible nor Book of Mormon nor The Satanic Verses that it was so.) The answer is that melatonin is lovely and it will put you straight to sleep, give you the best sort of vivid dreams (which in my head often involve trips on airplanes with '70esque, action adventure plots or to strange cities or, occasionally, running through the rough country pursued by monsters). The little tablets don't seem to conflict with a drink or two, at least not to any disturbing extent and, most importantly, do not make you feel like a zombie the next morning. At least not any more than usual.

The responsiveness to the Golden Retriever's need to go outside also indicates you will not die in a blazing inferno due to melatonin.

So, there's that.

If you didn't look at these pictures the first time I linked them, you really should. I keep looking at them and am becoming more and more jealous at only seeing the images and not the giant girl and her elephant. In contrast to my innate distrust of DVD extras, I actually am particularly fond of the shots that show the people working them.

Who is your Own Personal Mutant? (I mean, as a writer.) (And dibs on the original -- or at least Claremont vintage -- Storm.)

Now, to sleep, to dream. 3 mgs worth.

p.s. I've been reading lots of things that I'm still thinking over and am not quite sure what I think of, at least not enough to talk about them -- like Teach Me by R.A. Nelson. But soon.



So, another day practically contentless! I swear tomorrow I'll at least link to a bunch of stuff. But I did have long but not as long as usual day and then ride the bicycle and eat the Mexican food and -- most importantly -- pay my voluminous fines off at the library (discounted a buck for my use of voluminous; I love our library). I used my newfound freedom to take out the sequel to Jumper and Winslow in Love.

Also, riding home on the sidewalk where the bricks wobble back and forth with a pleasing sound as you cross them, we passed the scary storefront church. It's just your standard rundown storefront, but there's a church in it. You know it's a church because they have big white sheets hanging in the display windows with a really ugly wooden cross in one of them. What makes it scary is the fact that you can't see inside at all. Today there was a new poster board rendering of the ten commandments in one of the display windows. They were in sort of a "modernized" interpretation which was laughable, but not nearly so laughable as the fact they were written in cursive in GOLD PUFF PAINT. That's right, it's apparently the crazy fundamentalist sect of teenage girls trapped in the '80s. As a puff paint expert back in the day (Converse, jeans, shirts), I felt compelled to nearly overturn my bike in delight. I really think civilization would have gone a different way if the original ten had been done in sparkly gold puff paint. Don't you?

And I'd misplaced the manuscript of Girl's Gang that I'm working off for a few days, but then, yeah, it was right on my desk under a bunch of paper. So it goes.


was that a monday

So, there may or may not be that many posts going on here this week, but I can almost guarantee tons of fresh content next week while Mr. Rowe's off doing the workshop thing in the mountains of North Carolina.

In the meantime:

Robot Stories is definitely worth watching (and the opening credits are wonderful); The Bitch Posse's as good as they say; and I also suggest reading a collection of Martin Espada poems, which are amazing and the one I have lives up to the Eduardo Galeano blurb on the back (I will read anything with a blurb by EG).

There will be more. Someday.

cite this

Justine Larbalestier urgently needs your help if you are one of those erudite science fiction types with the page numbers of a handful of stories published from 1957 to 1977 handy:

I don’t have the page numbers for the following stories. If anyone out there has them I’d sure appreciate you’re sharing said knowledge with me. And, yes, please pass this along to anyone you think might be able to help.

Your reward for helping me out? You get your name in the acknowledgments for Daughters of Earth.

I imagine just being able to answer would be reward enough, so help if you can.


please let this be a trend

Anne over at the Vertical Publishing blog launches a fantastic new feature:

as some of you have already heard, i am launching the Finger in the Throat Book Report (hereon referred to as FITT) today. as the name implies, i will digest nauseatingly bad books and throw them back up for your amusement, in bi-weekly fashion. i have a huge selection of bad books in general, but i’ve decided that in keeping with the Vertical m.o. i’d stick to bad books about Japan and Asia at large. most of them have been written by white men, and i can safely say there is no dirth of supply or demand. according to one scholarly work, James Clavell’s Shogun has been arguably the most important inspiration for our current generation of westerners (i.e. white men) to study Japan.

now, don’t get me started on the bad books about East Asia written by japanese, asian or french (doube-finger in the throat) writers. they are aplenty, i know. but my reason for focusing on white men, and mostly American at that, is simple: sex. the one common thread in all these bad books is the unparalleled fascination with Asian sexuality, and in more than a few books, this fascinating sexuality is compared to the fault of Western sexuality.

The first book considered is DAISHI-SAN by Robert Lund (1961). I assure you this review is not to be missed. Click the link above or you will go forward through the remainder of your days not even knowing what suddenly seemed to be missing inside you that one Sunday in June. (And Mr. Barzak, you will certainly not want to miss. You are homesick, we are homesick for you.)

(Thanks to Scott.)


a week's worth of hangovers

Of course, the week's funnest game has been the betting pool inspired by The Dark Cabal's debut -- how long before the participants are unmasked? how long before it dies a quiet netdeath? It could only happen in David Moles' comments. Sadly, I've been too busy to pick a date, but I'm going with SOON. (And also, as Susan says am "bored now.")

Those wiley cognitively functioning bacteria are behind a new theory explaining the Bermuda Triangle. (Via Boing Boing.)

A new model for time travel. (Thanks, Karen!)

Over at Dan Wickett's party at Conversational Reading's place, a couple (out of a hundred or so excellent posts) that I wanted to single out -- Susann Cokal talks about Breath and Bones and not being quite as famous as Brooke Shields and Dan asks how much traffic there is between litbloggers and poetrybloggers.

Order now: Rabid Transit: Menagerie!

One of Chance's posts about Camouflage... collect the whole set. (And you could do worse than reading her on The Sparrow as well.)

Celia had a dream about Say... This pleases me beyond belief. I usually only dream about it during production. (And don't forget the subscription drive -- reduced prices and fabulous prize -- until June 30.)

Jacob's story of how he and his writing partner got an agent for their book The Government Manual for New Superheroes.

Hamilton Naki's obituary in The Economist. (Thanks, Christopher!)

AMAZING photos (there is an elephant, Schwartz). (Via the always elegant Lauren, who makes one hell of a mix CD.)

The Malcontent Bookseller's Guide to Current Booksellers. (Via Maud.)

Waggish posts on 1930s screwball comedies -- a passion of mine. I like lots of the movies on both lists but it makes me very happy to see Theodora Goes Wild on a list of any kind. (Found via The Mumpsimus.)

Slate runs a piece on getting young people to read and YA problem fiction.

Scientology primer at The Week -- in case you might be looking for a disguise through which to FREE KATIE.

Neal Stephenson on Star Wars for the NYT.

Someday I'll make a real post that mentions what I'm reading, etc. But not right now. Have a good Saturday.


red claw, blue claw

The WaPo has a story about a fascinating crab:

Watermen say that female blue crabs 'paint their fingernails,' meaning the tips of their claws turn bright red as they age. The male crabs, on the other hand, have sky-blue claws -- a sign as masculine as a mustache in the world of crustaceans.

So when Robbie Watson dumped out a crab trap and found a specimen with one red claw and one blue one, the discovery stopped him.

'I set it aside for a while,' Watson said. 'I really wasn't sure what to think.'

As his boat, the Wharf Rat, moved on to other crab pots, Watson, 42, studied the crab. Underneath, its shell should have had a design looking roughly like the U.S. Capitol dome if it were female, or a Washington Monument pattern if it were male.

Instead, Watson found a wavy arrow, which seemed to be a combination of both sexes.

'It was unreal,' Watson said. 'I've never seen anything like that, and I've worked the water all my life.''

Scientists said the crab, caught May 21 near Gwynns Island in the lower bay, is an extremely rare creature called a 'bilateral gynandromorph' -- that is, split between two genders -- with its right side female and its left side male.

There's a photo.

if you say so

You are Rita Hayworth in GILDA

Which Film Noir Femme Fatale Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Has anyone noticed the quizilla photos hardly ever show up anymore?)


blogthology story: unflappable

Writers Dave White and Bryon Quertermous have put together their second blog anthology, "Going Twice." (The first one is here.) They sent around the story starter idea of using an object found, taken or involved in a police auction. The resulting story had to be less than 3,000 words and posted today, June 15. Twenty-six writers took the bait. A list of all the participants with the URLS of their blogs follows my story below. (If you really don't want to read it this way, but do want to read the story, email me and I'll send you a file.)


Angie didn’t get a B until she was halfway through eleventh grade. After school that day, she went straight to a shop downtown that she’d passed a thousand times before. There were lots of wind chimes hanging outside and the sign in the window said “Mystic Hopes, Pagan Dreams.” A hand-drawn paper banner had been added below that promised “Wicca for Less,” bookended by twisty purple unicorn horns and surrounded by stretchy golden stars.

Angie thought that the owners should maybe be better artists if they were going to make their own signage. She remembered the B——fat, red, slanty across the top of her paper on Romeo and Juliet. She had twenty dollars from her grandmother in her pocket.

When she opened the door, it made a noise like a howling cat.


The inside of “Mystic Hopes, Pagan Dreams” was dark and it smelled like hippies. Angie knew what hippies smelled like because her grandmother was one, sort of, according to her mom anyway. Hippies apparently smelled of strong musky odors, smoke and cat pee.

Angie didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but suddenly doubted she’d find it here. Racks in the middle of the store were covered in long, flowing dresses, mostly in black and the same deep purple as the unicorn horns on the banner. There was a wall of black and white T-shirts with slogans like “I Brake for the Goddess” and “My Other Car is a Hearse” and “I’m Cursing You Right Now.” One boasted a picture of a solemn lady dressed like a queen, complete with puffy sleeves.

Angie walked toward it, squinting, trying to figure out if the woman on it was Queen Elizabeth and if so, why she’d be on a Wiccan T-Shirt.

She is the blood countess,” said a voice behind her. The voice was deep and theatrical, very unhippy-like. Angie jumped, startled.

Angie turned and saw the woman who went with the voice. She had on one of the long, flowing black things and lots of make-up. As if she was a kid playing dress-up, really. She seemed less scary than her voice.

Angie said, “They never told us that in school.”

The woman arched her half-moon eyebrows. “They do not tell you many true things in school, yes?”

It was an A paper. Angie nodded, but she still wasn’t convinced. “What did Queen Elizabeth have to do with blood?”

The woman laughed. She had two pointy incisors. Okay, scary again.

“This is Elizabeth Bathory, child. Come, I’ll show you a book.” The woman sized up Angie’s tidy jeans and cardigan, her sensible shoes. “It’s by someone affiliated with NPR.”

Angie had learned her lesson about assumptions in this place. “National Public Radio, you mean?”

The woman said, “No, the Near Perfect Radicals.” Then, “Yes, National Public Radio. Come.”

The bookshelves were next to a wall of dried roots and herbs. Angie saw the words “eye of” but couldn’t make out the rest.

Morticia pointed to The Blood Countess by Andrei Codrescu. Angie instantly connected the name to a thickly accented voice on the radio, but she was a little disappointed at how obvious the book’s title was.

She shook her head at Morticia, hoping that it wouldn’t prompt another showing of the woman’s fangs. Why would she need fangs anyway? Was it a fashion choice or did she drink blood? Maybe she drank grape juice and pretended it was blood? Angie decided to think about those questions later. She focused on the shelf.

Another book caught her attention. It had a simple cover, the arched back of a swan in gold leaf across red cloth. Angie loved swans, always had. They were so graceful, yet dangerous——grumpy and loud. They would bite you and not worry about what people might say.

She pointed to the book.

“Ah yes,” said the woman, revealing her fangs with a smile. “The Spirit Animal.”


The book cost Angie exactly twenty dollars. She half-wondered if Morticia had somehow read her mind and knew that was all she had. Angie skipped dinner, claiming homework, and lay on her bed reading the book.

The scrolly frontispiece gave the title: Spiritus Animus: Identification, Practicum and Transformation.

Mostly, the beginning listed animals and their defining traits. Turtles for instance were sneaky but perseverant. Cows sweet and dumb. Wolves were wise and had the killer instinct. The heavily illustrated text included thumbnail sketches of the history of various native peoples and how they used the power of spirit animals. White people, in general, had been too stupid to realize the importance, even the existence, of spirit animals.

Everyone had one though and it could be any animal that existed. Knowing yours could give you its abilities. Supposedly.

After awhile, she came to a section that seemed more relevant to her situation than what she’d read so far:

Each one of us is imbued with our inner creature at birth. One may discern the nature of one’s animus spiritus of origin, that which lives inside one dating from the womb, through careful observation or use of a scry-glass. However, one may also choose to displace this creature and replace it with a more suitable choice, as need warrants. In extreme cases, one may even wish to become one’s born or chosen spiritus animus.

What Angie took from this was a verdict on how the grade would change her life. It could never be taken back——it was part of her forever, the B.

She looked around at her room. Everything was in perfect order. She thought of her childhood dolls stored in the closet with more jeans and cardigans and button-down shirts, alongside her three pairs of tennis shoes and one pair of uncomfortable heels for special occasions. Usually the idea of the dolls’ pretty painted faces was comforting. Not this time. There was also a box in the bottom of the closet where she kept photographs and scraps that seemed worth saving.

One of the photos was of willowy Melinda Baresca at the eighth grade awards ceremony accepting the Geometry Award that Angie had been robbed of. Earlier that day in AP English, Melinda had seen the B on Angie’s paper. She had smiled and said, “Better luck next time.”

Angie had thought of the photo then too. Melinda was the kind of student who didn’t have to try for her good grades. The only thing she seemed to actually work for was ballet. And she was nice. Angie’s hatred of her was strong and irrational and, she knew, mainly just jealousy at the easy way Melinda moved through the world. There was no way that Melinda couldn’t have known the Geometry Award was rightfully Angie’s.

Angie read the words of the paragraph again, displace and replace growing big and weighty in her head.

The choice Angie was left with was to become something else. Something that would erase the B.

She flipped to the section on Transformation.


The next day in study hall Angie sat at a computer station beside Melinda and her boyfriend Alex. She searched “spiritus animus” and came up with nothing. So she tried “spirit animal.”

She took a short quiz at the first link, which was obviously flawed because it told her she was a porcupine. The porcupine in the picture next to the results had beedy eyes and steely-looking prickles raised above its little circle of a body. Angie was so not a porcupine.

There was a link to a chat room on the side of the page and she clicked it. She felt a little criminal doing it, since you really weren’t supposed to go to chat rooms in study hall. But then, shouldn’t they have disabled it so you couldn’t?

The chat room had three other people in it and Angie wondered what they were doing in there during the middle of the day. Were they in study hall too? Unemployed? Old people? Who could know?

They were typing back and forth to each other using numbers and spelling everything wrong. They didn’t seem to be talking about spirit animals at all. She chose the screen name Morticia. She typed.

MORTICIA: I want to be a swan.

For a few seconds, nothing happened, just her words hanging out there on the screen with silence below. Then:

WOLFGRRL: U could B a wolf like me & howl at midnite moon
LETIGRE: Be a were, grrrl. LOL.

Angie watched the blinking cursor. Finally, she typed again.

MORTICIA: You can’t help me, can you?

Another little burst of screen silence.

LETIGRE: No1 can help U, loser.
MORTICIA: You’re a porcupine.

Angie sighed and closed the chat window. Melinda and Alex were watching her.

“Porcupines are depressing, huh?” Melinda’s voice was light and cheery.

Angie kind of wanted to hit her, a disturbing feeling.

Behind Melinda, Alex giggled and pressed his hand into the back of her neck. He was mean. Even Angie knew Melinda was too good for him. It was a small comfort, considering.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Melinda said.

“About what?” Angie said.

“Whatever you’re sweating,” Melinda said. “You should join ballet. It makes everything else fall away.”

She seemed serious, but Alex roared with laughter. He wasn’t a lion though, Angie didn’t think. More of a hyena, arrogant and aggressive. The study hall monitor shushed him.

“Right,” Angie said. Yeah, something I know you’re better at. I’ll do that. “I think it’s too late for that.”

“Probably,” Melinda said. Softer, “But really, anyway, don’t worry so much.”

Her easiness made Angie’s stomach hurt.


When Angie got home, she looked up the story of the ballet Swan Lake. She couldn’t figure out why she’d never thought to find out what it was about before. She’d never wanted to be a ballerina, but Melinda had made her think about it. What she really craved was grace.

She clutched the red cloth book to her side, tracing a finger over the gold swan, before putting it aside for one of her dad’s prized encyclopedias.

Swan Lake was about the Queen of Swans. She was a gorgeous bird, except during the night——between midnight and dawn——when a sorcerer allowed her to become a gorgeous woman. While human, she meets a young prince and falls in love… Angie lost interest as the plot details went a little Hollywood.

She put her hand on top of the red book. What they had to say wasn’t so different. But the idea that being a woman, even a beautiful woman, was better than being the Queen of Swans made no sense at all.

According to Spiritus Animus, swans were unflappable, wordly. They could be flighty or emotional, but you would never see it. Swans were always in control.

Angie put the encyclopedia back on the shelf and began making a list of what she would need.

The first thing was to steal her mom’s car keys.


Really, it wasn’t technically stealing. There was an extra set hanging off a hook on the fridge, helpfully labeled. Angie put them in her backpack and said she was going out to the library.

Her mom usually spent all day Saturday doing laundry and napping. The silver Taurus was parked on the street. Angie assured herself that it would be hours before anyone noticed it was gone.

Also in her backpack were the book, the petals of five roses, the picture of Melinda and a roll of duct tape.

She parked behind “Mystic Hopes, Pagan Dreams” and decided to leave her backpack in the car. She’d taken another twenty from her mom to pay for the last ingredient. She figured if this didn’t work borrowing a little cash would be the least of her worries.

Morticia met her just after the door’s howl sounded and gave a knowing arch of the overdone brow. She sure liked arching those already arched eyebrows.

“Yes.” Morticia said. Not a question.

Angie wondered how to approach this. She decided to treat it like shopping for school supplies. “I need essence of lavender.”

“Simple,” said Morticia. “But very powerful. You should be careful when working with such ingredients.”

Angie had just about had it. “You talk like you’re in a bad movie.”

That had felt pretty good.

Morticia sniffed. “Twenty,” she said, setting a tiny vial of pale yellow liquid down hard on the counter.

What did Angie have to lose? “How do you know how much money I have?” Angie asked.

Morticia showed one fang. “You live in a big white house, right? On one of those streets full of big, white, houses. You people only bother with twenties. Or plastic.”

She took the bill from Angie.

Angie picked up the bottle, her hand trembling a little. “The book I bought, will it work?”

Morticia showed fang again. “It was in a box of books I bought at a police auction. What do you think?”

Angie left without apologizing for being rude. She stayed calm, like a swan.


Angie chose the school parking lot.

Despite what Morticia had said, it was way past the time when she could have changed her mind about doing this. It had been too late when she bought the book.

She did everything the book said. She’d picked the car, because it seemed like it was big enough to work. Failure was not an option.

She rubbed the rose petals between her palms, then put them on the front seat of the car. It took awhile, but she cried one tear and rubbed it against the photo of smiling Geometry Award-clutching Melinda, something that was symbolic of the change she wanted to make. The essence of lavender she poured on the hood.

She ran her fingers over the swan on the front and opened the red book. She read the words aloud.

This, my instrument, to bring forth the spiritus animus,” she began.

She wondered if it should all be in Latin, but saying the words only felt a little stupid. That must mean it was working.

Her voice got louder. “Call forth my swan self.”

Okay, so she still felt a little stupid.

But it was all easier from there on out. She duct taped the biggest rock she could find to the gas pedal, listening to the car roar. Then she yanked the Taurus into gear.

The force as the car took off knocked her backward. She caught her breath and ran.

The car proved hard to catch. It seemed impossible to get in front of it at an angle where it would actually hit her. She knew she’d feel even stupider if there was any time to, if her heart wasn’t pumping so hard, her legs burning from the effort. She was almost there——


And then came the sickening noise. A wet thud, a thump and the car roared on.

Angie stopped. She was fine. And that wasn’t right at all.

The car kept going, until it skidded to a stop in the ditch between the student parking lot and the marching band practice field and died.

There was a ballerina curled on her side on the cracked pavement. She had on a practice tutu over a pair of jeans. Her ballet slippers had been slung over her shoulder and were twisted across her neck.

Melinda moaned and focused on Angie standing above her. Her throat made a gurgling noise.

There wasn’t that much blood, surprisingly.

Angie didn’t know what to do. She’d killed Melinda. The B seemed so small. She was frozen in place, like an ice princess from a different ballet.

“Melinda,” Angie said.

Melinda wasn’t able to reply, but she tried anyway. The gasp from her throat took on a harsh cast at the end. Her throat was changing.

As Melinda’s body shifted, drew up, lightened, she became even more graceful than before. Her head elongated, became skinny. Her eyes still knew Angie, even as they became inky black ovals.

This was so much worse than the Geometry Award.

The swan fluttered to its feet, tossing the slippers off its long neck, and came toward Angie. It stopped to look at her again. There was less and less familiar in the swan’s eyes with each passing second.

Angie reached out a hand to touch the swan’s head, but it moved before she could. The swan cocked its head at an angle. At least it didn’t run from her. Or bite.

She looked around the parking lot——the car slumped in the ditch, but didn’t seem that much worse for wear beyond a crumpled fender and clumps of mud and grass in the grill. Angie wondered what Morticia would think about this. How would she explain it to her parents? To the police?

Angie pictured herself in jail. From A student to B student to murderer. Who would take care of the hungry, loud, living spirit swan? Could you have pets in jail?

She saw Melinda’s pink ballet slippers in the gravel nearby. There was no blood on them. There didn’t seem to be any of her blood left on anything. The transformation happened so fast, just like the red book said. Melinda had hardly suffered.

Catching the bird was kind of like professional wrestling; it felt staged, but would have looked painful to anyone watching. Angie drove home with the pissed off swan belted into the front seat and a wisp of steam wafting from under the hood.

She looked at the swan——composed face staring out the front window, white neck elegantly arched——and saw only grace that would never be hers.


(copyright Gwenda Bond, 2005, do not reprint without permission or you will be cursed for all eternity, you big porcupine!)

Now go read the OTHER stories. Here's the full list of participants:

Bryon Quertermous-
Dave White-
Dave Zeltserman-
Ray Banks-
Duane Swierczynski-
David J Montgomery-
John Rickards-
Bill Crider-
Gwenda Bond-
Scott Neumyer-
Paul Guyo-
Stuart MacBride-
Gerald So-
Sarah Weinman-
Christin Kuretich-
Bob Mueller-
Megan Powell-
Pat Lambe-
Steven Torres-
Graham Powell-
Jennifer Jordan-
Jon Jordan-
Bob Tinsley-
Aldo Calcagno-
Rochelle Krich-
Alina Adams-


tune in

...tomorrow morning for something that has never happened here before in the history of the universe. And likely never will again.

Night night for now.


subscription drive with fabulous prize!

Let the first-ever subscription drive for Say... begin. One lucky person who subscribes to Say... between now (and including the three of you from yesterday) and midnight June 30 will win one of only six numbered copies of the Pretty Magic Butlers of Roanoke chapbook in the world. (Yes, I'm giving away our lone copy of my precious; see how much I love you?) It contains the work of* Scott Westerfeld (first chapter of Peeps, due out in September), Justine Larbalestier (first chapter of Magic Lessons, the second volume in the Magic or Madness trilogy, due out next year), Ysabeau Wilce (an excerpt from a new short story "The Unkindest Cut") and me (first chapter of new novel-in-progress Roanoke, hopefully due out at some unknown point in the future). It's signed by all the contributors and it's beautiful:

By subscribing now, you also lock in the $5 per issue price for two more issues (and you can begin your subscription with the current issue or #6, or even tack on another year to the end of your current subscription and start with #7). We will be raising the individual issue price by a buck with the Fall issue, one-year subscriptions will go up to $12. It'll still be a deal, but, folks, these are CRAZY prices. Plus, George needs some medicine.

In the US, only 10 dollars:

In Canada, only 11 dollars:

Other countries, only 12 dollars:

Or at Project Pulp.

Winner to be chosen by random drawing at 12:01 on July 1. If you've seen Mr. Rowe with the numbers and the coordination, you'll be assured of just how solemn and straightforward the drawing will be.

So, what are you waiting for?

*None of these people have endorsed Say... or this subscription drive, though two of them have been published in the magazine before.

another literary cabal (updated)

The Latest Dark Cabal is a new blog devoted to talking about genre works with only anonymous contributors, or in the initial post's words:
It’s a place to talk about science fiction and fantasy in the long tradition of serious discussion of the field, as inspired by sources as diverse as Bruce Sterling’s Cheap Truth and the symposium Khatru. From the start we wanted this discussion to be anonymous for a couple of reasons. First, we are writers but we don’t really want this to be about our careers. Second, because being anonymous allows a certain amount of freedom.
Looks good so far and seems to be avoiding the snark (or nark) that anonymity sometimes brings. I won't say I agree with everything that's been said there so far (not by a long shot), but it seems as if it could/should kick off some excellent discussions.

(Via Shortform.)

Updated: Justine chimes in with a thoughtful, right-on-target post about the nostalgia factor at play in at least one of the posts on the blog (one of the things I was referencing with the long shot comment but far too lazy to get specific about myself).


good morning

Possibly the best way to wake up on a Saturday morning is to Christopher concocting one of his magnificent frittatas, using nearly every raw ingredient we had in the house (olives, peppadews, yellow and red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella). And toast with these excellent peach preserves that Karen brought us as a pressie. Yum. Hangover gone. Life good. Ride bike. Go to farmer's market. Buy even better tomatoes.

The heat seems to be thinking about going away too.

So, Karen's visit was great, if too, too brief. But we got to see her lots and Christopher produced his magic pad thai, good for dates, travelers and catastrophes. For who can suffer in the face of the pad thai? From her talk, as part of a response to a question on what it's like to be on the NYT best-seller list: "Any day on which I have written is a successful day." And a whole bunch of wise, wise things about the importance of staying in control of what success as a writer means to you, rather than giving it away to other people/entities. The funniest part of this answer (and, as many of y'all know, Karen is the Funniest Person In The World) is right at the beginning where she says that when people ask her what it's like to be on the NYT best-seller list she's always first moved to answer in a very distant way, "Oh, that must be great." And then she remembers they are talking about her.

Last night was the big InKY reading -- which, as I told the audience, was my first non-convention reading. (Thus setting a very high bar for the audience.) We had a really great turnout, probably 40 or 50 people, and a really diverse turnout. There were some SF types and some non-SF types and several poets, who did open mic in the first hour. It was a really good time and I was barely nervous at all. People seemed to like Roanoke and I even pronounced Manteo correctly throughout. A lady came up to me in the bathroom afterward and told me that she couldn't wait for my book to come out so she could find out what happened next. She was very tan and, obviously, a genius. Mark Rudolph rocked the house with his fine poetry and Christopher read "The Force Acting on the Displaced Body", which went over gangbusters. We sold lots of zines and all Christopher's chapbooks we had left, making enough cashola to head over to the Mag Bar and drink some cider with the lovely Erin and Beth and lots of other cool kids. A good time was had by all and we got home not insanely late.

Erin has put together something really special with the InKY reading series, and I'd encourage anyone with the opportunity to go, go, go. It kicks ass. Thanks for having us, missy. Also, go read her thoughts on lactivists and Barbara Walters. Best repeated use of the word tits ever.

i look so serious in the photo too.

You are Langston Hughes
You are Langston Hughes. You love jazz and hip
suits. You write poems only because you have
to write them. Otherwise, you are too busy
living your secret lives.

Which Famous Modern American Poet Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


the ten year theory

Cynsations has an excellent interview with Cecil Castellucci on her awesome Boy Proof:

I have a theory. The ten-year theory. I think it takes everyone, any artist in any discipline, about ten years to “make it”. (Whatever making it means to you.) But pretty much, it’s a ten-year waiting list. So you just have to stand in line and wait your turn. You just have to decide that you are in line. Oh sure, some people get cuts, or their line goes faster. I think the biggest challenge about waiting in line is just not giving up. I mean I had four novels, a picture book and an easy reader, all rejected. So, just getting it up to continue to write when it seemed pretty hopeless and as though I’d never get published, and perhaps was actually untalented, was a challenge. But I had my ten-year theory.

Just FYI, from the time I got serious about writing to the day Boy Proof came out in March, it had been 9 years. Theory proved.

See also: my thoughts on Boy Proof


for the next hour

You can join a live chat with Karen Joy Fowler. Look at the top set of links in the center column, right most.

Effective only from 1-2 p.m.


wednesday hangovers

In lieu of actual content, let there be links. And cake. Links and cake.

Coffee and Ink shares some excellent panel reports from Wiscon, including from the rewrite panel (featuring Ms. Larbalestier, among others) and the writing about the same fictional world over time panel. Maybe the panel is not dead -- maybe intrepid panel goers will save it with secondhand reports like these. (Designated panel attenders, perhaps?)

Alan makes a compelling argument for reading Sleep by Kat Meade, one of his favorite SF titles of 2004.

Do it yourself bookbinding, via Maud.

Some Brothers Grimm tales have been traced back to women. (Via Ed of the kick-ass BEA reports.)

That is all.


wash that taste right out of your mind

By partaking of this interview with Mr. Rowe in Apex Digest online. Apex is a supercool new SF and horror-focused magazine that's produced by people right here in Lexington. (People who we only met last weekend, even, for lunch.) They just got a nice review from Tangent on their first issue.

I've heard Christopher mentions you in that interview. Now, groceries!

Edited to add: First firefly of the year! Then many, many more, spotted by night bicycle.

technology runs a-mock

Chris McLaren is EEEEVILLLL. And unfortunately, my computer trix are too limited to strike back.

With friends like these... (It's the old lady that hurts the most. You know I'm going to be like Tina Turner only pale, with a bad voice and not Buddhist, right?)


where have all the fireflies gone?

I know, I know. I'm told it's too early. But they should be here by now. Fireflies. In my backyard. Firing. It's sweaty sticky heavy outside, long past time for a little blinking from the bug population in my estimation.

I wrote a whole story yesterday, part of it in a car. Now I have to revise it. Soon maybe you will read it. Karen's coming in a couple of days, to do the book club thing here in town. We are so excited we can barely stand it. We'll probably clean the house and everything.

Then Friday night it's off to Louisville for Strange Fiction at the InKY series. What to read, what to read...

In other words, a busy week. Don't be alarmed if S&S goes static. Go read what Jenny Davidson had to say on the occasion of her third grade teacher's retirement instead.


Curtis, Curtis, Curtis... surely after selling all those copies you can afford therapy?*

There are so many things that bug me about this off-base evisceration that I hardly know where to start. Let's start with the term "chick lit," which seems as much an invented marketing category designed to pigeonhole books about young women as anything else. (And which seems to engender scorn primarily because it actually works, the books sell--you can't tell me the attitude is about the quality of the books; like any category there will be excellence and there will be excrement.) Then there's her out of hand dismissal of anything that's in the category of chick lit. As if calling something chick lit is in itself a qualitative judgment. Wake up and smell the hundred-year-old stink on that kind of generalization. (And you see this elsewhere too, mostly from other women writers. Stop attacking each other!)

Without having read Sittenfeld's book Prep--but having seen plenty of reactions to it (from readers and critics) and having seen its disturbing cover with the green and pink pastels--what I suspect is that the review is more about Prep than it is about The Wonder Spot. Or at least more about some of the holes Prep got pigeoned into. I believe it was treated even by those who liked it as a slight sort of novel, dishy, insubstantial, scandalously autobiographical. Sound familiar? Baggage, with a capital B.

And, as Sarah pointed out, all the more ironic for Bank's nice comments about Sittenfeld in this week's EW. Not to mention the fact that these are both young women who hit it big right out of the park and went through the flack that comes with that.

I'm about halfway through The Wonder Spot, which I picked up at the library on a whim, and it's still surprising me. Bank has a distinct authorial voice that's pleasant and funny and natural. She can really turn a phrase or capture a small moment and make it into something bigger. And of the main character Sophie's relationships so far, those with her family--especially her brothers--are way more important than the ones she has with the men she dates. Perhaps it will all fall apart in the second half, but I'm doubtful of that. It seems to me that Sittenfeld, taking careful notes while reading or not, has missed a giant swathe of what the book is about both on the surface and beneath it.

Anyway, it seems apropos to quote Christian Bauman's wonderful essay (the one I linked to the other day from the excellent Bookmark Now):
And although this wasn’t their point, it bothers me, yes it does, let me say here: writing is the only art form where a good number of the artists make a slice of their living criticizing one another in print, in public. Worse, some don’t even make their living at it, some do it free of charge.

Actors don’t do this. Painters don’t do it, musicians don’t. It’s weird, it’s cannibalism.

* Here's the snarkback: Or at least get a new head shot.**
** Really, I feel bad about it, I do.


something under the water

Greg van Eekhout points to a most excellent LA Times story about a 45-foot deep lake in Russia suddenly disappearing. The story is filled with good stuff, but I like the foreshadowing in retrospect at the end:

The channel-to-the-river theory has gained credence as fishermen along the Oka reported catching 35-pound carp. The species has been found in the lake but not the river. At least, not in ordinary times. But, of course, these are not ordinary times; not when White Lake is there one day and gone the next.

Residents of the few dozen cottages here say there have always been odd stories about White Lake. Bats lived in caves there, and then one day years ago the bats, and the caves, were simply gone. Over the years, said Valentina Smyotova, 74, laundry would disappear. 'Women would go there to wash clothes, and sometimes a shirt would swim away from a woman, and then it would be recovered in the river.'

Likewise, a church was said to have stood on White Lake's edge early in the 20th century, and it crumbled into the lake.

It ate a church--what did you think was going to happen?

I also love this quote higher up:

Dobryakov rushed back to the village and grabbed a friend. "I told him, 'The lake's collapsed, the water's gone.' My friend said, 'You're lying,' I said, 'Of course I'm a liar, but not this time.'"

But not this time...

feeling covetous

Up early, only to discover via ConnorGal (who does lots of really lovely YA reviews, among other things--you only think you read a lot, she does) that ARCs of Francesca Lia Block's adult novel about Weetzie Bat, Necklace of Kisses, are on the street. Want.

Also, Melissa Bank's The Wonder Spot is really surprisingly excellent so far.

Now, back to work, for why else would I be up at 7 on a Sunday morning?


deja panel

The panel was enough to make us decide not to attend any further panels. They’re just not that interesting or informative and all tend to tilt too heavily to sturm und drang … all about how hard everything is … how hard to make money … how hard to find readers … how hard to get books noticed. Well, at the risk of seeming reductive, better books would be a good start.
What Mark's saying sounds awfully familiar...

The panel, she lays in her grave!

returns and remainders

The WSJ has a big article on the practice of returns. I'm told it's subscriber only, but I was able to reach it through that link (and there's always bug me not). Seems like required, if depressing, weekend reading for writers:
There are two Time Warner Book Group warehouses on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Although separated by only an eighth of a mile, between them stretches a gulf of disappointment.

One building, dubbed the 'happy warehouse' by one publishing executive, is filled with about 60 million hardcover books and paperbacks waiting to be distributed to stores across the U.S. The other is the 'sad' warehouse. Piled high are some of the 20 million books returned every year by retailers. Many will be resold at cut-rate prices. Two million to four million will have their spines sliced off before being piled into a recycling machine the size of a Dumpster, chewed up and spat out as bales of paper.

Returns are the dark side of the book world, marking not only failed expectations, but the crippling inefficiencies of an antiquated business. It's a problem that's only getting worse. The industry's current economic model pushes publishers to generate a small number of blockbuster hits. But picking winners is a quixotic enterprise, and as publishers ship an ever-increasing number of books to stores, hoping to hit the jackpot every time, stores are sending an ever-increasing number back.
Meanwhile, I just decided today what my next book will be in a strong maybe way (a fantasy, even), which means I should really work on finishing the first two this weekend. (Although, for those not following along, I will note that one is much closer than the other.) And yes, it's also YA.

kudzu kings and pyrophites

There's a distinct chance, if I've known you very long at all, that you have heard me talk about Grady Clay's book Real Places: An Unconventional Guide to America's Generic Landscape. You may have been forced to sit indulgently while I rumbled through our bookshelves looking for it to read you a particular entry.

There are lots of great entries--The Ice, Party Street, Blast Site (if the infernoqrushers demand, I will post an excerpt of that one), Lover's Leap--but one my most favorite of favorites is The Kudzu. The Kudzu is too long to reproduce here, but I'll offer a taste. (There's an odd, lovely poetic excerpty thing going on with many of these entries at Aris 3 here, including The Kudzu.) I have chosen to excerpt the portion about how even kudzu can be an explosive:
As a transplanted foreigner, kudzu's first offense had been to disregard property lines. Further, it climbed fences and grew a foot or more daily, up to one hundred feet a season. Cartoonists enjoyed playing with the same visual theme showing a rampageous plant reaching around the house. Shouts the anxious onlooker "Here it comes again." It also had become a fire hazard. The first killing frost could convert THE KUDZU "into a flash fuel, a fuse to nearby fields and timber. Eradication necessitates burning, plowing, and, salting the soil with herbicides."

(Another pyrophyte, eucalyptus, was imported wholesale to California in 1856 as an ornamental curiousity. The eucalyptus-planting speculative bubble* "began to burst in 1910 when it was discovered that the trees transplanted to California were virtually worthless (as timber), and that they constituted a serious fire hazard." They still do. A freak frost in 1972 killed over a million eucalyptus from the root collar up, and only good fortune prevented another California holocaust.)

Gradual disenchantment set in as THE KUDZU'S nuisance value was recognized, especially by Northern tourists flabbergasted by natural growth of such magnitude. Continued research shows THE KUDZU has no competition for certain forms of erosion control. Further, say the authors of a popular book on kudzu, its "greatest future in America lies in the use of the root as a source of the remarkable kudzu powder and the medicinal kudzu root."

But both its assets and liabilities THE KUDZU kept to the South. Its resistance to freezing fades as it passes "The Kudzu Line" somewhere around the thirty-eighth parallel through Missouri-Kentucky-southern Indiana. Unlike the former Confederate Army, THE KUDZU poses no threat to the North.
Here's an excerpt from an Emory University alumni profile (scroll down) of Clay about how the book came to be:
In the spring of 1984, after having retired as editor of the journal Landscape Architecture, Grady Clay accepted a position to lecture in any subject he wanted at Texas A&M University. He decided to engage his students in an investigation of generic man-made places--for example, "the good address," "the edge of town," "the courthouse square"--in and around the university. The subject was, "How Places Work."

"I went to Texas with a list of maybe fifty to seventy generic places, and by the time I got through, the list was up to about five hundred and it was unstoppable," says Clay, a 1938 Emory College graduate and longtime urban affairs editor at Louisville's Courier Journal. "Nobody had done this, and there was no such list [of generic places] extant in the United States that I could find. So I realized I was plowing new ground, and I was off and running, already beginning to write essays on each of these generic places."

A little more than a decade later, that initial project culminated in the publication of Clay's latest book, Real Places: An Unconventional Guide to America's Generic Landscape, published by the University of Chicago Press. Even though he has cataloged some five thousand such generic places in his files, Clay limited his book to examining just 124. "So the price of the book wouldn't go out of the ceiling," he says.
Don't you want to know what the other secret, generic places of the American landscape are? I know I do.

I also lurve the fact that one of the book's back-cover blurbs is from Wilbur Zelinsky, Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

* Where do I get in on the "eucalyptus-planting speculative bubble" action? Anyone?