Aug 7 2014

Daily Science Fiction: Totally Recommended

So I recently signed up for the Daily Science Fiction mailing list, where they e-mail you a short (usually 1500 words or less) science-fiction story every morning. It is free! I don’t know why I didn’t do this ages ago!

Here’s an excerpt from today’s story, “A Note to Parents Regarding the Beginning and End of Time Diorama Presentations for Ms. Miller’s Third Grade Class”:

Dear Parents,

It’s diorama time again, and I thought I would send home a few notes for parents about this annual project. While your child is encouraged to approach this project creatively, there are a few ground rules that will help ensure success—as well as the safety of the class.


If your child chooses Eternalism or “brick time” he or she may not use marshmallows, M&Ms, or any other food item to illustrate the discrete blocks of time. Also, while space-time may be infinite, the dioramas are meant to be a representation to demonstrate your child’s knowledge of the beginning and end of time. Keep in mind that we have sixteen students in the class and all their dioramas must fit on two tables.

Any dioramas depicting N-dimensional space-time, or “time foam,” must not infinitely generate soap bubbles (it creates a terrible mess).

I would recommend restricting any diorama to 6 to 8 dimensions, even if standard string theory’s 12 dimensions are achievable, the results are both difficult to view and, in reality, cannot be contained within the confines of the class. Although it has never happened, we would hate to lose a child to another dimension on diorama day.

I don’t know how they make enough money to pay their authors (because they do pay their authors, which is awesome), but I hope they keep it up, as the stories are fun and just the right length to be a quick daily dose of imagination and possibility.

Jul 30 2014

Interview with Laura VanArendonk Baugh

I recently had the pleasure of a one-on-one conversation with Laura VanArendonk Baugh, whose story “And Only the Eyes of Children” is included in the Fae anthology. Laura’s story is a modern-day urban fantasy piece featuring a rather terrifyingly skilled “Robin Archer” in service to Titania, seeking stolen children. It’s fast-paced, snappy, and filled with the local color of its Indianapolis setting.

I’m posting my side of the interview here, and Laura will be posting her questions—along with the answers I gave—to her blog on Monday.

Robin’s world is filled with the kind of specific, convincing detail that makes it feel like a snapshot of a larger setting. Although your story stands alone, do you plan to explore this character further?

I wrote it as a standalone one-shot, but I have to say that the idea kind of grew on me, and now I have a few ideas jotted down for future Robin stories. And I’ve even started the next one!

References to A Midsummer Night’s Dream are woven through the story. Can you say a little bit about what that play means to you—when you first read or saw it performed, and how Shakespeare has influenced your writing and imagination?

I really can’t think of when I first saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream, except I remember it referenced when a man dressed as Shakespeare to talk to our elementary school. I remember bits and pieces of his presentation, including his explanation of a play in which a man played a wall and had to make a hole in the wall with his fingers. (Also he made a bad pun about Queen Elizabeth caking on seven layers of white makeup and a seven-layer cake. Why do I remember bad puns from school assemblies, but not that I needed eggs while I was at the grocery?)

But a more recent production definitely influenced “And Only the Eyes of Children.” One of my favorite actresses played Queen Titania, and while I’ve always thought Titania’s character a bit of a sap—let’s be honest, that subplot is one of Shakespeare’s weaker efforts—seeing Jennifer Johansen’s take made me consider her anew. What if Jennifer were free to play her like she played some other characters, from tough-as-rattlesnakes villains to gothic mistresses? What if Titania got a bad write-up in Midsummer but some unconcealable truths, like her love of children, showed through?

So I thought of a Faerie Queen in the older, darker sense, something made manageable in the reduced story of Titania’s pranking, and that became the Queen who charged Robin with watching over human children.

Both of our stories zero in on the “stolen child” aspect of fairy tales, and in a way both of our stories offer a happy—or at least hopeful—view of fairy abductions. If a fairy offered to take you “to the woods and waters wild,” would you go?

Ooh, a good question….!

I think I’d have to be pragmatic and say no. At this point in my life, I have too much here I don’t want to lose—everything from dreams come true (getting paid to make up stories!) to an awesome husband. (You have no idea how old and boring I feel, writing that.)

BUT, if we could work out a visitation deal, THAT would be a go. Then when life is getting all harried and full of hassle, I could just hop over to the fae world and wait for things to blow over. (And given the fabled slippage of time between our world and theirs, that might be a very effective solution, indeed!)

I agree with Laura: I wouldn’t go, but I’m sure the missed opportunity would haunt me forever.

What about you?

Apr 23 2014

Zen Cho On Writing

I just wanted to put up a quick link to Zen Cho’s post, a follow-up to mine in the blog hop:

I’m working on yet another revision of my Regency fantasy of manners about England’s first black Sorcerer Royal. This has been my main writing project since late 2012, but in intervals between working on it I’ve also been working on Space Villette (not its real title), a novella based on Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, but with a space opera setting influenced by the early kingdoms (or should I say mandalas?) of maritime Southeast Asia.

How awesome does that sound? Pretty frickin’ awesome.

Jan 3 2014

A Nice Piece

Sumiko Saulson, who covers the local art scene, did a very nice little profile on me for Sumiko does a great job highlighting our neighborhood artists and makers, and I really enjoy following her posts.

Apr 12 2012

A Link for Dad

My Dad went though a period where he played a lot of FreeCell, an interest which eventually gave way to Sudoku, and probably something else by now. Anyway, Dad, I thought this was a really neat article:

Dave Ring is a hard man to find. Given that he launched one of the earliest crowdsourced internet projects—if not the first—one would expect Ring to be something of an online superstar. He was using group power before Huffington had a Post, back when Amazon was just a river.

But when you Google his name—the smell test of millennial relevancy—our Dave is buried beneath Dave Ring the stand-up comedian, Dave Ring the editorial consultant, and Dave Ring the mentally disabled televangelist. Perhaps the web has obscured Dave Ring the internet revolutionary because his project was, from the most straightforward perspective, a bust. In the summer of ’94, Ring led 110 online comrades to beat a video game called FreeCell. They lost.

It kind of goes into the math of FreeCell, and how Dave Ring organized an effort to determine whether each and every hand of FreeCell was theoretically winnable.

So when that final push on No. 11,982—an effort aided by humans and even a handful of game-solving programs—met with failure, Ring celebrated. Is every hand in FreeCell winnable? No. Thirty-one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine hands are winnable. And one isn’t. He proved that. He had solved one mystery of the universe.

Just a fun little piece.

Sep 28 2011


My friend Wendy wrote this awesome post on geocaching and letterboxing:

Letterboxing is similar to geocaching in that you search for boxes, but the approach is pretty different. Again, you look up boxes to find on a website — the two main ones are and — but instead of using technology to find the boxes, you follow clues kind of like you’d find on a treasure map or an adventure comic. Stuff like: “Walk to the end of the fence and look in the hollow of the ivy covered tree.”

The other cool thing about letterboxing is the rubber stamps! Each letterbox has its own stamp and each letterboxer or letterboxing team has a signature too. Once you find the box, there is a little booklet inside along with the box’s stamp. You stamp the letterbox stamp in your notebook and write down any notes about your experience. Then you stamp your signature stamp in the booklet in the box. A lot of people use purchased rubber stamps, but a fun part of the hobby is that most of the stamps are hand-carved.

It sounds like…having a pen pal that you can only reach by going on a pirate treasure hunt? It sounds pretty awesome, in other words. I want to try it!

May 4 2011

A Thing From the Internet

You know, I have some experience at wading into flamewars on the Internet, and I have to say: if I was going to choose somebody to start a war of words with, it wouldn’t be Neil Gaiman. It’s not so much the legions of rabid fans that would put me off—I’m willing to tangle with people who are merely popular—but you have to stay in your weight class, right? This is a man who can eviscerate reputations with a single offhanded remark. This is a writer whose words are being taken down for posterity.

If you read up on the whole thing, once you come to this line from Neil: “I would not be human if I didn’t admit that I looked at his neck in the photograph, to see if it was as mighty and bull-like as I felt he had implied, and that I might have been just a tiny bit disappointed”—well, it reads a bit like that thing kung fu fighters do, you know. When they stretch out an open palm, and then wave the enemy in with a little flick of the fingers. That invitation to an almighty beatdown.

It’s like—I’m reading Norse sagas right now, and the poor fools who thought it was a good idea to tangle with the skalds, people are still laughing at their humiliation. It’s poor planning to insult a bard. Just saying.

Mar 4 2011

Gifts from the Internet

Internet, I do not want to talk about Charlie Sheen. Yes, the memes are funny, but the man has two small children and a history of domestic violence, which rather spoils the yuks.

Instead, here’s why I’m grateful for the Internet today. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose blog I have mentioned admiring before, has discovered Jane Austen.

I love this about blogs—the way they allow you to observe the authors’ thoughts and reactions evolving over the short term. There is such a pleasure in watching a writer who I admire falling into books that I love—and given that I was initially attracted to TNC because he writes so incisively about race in America, a particular pleasure in hearing him declare: “I feel like she’s talking to me, and strangely enough, only to me. It really is kind of sick to say this, but I think I’m in love.” Austen is so often pigeonholed as a genre writer and dismissed on those grounds, and contemporary black writers can be pigeonholed in the same way, stuck off on the African-American shelves in one shadowy corner of the bookstore. It’s delightful to watch two minds reaching across time, geography, and culture to create that ageless alchemy that happens when a receptive reader takes up a great book.

Ta-Nehisi + Jane Austen 4ever. They make such a lovely couple.

Feb 18 2011

Urban Foraging

A quick shout-out to Quirky Urbanite, who has awesome adventures in local foraging. Her account of harvesting local olives made me all fired up to do the same (I know exactly where there’s a big olive tree in my neighborhood) until I got to the part about the worms. Still, really cool stuff to read about.

Jan 6 2011

Tattúínárdœla saga

So I’m on this Icelandic kick right now—I recently read the Kalevala for the first time, and my to-read stack is currently topped by the Saga of the Volsungs, Viking Age Iceland, and The Sagas of Icelanders. So imagine my delight when a friend linked me to the Tattúínárdœla saga: “What If Star Wars Were an Icelandic Saga? In Old Norse with English translations.”

On the Daudastjarna, there were many men who marveled at Tsiubakka’s height and broad build. And when they had come to the dungeon, a Stormtrooper asked, “Where are you taking this giant of a man?”

“To the dungeon,” said Lúkr, “He was on the ship that Veidr captured.”

The Stormtrooper said, “I have not heard tell that any man was found on that ship, and we should tell Tarkinn, Jarl of Stórmof, about this first.”

But when this soldier turned around and went to bear these tidings to Tarkinn, Hani the Duelist threw his axe and felled him. Two Stormtroopers saw Hani attack the man, and they each took an axe in hand and went to his aid. Lúkr fought them off with great agility, and struck at them with the strength and fearlessness of a lion. Soon the Stormtroopers had been killed by Luke, for they had only short-shafted axes, but Lúkr struck hard and fast with the spear of Víga-Óbívan.

This is so completely excellent. The best part is that it really is also written out in Old Norse. I left a comment for the author saying “This is possibly the best thing that the Internet has ever given us,” and I meant it, too.