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Tomorrow night



Just a reminder, there's going to be a show tomorrow. Paul Constant at The Stranger has more.

Songs About Books -- Aug. 19

Songs About Books

If you're in the Seattle area and looking for something cool to do on the evening of August 19th (that would be the Friday after next), Fremont Abbey Arts Center is hosting Songs About Books, a project in which five local songwriters will be performing original songs inspired by books assigned to them by The Stranger's Paul Constant. My own Set This House in Order is one of the books, and the artist who'll be making it sing is Johanna Kunin (Bright Archer).

The other artists who'll be performing are Alex Guy (Led to Sea), singing songs inspired by Vladamir Nabakov's Pale Fire; Ryan Barrett (The Pica Beats), singing about Michael Houellebecq's The Possibility of an Island; Joshua Morrison, singing about Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai; and Levi Fuller, singing about Maggie Nelson's Bluets.

Tickets, available online, are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Everybody gets a free limited-edition Songs About Books CD at the door; I'll be in the audience with a pen, so if you'd like me to forge Nabakov's signature on the liner notes, just give a yell.

If you can't attend the concert but still want to hear the music, you can listen to sample song tracks and buy copies of the CD on the Ball of Wax blog's Bandcamp page.

The Mirage



Second-pass galleys are done. (There were a whopping seven corrections this time. I could have made it nine, but decided to let a couple of borderline style issues* slide as a way of convincing myself I was actually finished.) Bound galleys are next, then actual books.

Meanwhile, as you can see, we have a cover. And for those of you who've been wondering what the story is actually about, I've posted jacket copy on the Mirage page of my website. Enjoy!

*Because someone is sure to ask, both involved colons: in the first case, whether the colon in question should have been a period, and in the second, whether the word following the colon should have been lowercased instead of capitalized. Heavy stuff.

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Feeding Time

As my reward for supporting her in the Clarion West Write-a-thon, I get a custom-written story by the talented Kelley Eskridge.

The story-prompt I gave Kelley was a pair of videos from the YouTube subgenre of "kids being stalked by zoo animals" (hat tip to james_nicoll  and his commenters for turning me onto these):




Kelley's story is here. Enjoy!

The Mirage: قَدْ أُكْمِلَ

Or as the Romans would say, Consummatum est:



These are the corrected first-pass galleys, just moments before we packed them into a box for return to the publisher last Friday. I'll get second-pass galleys later this month, and no doubt find one last punctuation mark or variant word spelling to angst over, but really, it's done.

Even in this pass I was scraping to find things to fix. Because I keep a master list of changes, I know there were only 56 corrections in 415 pages, almost all of them involving either minor formatting issues (at one point, the word "TransArabia" is broken between two lines, and the line break was between the "n" and the "s" instead of between the "s" and the "A") or single word substitutions (at another place, I had written "change to world" where I meant "change the world," the sort of error that's easily missed in copyediting, because your brain fills in the correct word automatically; I only finally noticed it because the galleys are in a different font than the manuscript I've been working with for the past four years).

As with Bad Monkeys, I did manage to find a statue to obsess over. There's a scene in The Mirage where my protagonist Mustafa al Baghdadi pays a visit to one of Saddam Hussein's mansions. Saddam's son Qusay leads Mustafa down a long hall lined with statues depicting Saddam in the guise of various historical figures, such as Hammurabi and Ramesses the Great. The hall ends in a domed chamber at the center of which is a two-story-tall statue of Saddam-as-Nebuchadnezzar; in a deliberate allusion to the Book of Daniel, sunlight shining through windows in the dome makes the statue's head glister like gold. Qusay instructs Mustafa to wait in this chamber, and leaves him standing "in Nebuchadnezzar's shadow."

This is the part my brain decided to fixate on. Because it is morning -- early morning -- the sunlight would be entering the dome at a shallow angle, so would there really be a shadow on the chamber floor for Mustafa to stand in? Also, Qusay and Mustafa are walking towards the west end of the house, and since I don't describe Mustafa passing the statue, that would put him still on the east side of it. Even if there is a shadow, would it be on the east side of the statue?

Yeah, I know: Nobody but me and maybe two other guys with OCD or Asperger's would ever even think to care about this, so it doesn't matter. But that didn't stop me from standing in front of a window one morning last week, pretending to be a statue of Nebuchadnezzar, and sighing with relief when I saw that I actually cast two shadows: one to the west, caused by the direct light of the sun, and another to the east, caused by the sun reflecting off the wall behind me.

And yeah, I know: It still doesn't matter. But after that, I was able to let it go. !قَدْ أُكْمِلَ

P.S. Now that it is finished, I hope to have cover art and a description of what the novel is actually about up on my website fairly shortly. Sorry I've been so cryptic up to now, but I didn't want to jinx it.

P.P.S. The tentative pub. date is January 17, 2012.

"That's so Takei"

Via Rachel Maddow:

Four-legged SEALs

So it seems the SEAL team that got Bin Laden included a "war dog" -- probably a German Shepherd -- trained to sniff out bombs and snipers, and to parachute from altitude:



Slate makes the inevitable "war cat" joke:

Yes, we can

My favorite partisan reaction to the news (via Blag Hag):



Meanwhile, on FOX (via Regret the Error):



If nothing else, this may explain why our own local FOX affiliate was spelling Osama bin Laden's name "Usama" last night. At first I thought it was because they wanted to get the USA in there, but now I'm thinking it was to avoid confusing the staff.

Murderer shot by Union troops



On CNN last night they were making repeated comparisons between Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, but it seems to me the more apt comparison is to John Wilkes Booth: a spoiled rich kid who convinced himself he had a starring role in the divine plan, who changed history through a single violent act, and who contrary to his own expectations will be remembered not as a hero but as a murderer.

It's too bad the timelines couldn't have been more similar: Booth lasted all of twelve days after shooting Lincoln, while Bin Laden has been "hiding in a cave" for so long that I'd almost ceased to think of him as a real person. My initial reaction to the news was this weird dissonance, as if the Navy SEALs had killed the boogeyman.

I am very glad they got him, and hope this brings some solace to the families of the victims. I also hope this means the war is over.

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