Last night the world lost a big glorious goofball of a cat. My dear friend Scott Lynch’s cat Muse died suddenly and unexpectedly at home. As those of you who follow me on social media or read Friday Cat Blogging know, we had the pleasure to play surrogate monkey for Muse, aka Giant War Cat to my readers, for nearly two months this summer. We will miss him enormously and we’re heartbroken for Scott and his other person, Elizabeth Bear. I haven’t the heart to write any more, so I will say goodbye to him in pictures.
This was the first time I met him.
He had a ten minute staring contest with the concrete cat.
I’ve just gotten home from a wonderful show at the Minnesota Fringe Festival created by Bob Alberti. The show is Principia Discordia. I feel like something of a grandfather to this show for three reasons. The first is this:
The second reason is that I get to take some tiny fraction of the credit for this marvelous thing that didn’t actually involve me doing anything new.
Third, there are three other obvious grandparents, in this case: William Shakespeare for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Edmond Rostand for Cyrano de Bergerac, and Oscar Wilde for The Importance of Being Earnest. This puts me in excellent company for very little actual work. Perhaps I should explain.
The play that Bob has put together is a beautiful little six character piece starring Eris, Goddess of Discord (Dawn Krosnowski),* Thalia, the Muse of Comedy (Lana Rosario), Ms. Black (Laura Cannata), Ms. Red (Susan Becker), Mr. White (Duck Washington), and Mr Gold (Bob Alberti). The run time is a bit under an hour, and they cover a lot of ground as they do scenes from Midsummer, Cyrano, and Earnest. The central idea is that Thalia is directing the scenes and Eris is balking her by randomizing the casting with the help of the audience so that no two night’s shows will have the same characters in the same parts.
This has a number of lovely effects and, as I mentioned above, means I get to play grandparent without having to have written any actual scenes or anything to do with the play at all. Really, the heavy lifting is done by anybody and everybody but me, starting with Bob and his players who did a splendid job. I just get to smile and be happy that other people are doing great work that puts me in the acknowledgements.
My focus coming into this was, of course, on Thalia, and even more on Eris. Anyone who has read the WebMage books knows that I have a huge soft spot for Eris.
So, Thalia first. Lana Rosario’s performance was absolutely delightful, a wonderful broad comedic take on the directorial thespian that reminded me in the best possible way of my own drama teacher and mentor Vaughn Koenig. Grand and melodramatic and hooray.
Eris, well, Eris was perfect. I will now picture Dawn Krosnowski when I think of her. She had the humor and the charisma and the absolute unholy glee nailed. There was a point in the show where she came around and sat in the seat behind mine with one hand resting on the rail—just in my peripheral vision. Knowing my Eris, the thought of having her behind me was really quite alarming, and she would know that, and know that I know that she would know and take delight in every bit of it, and it was all very very meta. I loved it and her performance, and, well pretty much everything.
The rest of the cast had to cover more ground as they played the major parts in the three scenes, so I don’t have as solid a reference for any of them, and that’s actually perfectly in keeping with the core of the play which is a full blown challenge to the idea of type casting of any kind, be it gender, size, shape, race, or some other factor. I think they did a beautiful job of it and said something that was not only entertaining, but also important, and that perhaps more than anything makes me proud to have had a tiny part in the genesis of this show.
I have to give Bob special props down here for the writing of the thing, especially with Thalia and Eris. He gave them lines that I could have written word for word, which is cool. He also gave them lines that I wish that I had written, which is absolutely awesome. Oh, and the ending was note perfect.
It’s really hard to express how wonderful and surreal seeing this show was for me. I feel like I just got to cross off a bucket list item I hadn’t even known I wanted. Simply knowing that I helped to inspire someone else in their own art makes me feel like I’ve done something very right in the world. That it was something so genuinely wonderful, well, that’s a gift beyond price.
If you get the chance, go see the show! It’s only playing through Saturday, and the quality of the show and the reviews that are going up at the fringe site suggests that you’ll want to move quickly.
*Kezia Germ will be taking the role of Eris for show five.
P.S. for more on Bob Alberti, Tim Wick has written a lovely piece on him in his friend a day series which also featured me at one point.
My dear friends Michael and Lynne Thomas are kickstarting a new magazine called Uncanny. I think it’s going to be a pretty spiffy addition to the science fiction and fantasy world, which is why I’ve kicked in at the sustaining level. They currently have three Hugo awards on the mantel as well as number of additional and/or pending nominations. They’ve discovered some wonderful new writers in their years in the industry, as well as publishing a lot of old warhorses like me.
You could do much worse with your entertainment/art dollars than to throw some their way. At $25 you get a one year subscription that includes a hell of an initial table of contents including folks like Amal El-Mohtar, Sofia Samatar, Charlie Jane Anders, Liz Argall, Rachel Swirsky, Maria Dahvana Headley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Neil Gaiman, Scott Lynch, Catherynne M. Valente, Paul Cornell, Ken Liu, Kat Howard, Hao Jingfang, and E. Lily Yu in addition to whatever new writers they discover as they go along. I’m not currently in the queue and don’t have any plans to submit anything—in part because I’m not doing short fiction or poetry these days—so my interest is purely in seeing friends succeed with a cool new project that will broaden and deepen the field.
Much ink has been spilled over J.K. Rowling’s revelation that Dumbledore was gay. I’m personally glad she said it for a number of reasons, one of which is a writing reason.
She showed respect for her readers. Giving an honest answer to an honest reader question is a matter of simple authorial courtesy. As an author, my default response to reader questions is to answer them to the best of my ability, unless answering them will create spoilers for later books.
Quite a number of people seem to disagree for various reasons political and literary. On the former I will simply say that I disagree vigorously. On the latter however, I am going to go into a little more detail as it is relevant to the core reasons for this blog’s existence.
The essentials of the literary argument are that the text is everything, and that authors should simply shut up about anything beyond what is on the pages in black and white because many readers don’t want the author messing around with their version of the empty pages that lie beyond the borders of the text.
My biggest problem with this it that it gives more weight to the readers who don’t want to know the author’s thoughts on something than it does to those who do, and it does so at a disproportionate cost to the curious.
J.K.Rowling was asked a direct question by a reader who really wanted to know Rowling’s answer. If Rowling had the answer in her head, should she really deprive those who are interested just so that those who aren’t don’t have to hear about it?
It seems to me that if an author doesn’t answer questions, it penalizes those who want to know the answers far more than answering penalizes those who don’t want to know. With the exception of a few very big names it is astronomically easier to avoid author answers to reader questions than it is to divine those same answers if they’re never given. If they stay in the author’s head, no one will ever know the author’s opinion but the author.
My friend, the fantastic photographer Kyle Cassidy tweeted about a men reading women in comics tumblr designed to dispel the myth that men aren’t interested in reading comics by and about strong, diverse, interesting women. As an author who feels it’s very important to have strong smart women characters in my books I decided this was a project that I wanted to support. I thought it would be fun to send in a picture of me reading Birds of Prey since I was recently drawn back into reading comics in part by the work of the wonderful writing and stories of the Gail Simone run on Birds of Prey. So I called up another fabulous photographer friend Matthew A Kuchta who did my most recent couple of author photos as well as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe shoot with my wife and I at Neil Gaiman’s lamppost, and I asked him if he’d be interested. We decided that since I did a lot of my comics reading while inverting after a workout it would be fun to play off that. This picture, which I love, is the result of that call.
I’m reading Martha Wells’ The Serpent Sea right now. It’s the sequel to The Cloud Roads, and, like it’s predecessor, it is an excellent read. These books are hard to capture in a review of any reasonable length. This is because they are dense, and complex, with truly amazing world building, and non-human characters who are quite genuinely alien, yet still comprehensible and sympathetic.
The characters, particularly the protagonist, Moon, are compelling and flawed and likable. Stone and Jade are also excellent. The plots are solid and fast moving. But it’s the world that…just, wow! There is a depth and breadth and sheer alienness here that I have rarely seen in any novel. Shape-shifters, flying ships, city-trees, six kazillion sentient races, floating islands, and on and on and on, and yet it isn’t too much. Every bit of it makes sense in the context of the world.
I’m normally not a big one for writing reviews, and certainly not for books I haven’t finished. But I love these books and I want them to be widely read so that Martha gets to keep writing them, and I have to read them slowly because there’s simply so much to digest and think about. So, I’m going to post this now in hopes of driving a few more people to go pick them up.
Also, since it’s always worth mentioning when speaking of Wells’ work, if you haven’t read her earlier books The Element of Fire and The Death of the Necromancer, which are among the best fantasy novels written in the last thirty years, you should go find copies and read them immediately.