the yellow volume, an anthology of stories in support of the clarion science fiction and fantasy writers’ workshop

Hello, readers.

The Yellow Volume is here.

As in previous years, with The Red Volume and The Orange Volume, myself and my fellow classmates of Clarion 2012 (The Awkward Robots) have put together a fantastic collection of speculative fiction in support of the Clarion Foundation.

It’s available here on Gumroad.

You pay whatever you want. Pay nothing. Pay everything. Print the whole thing in really tiny print on the back of a napkin.

It’s up to you.


Whatever you decide, you’ll get 15 tales of fantastic hope and terror. By amazing people like Shirley Jackson Award winner and Nebula nominee Sam J. Miller (debut novel The Art of Starving forthcoming from Harper Collins); Dell Award winner Lara Elena Donnelly (debut novel Amberlough forthcoming from Tor Books in February 2017);  and widely-acclaimed author Carmen Maria Machado (debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties forthcoming from Graywolf Press in Fall 2017).

And all proceeds, after hosting fees, will benefit the Clarion Foundation. Which benefits the Clarion Workshop.

A workshop that has, in its time, fostered such talented talents as Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, and Octavia Butler.

It also introduced me to my future Storyological co-host.

So grab a copy. And make a robot smile this Halloween.


Happy halloween, readers.



kazuo ishiguro and david mitchell: among giants and ghosts

Hello, readers.


Last Wednessay, as part of a week-long cavalcade of birthday wonderfulness, EG took me to see Kazuo Ishiguro and David Mitchell in conversation at the Royal Festival Hall, part of the sprawling Southbank Centre located here in London along the Thames.

They sat across from each other, angled toward us, and spoke at length, and in glorious loops, about, among other things, stolen livers, almost beautiful Japanese ghosts, swordplay, film vs. writing, fear and courage, dungeons and dragons, the recklessness of youth, and the one thing Kazuo Ishiguro learned from War & Peace1.

They divided their conversation, for the most part otherwise improvised, among three topics, each introduced by a film clip2

I particularly enjoyed the way that Ishiguro ignored, throughout the evening, all of those beautifully appropriate hints for segues delivered by David Mitchell.

Here is a picture of some of my notes from the evening:


And here are some selections of those notes typed out such that they might appear somewhat more legible-like. (note: the quotes below should be read as a doubtful combination of scribbled notes, memory, and imagination).


different qualities of fear

The evening began with David Mitchell telling a story first told to him by his brother, of a boy named Dave who stole his dead uncle’s liver to sell to the butcher for money with which to buy sweets. In the end, the dead uncle creeps into the house, and up the stairs, and steals Dave’s liver and replaces it with sweets.

Kazuo Ishiguro responded that it was a really good story until it became horror.

KI: Horror. That’s valid and everything. But there is a different quality of fear with the supernatural. The story worked best at that moment of the voice calling out from the stairwell, “Dave. Dave.”

DM: When the ghost loses its ectoplasmic liminality, something more rational kicks in. Writing a ghost story is a high wire act.

He spoke, then, Ishiguro did, of the psychic experience you don’t want. Of how little he feared his liver being torn out, of whatever the ghost might do to you, and how much he feared reality’s distortion, of the loss of trust in, and control of, his senses.

KI: I don’t mind the horrible stuff. I’m afraid of waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the apparition. There’s an energy in ghost stories. Even in a crude form they can produce a strange reaction in people. People are haunted by them whether they want to be or not. I still aspire to that effect. I want people to be haunted.

japanese and western ghosts

KI: Japanese ghosts are really scary. Western ghosts not so much. Transparent people with chains.

DM: Scooby-doo ghosts.

KI:Japanese ghosts represent emotions so powerful that the normal physical laws don’t apply to them.

DI: They’re implacable. Like a sadistic mother. You’re constantly having to guess the rules. In folk tales, you have to ask the right god in the right way to get what you want, and then you must say thank you.

earliest stories

Also. It turns out that, for both writers, their earliest stories were ghost stories. The first four of Ishiguro’s published stories, in fact.

dungeons & dragons

Just so you know, David Mitchell divides writers into ex-D&D players and non-ex-D&D players. Kazuo Ishiguro didn’t know what the hell it was. David Mitchell said to ask Michael Chabon, a former dungeon master.

action on the page 4

before we begin

I should point out there are few things more magnificent than listening to Kazuo Ishiguro refer to western-style sword-fighting as clinky, clonky affairs in which one has long conversations.

do you feel we are second best to cinema

After showing us a very brief, and very tense, Japanese sword-down, and asking David Mitchell the above question, Mitchell responded that really it depended on what result you desired.

DM: Once the gun goes off, the tension’s gone.

KI: Perhaps it’s psychological build-up, that’s where we have an advantage. Like in that moment where Kurosawa’s characters are staring at each other. You have to film an actor from the outside. Unless you do something very weird.

DM: Action’s actually kind of dull on the page. Rosemary Sutcliffe. I loved her fights. I remembered them as 20 pages long, but, when I looked back, whole battles, on which rested the fate of the world, lasted less than a page-and-a-half.

peculiarly fearlessness

KI: You are peculiarly fearless. Do you have an idea that this setting or genre is so alien to my experience, that you don’t carry on?

DM: There’s a subdivision between genre and material. I’m attracted to genres that I’m not familiar with. As for material, you can always do it. But you have to do it sideways. Now, I wouldn’t do an American voice. A Brit who lived in the U.S. a long time, perhaps. Or a Canadian. a micro-note off is worse than being a whole octave off

KI: Would you write an African-american character?

DM: I’ve read too much Ta-Nehisi Coates to attempt that.


Kazuo Ishiguro has been keeping a notebook since 1981 in which he writes down all his ideas. 1981 is the year I was born. That means I am as old as Kazuo Ishiguro’s ideas.

buried giants, lost settings

KI: I backed off setting the book, Buried Giant, in Bosnia.

DM: I wouldn’t call that a cop-out. Just very sideways.

the doubtfulness of reality 5

DM: Why are so many of your characters not sure if they can trust their minds?

I don’t remember exactly how Kazuo Ishiguro answered this question, and my notes, such as they are, transition into WHAT AN AMAZING VERB REALIZED IS.

KI: And I realized. It’s a great verb to expedite things. You can use it in strange and promiscuous ways.

DM:To realize something includes an act of erasure. Cool verb. I’ve underrated it all my life.

questions and answers

DM: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?

KI: Nothing particularly strange. Why? Have you?

DM: A midriff. Don’t tell my wife. Later she got a tattoo. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.

KI: I have been asked some pretty strange questions. Once, a woman stood up and told me, at extreme length, the situation at her office, and then she asked if I thought she should resign.

In a remarkable display of unconscious gender bias, all questions asked by the audience came from people identifying as female.

Here are the five questions asked and their respective answers.

  1. If you looked behind you right now and saw a ghost, what would it look like?

    KI: A sneaky way to ask a very personal question.

    DM: Myself, aged 80.

    KI: (incredulous)That’s not very scary. Oh, look. That’s just me. I guess that’s slightly disconcerting.

    Ishiguro then considered his own answer.

    KI: Ghosts of children. Or. One of those almost beautiful women ghosts, but they’re not. They’re very scary.

  2. Could you talk about how you come to your endings? Because, Mr. Mitchell, it seems as though your books are so beautifully constructed, and Mr. Ishiguro, it seems the endings for your books grow organically from the story as it unfolds.

    KI: I always have the endings before I start. I know absolutely the emotion I want to end on.

    DM: I never know. A novel for me is like a road journey through the alphabet. I like X, Y, and Z to be murky. I want my endings to have a retrospective logic.

    KI: How far do you go before you know the ending? Quite near the end?

    DM: It has happened, yes. The writing of the book tells me how it will end.

    It gives me great comfort, as a writer and a reader, to know that the woman who asked this question experienced, from reading these two author’s books, the exact opposite sensation of the two writers writing their books. As much as we may think we know, we don’t.

    Then Ishiguro and Mitchell discussed whether or not Ishiguro was cheating when he wrote.

    KI: I do the same thing in miniature. Often, an image, scene, or moment, drops in my head. Is it okay to work backward?

    DM: I’m going to conjure the spirit of Ian McKellan here and say, “My dear boy, that’s all writing is.” I often see an F that is radioactive with rightness, and I try to figure out what D and E will get me to F?

  3. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?

    DM: I go for walks. I speak dialogue aloud. In the small village where I live, people probably see me as the town kook.

    KI: I escape into music, the non-verbal world. When I watch a movie, I’m still thinking with my writing brain. Oh, that’s a false enemy.

  4. Who would else would you care to do an evening like this with?

    DM: Joseph Conrad

    KI: Dostoevsky. He’d be a lot of fun.

  5. Do you believe that success, or popularity, makes it harder for you to be authentic?

    Here, in this answer, we saw something we saw throughout the night, namely, Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantastic deftness at redirecting questions at David Mitchell while simultaneously transforming them into compliments.

    KI: David, this is what I was getting at before. In Number9Dream, you used the English vernacular so freely while writing from the point-of-view of a Japanese boy. It’s not subtitled English. I don’t think I’ve seen since or before a writer dive write in to a foreign consciousness, so fully realized. So fully characterized.

    DM: I was my own translator in that book.

    KI: How do you hint at a second language behind the 1st? You do it so well, or maybe so recklessly.

    DM: I am a first-person present tense junkie. You can only have subtitles in past tense. I followed my instinct. You start to question that instinct as you age

    KI: Yes. More cowardly.

fear and courage

KI: There’s a theme to this evening, I think. Fear and courage. Issues in writing. You have to be daring. Is fear too big a word?

DM: We live in a tiny world of calculated risks. You have to decide where courage will turn into hubris and get as close to that line as possible. Then write down descriptions of what seems so hard. Often you’ll find solutions in the description of what seems impossible.

And that, was the end, of that.

Thanks for reading.

Happy whatever day this is where you are, readers.





  1. Ishiguro said one thing he learned from this was that before a great battle it serves one well to send a character up to a high place and have them look down at the battlefield. He said he saw the same thing in Number9Dream. ↩︎
  2. Perhaps in response to, or as planned, the evening’s use of film clips to introduce the two writers, and their topics, led to a fascinating discussion of what advantages and disadvantages each art form—film and writing—has in respect to the other. ↩︎
  3. clips shown: The Sixth Sense & The Innocence ↩︎
  4. final stand-off from Kurosawa film, possibly Yojimbo ↩︎
  5. clip from Forest of the Dead, that one episode of Doctor Who where Donna is saved by a computer and life is but a dream ↩︎


Hello, readers.

One late night, while walking through a field near Oxford, Mississippi, a friend turned to me and asked, between the shush-shush of our steps through the tall grass, “Do you ever feel like when you look up at the stars you see more than other people?”

We were walking to a pond near a farmer’s house. We were meant to go skinny dipping. A late-night walk, a late-night swim, a return home, a goodnight, a goodbye. One of our friends was leaving the next day for distant mountains and very well known dangers.

I looked up. I saw more stars than I had ever seen. It was so dark and so clear that you could see the dust between the stars. Galaxies caught in the winds of dark matter.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean because we grew up with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Star Wars, because we read Foundation and Dune, because we care about the multiverse and so when we look up we see aliens and star destroyers and sliders surfing the dimensions. We see stories.”

I knew what he meant. And I said so.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Stories in the dust.”



Now, thinking about it, I suppose I could have said that people have been dreaming into the dust since forever. I could have mentioned Cyrano de Bergerac’s L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune, or Dante’s various planetary paradises, or those Hindu epics of flying machines that flew equally well underwater or in outer space. But, that wasn’t what he meant. And I knew what he meant then and now. He meant that we possessed a shared inheritance and responsibility of wonder that had been passed down from forever and, for us, that wonder happened to be populated with Skywalkers and Baron Harkonnens, as opposed to angels and demons, and it would be our job as writers to keep populating the dust with stories of what was and what still might be.

Happy Wednesday, readers.


p.s. Later this month, EG and I will be seeing 2001. It will be her first time. Hopefully, we’ll catch Interstellar, as well. One must never stop re-wondering the imagination.


Hello, readers.

As the first week of November blusters1 to a close, it seems a good moment to stop and look around, to take a moment and take it all in, before the year itself blusters towards its end2, and share some small part of the all and everything with you.

  1. One part of the all and everything, of course, is this novel, this thing I’m writing, in which feature robots, romance, and revolution, and which, during this NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to entirely redraft all 120,000 words, or so, which works out to, oh, I don’t know, about 4,5000 words a day, which is ridiculous, but, then again, so is the length of this current sentence and that seems to be carrying on just fine without too terribly much concern about whether or not the thing being done qualifies as ridiculous or silly or what have you.
  2. YouTube. It’s blowing up. Not literally. But literally. Like, oh my god, it’s literally blowing up, in the way the Brits use the expression, which is to mean the opposite of what the word means3. I’ve done a few videos. It’s fun. Other people are doing videos and having fun and also thousands and millions of people are watching. Here are a few of my favorites.
    1. vlogbrothers
    2. physics girl
    3. crash course
    4. scishow
    5. kwow
    6. zoella
    7. lastweektonight
    8. Also, there’s this article from the Guardian, or from The New York Times in 2005.
  3. Podcasts. Literally changing the world. Radio is so totally back and not even on the radio anymore. It’s transcended and returned to form. Here are my favorites, organized based on content.
    1. Science
      1. radiolab
      2. 99% invisible
      3. the infinite monkey cage
    2. Stories of
      1. this american life
      2. theory of everything
      3. the moth
      4. fugitive waves
      5. on being
      6. strangers
    3. Pop Culture
      1. pop culture happy hour
      2. the incomparable
    4. Music
      1. all songs considered
      2. desert island discs
      3. the blues kitchen
      4. music that matters
      5. morning becomes eclectic
    5. Books
      1. between the covers
      2. maybe I should listen to more podcasts considering I’m a writer? (not an actual podcast)
    6. Nightvale
      1. Which I’ve only listened to a few, but figured I better put it on here because I know if it’s awesome and should be listening more and I will. I promise.
      2. There should always be at least two things under a bigger thing. That’s done then.
  4. Where were we?
  5. Books are still awesome. I’m reading Bleak House and Virtual Light just now. Before that, and my favorites this year being, among other things:
    1. anna karenina
    2. tale of two cities
    3. the picture of dorian gray
    4. doctor who: the writer’s tale (the final chapter)
    5. tigerman
    6. daytrippers
    7. strangers in paradise
    8. the girl with all the gifts
    9. I will not link to the books. They’re books. You’ll have to go to your library, or 3D book printer or something.

That is literally 27 links (not counting the one down there in the footnotes).

Happy near year’s end, readers.


  1. Yes. I am quite fond currently of the world bluster. It is what it is.

  2. Speaking of taking it all in before we reach the end of the year, here’s Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2014

  3. More power to them! Irregardless, for example, a great example of people ignoring what words mean and doing what they want with them. Look at how that turned out.


Hello, internet.

Last week, the name Bo Burnham graced these pages(1) because of what. and how it’s the future of comedy, what with its singing, dancing, miming, and deliciously meta and sometimes surprisingly heartfelt riffs on reality, consciousness, comedy, and, um, riffs.

One of the things I loved about his performance, though, is something very old fashioned. Story and theme.

Bo’s up there at the beginning, and he’s stalking about, roaring like Godzilla, and then he’s reading from a notebook that he shows you is blank and wonders, ‘Why am I lying to you?’, and then he’s playing a song and wondering how to make sense of the sadness and why is everyone laughing? Very soon, it’s very apparent, that this routine is less stand-up and more avant-garde one man show in which, for better or worse, you’re watching a comic and performer struggle through a David Foster Wallace level of noise-drunk, self-involement, searching for some sense of meaning in the cliche’s, in the weary punch lines, in the routines of comedy past. Bo Burnham loves burying jokes and casting aside one-liners in a style deliberately out of sync with expectation.

Every generation grows up believing they know everything. It’s never been true, but lately, it’s been closer to the truth. We are so far post-modern that I think most of us can agree we’re post-reality and looking back and in and out trying to find out when we passed reality by and how we can find it again. Something real. Something genuine. I watch Bo Burnham in what., and I see a comedian five-steps ahead, assuming his audience is at least three-steps ahead, and so left wondering, how the fuck do I tell a joke when I, and everyone, already knows how all of this works? And what’s the point anyway? We’ve had comics before. I’m just another guy on a stage doing the same thing everyone else has ever done and how can I be new and me and real when whatever I do feels like a copy of someone else?(2)

And Bo, like DFW, does the only thing you can, really, which is to dig in and reach out and try to create something, anything, out of the noise. There’s such joy in watching Bo mix live and pre-taped bits. For some, perhaps, watching a man mime playing keyboard, after, you know, already actually playing the keyboard earlier might seem silly. But, I think, while it is silly, it’s also brilliant, because all the mixing of live and pre-taped stuff begins to feel like a comment on the noise, tangible and intangible, real and unreal, that all mixes together until we get to that place post-reality where so many people don’t care when they go to see 2NE1, or Girl’s Generation, or watch reality TV, or a YouTube video, whether it’s really real, or kind of real, or so fake it’s hyper real.

There’s this bit, by the end of the show, when voices off-stage begin taunting Bo (calling him a fag, offering to make him rich if he’ll just focus more on his brand, wondering why he acts so arrogant on stage and then so shy off). It’s brutal, honest, and a little scary, watching him cower in the dark, all light dimmed to a spotlight on his body, and the voices calling from the darkness, name-calling, name-dropping, naming him whatever they see fit. Earlier, Bo does something similar in a routine of Gollum-like split between his left and right brains. Then, he figured how to unite his logic and emotion into comedy. Here, he does something different in that he’s not explicit in what he’s doing. He doesn’t explain or analyze or undercut the punchline of this joke because there’s no joke, there’s just this, Bo raising a hand, cutting the voices into a refrain, ‘We think we know you. We think we know you.’(3). It’s so eery and awesome and then, he turns, he moves his hands a different way, and he begins remixing the voices that taunt him into something like a dance-pop-revolution, into something beautiful and alive and not burdened by fear or shame or logic or anything of what he’s been talking about all night.

It’s brilliant.

That is not all that’s on my mind, readers, but it’s enough, and all that I’m writing about today.

Happy post-reality.


(1)Webpage. Witness the linguistic skeumorphism! At some point, far off in the future–when apes or aliens or robots or [insert surprising but inevitable overlords of humanity] rule the earth–someone will ask someone else where the term webpage came from and that someone (probably a magical analog cyborg) will say, ‘Well, my little Farfanoog, a long time ago people used to worship trees, and the spiders that lived and wove webs between the leaves, and they used to strip the wood from the tree to make their own webs in which to write words and one day they learned how to weave their dream weavings into the clouds and they called these floating images that graced their glass, webpages.’

(2)Before the internet, before we had everything, it must have been easier to feel unique, mustn’t it? Or is that just generational exceptionalism?

(3)It’s a phrase that seems as much about how people think they know Bo, as it is a phrase of how, in the YouTube generation, perhaps more than any other celebritied generation, so much of the fame is based on the idea (real, unreal, magic) that fans and artists know each other, that there’s this intimate connection wherein your videos are you, and you are your videos.

The Great Perhaps

Hello, readers.

Recently, I began reading Looking for Alaska, John Green’s first book. More recently, I finished it.

Here are some thoughts about my thoughts.

Thought #1: That’s a lot of cigarettes.

Thoughts about thought #1: The characters in Looking for Alaska burn through more words and ideas and cigarettes in one scene than a great many characters sniff at for an entire novel. They smoke in the shower. On the soccer field. Under a bridge, by a lake, in a spot they call the “The Smoking Hole.” And while they smoke, they talk about writers, labyrinths, the last words of the famous dead, and, on occasion, a little bit about themselves and the mysteries of being themselves and wanting to be closer to the selves of others. They talk about themselves, and their ideas, the way they burn through cigarettes, as though their lives depended on burning through the very things (cigarettes, themselves, each other, their ideas) that might one day kill them.

The story of Looking for Alaska is, in so many ways, so terrifically small in scope–there’s a handful of teenagers attending boarding school. But, it’s so much bigger on the inside, so full of what Miles, the main character, calls, ‘The Great Perhaps.’

Thought #2: There was this girl.

Thoughts on thought #2: A very great many stories could begin with the words, “There was this girl…” And it’s a problem on the whole, because, on the whole, it tends to reinforce the idea, so very often idea-ed in stories, that women exist as something for people to stare and wonder at, and be transformed by rather than, you know, for them to exist as and for themselves. Stories of, “There was this girl…” include: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Leon, Scott Pilgrim vs. All the Things and Stuff , and Anna Karenina. And, of course, in some of these, the girl in question is absolutely a character unto herself rather than existing solely as a symbol for whatever thing about life the writer wants to write about, or a fulcrum around which another character’s life pivots. In the case of Anna Karenina, for example, we get it all, because Anna has her own story, her own arc, as well as, more or less, functioning as a symbol for, um, I don’t know, the existential horroradventure of being a woman in late 19th century Russia, both bursting with and being swallowed by love and convention. In the case of Looking for Alaska, Alaska is also, like Anna Karenina, both herself and a symbol, if in very many fewer pages, and with far more smoking and drinking of Strawberry Hill than probably Anna Karenina or Tolstoy would go in for. Alaska is a character unto herself, with a past, and concerns, and sorrows. But she’s also a symbol for the Great Perhaps, for those mysteries and sorrows of the larger world for which Miles, the ‘main’ character, has set out in search. Also, possibly, she doesn’t have terribly much of an arc. But, in this book, in this story, there’s something to that, because unlike Anna Karenina, our narrator here is not Leo Tolstoy, a.k.a. possibly god, but a sixteen-year-old boy, Miles Halter, who may not understand the arc of Alaska until later, until, looking back, he understands his story through the stories of others.

Corollary Thought to Thought #2: Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) gets thrown around a lot of late, possibly beginning with Eternal Sunshine, and continuing on into this day. It refers to a girl in a story who exists as a mess of wonder and terror (very often sexy, very often with a slight bent towards death and destruction, or endless joy, which is a kind of death, all situations of stasis–whether of joy or terror or anything in between–being a kind of death) that awakens the hero (generally a boy) to the mess of wonder and terror that is life. It’s very much a part of the larger canon of stories referred to in Thought #2 as “There was this girl…” I happen to have loved a great many stories of said type, and several MPDGs (Clementine/Eternal Sunshine, Ramona/Scott Pilgrim, Summer/500 Days Of, Anna Karenina/Anna Karenina, Penny Lane/Almost Famous), but I’m aware that the best stories, the best tropes, transcend themselves, and that the MPDG trope is part of a larger and always necessary trope of how sometimes, in your life, someone appears at just the right time and changes everything, of which movies like Almost Famous and Once are perfect examples in which there are so many manic pixie dream guitarists and girls and vaccuum repairmen that enter into each other’s lives and all of them are changed by it.

The characters exist to transform each other and themselves.

So, if at the end of your story in which “There was this [insert appropriate pronoun here],” the person referred to by the appropriate pronoun has not undergone any change, has not experienced a story of their own, you might want to look at that again and wonder over whether your story might not be bigger and better for having a MPDLGTBQETC. that is not simply magical and mysterious, but also mundane and unambiguously a person capable of growth in their own right.

Thought #3: Someone once said that every story is about sex and death.

Thoughts on thought #3: Yes. Sometimes there are lasers, too.

Thought #4: That’s probably enough thoughts, for now.

Thoughts on thought #4: But about the fox hat? Or the labyrinth? Or last words? Or all of those discussion questions John Green helpfully answered and posed at the end of the book?

Thoughts on thoughts on thought #4: I’m hungry and want to eat lunch now.

Happy Wednesday, readers.

Go seek your Great Perhaps, wherever and with whomever it might wait.


Some things about ‘Jjincha’

Hello, readers.

One of my stories, “Jjincha,” is now out and available for you to click and buy at Amazon, as part of the anthology Dark Heart Volume 2, published by the small press wonders at Little Bird Publishing House in London. There’s a lot of good stories in there. Additional file and platform types, including an ink and paper version!, will be available from August 1st.

Also, as part of their promotion of Dark Heart Volume 2, the Little Bird folk are running a series of interviews of the authors. Mine went up yesterday. Inside, you’ll learn some things about me such as what happen to a Luke Skywalker action figure I once had and almost certainly didn’t bury somewhere.

Here are some things about “Jjincha.”

The first draft was written while on a plane. I was flying from Nashville to San Diego. In San Diego, I was set to attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Jeffrey Ford was teaching that first week and, he had decided that every writer showing up to the workshop should have a brand new, 1,000 word, short story ready on landing. Jeff’s a fantastic writer and teacher. He didn’t take it easy on us. He was brutal and loving. We loved him for it.

When I got on the plane, I didn’t have a 1,000 word story.

When I landed, I had something slightly more than a 1,000 word story. I spent the night cutting some words. In the morning workshop, I read the story. Jeff said, “Great. It could be better. You can have 250 more words.”

I took his advice and made it better. I added a bit more than 250 words. Sorry, Jeff.

That’s what writing it was like.

As far as what it’s about–a monster, a bridge, and a young Korean girl in search of her dead father–that is something different and I’m not sure where it came from.

Possibly me flying away from my sister and my mom, who was in hospice at the time. It was a struggle, for me and my sister and my mom, this thing I was doing. Flying away.

Possibly it was about my own dad, who had passed away a few years before.

Possibly, it came from my 2 years teaching in Korea where I marveled at the bridges and the shadows underneath. There was a party once where I got to walk back into the caverns under a bridge. Bridges are cool. They connect worlds and people. 

Possibly it came from a girl I met in Korea whose name I stole for the main character. She gave me a book about the death of a Korean mother and the resulting mysteries and wonders that her family experiences in the aftermath. 

Possibly, it was all of these things.

Which is the best thing about stories. All of the things.

Happy Tuesday, readers.



Begin Again and Again

Hello, readers.

Happy whatever day it is where you are. Here, in Ho Chi Minh, it’s Thursday evening. Last night, I saw Begin Again, a new film from John Carney, writer and director of Once. We went to the Bitexco cinema. The Bitexco is a very tall building which features restaurants, coffee shops, a cinema, and also a helicopter pad that, so far as I know, exists solely to be a major plot point in action movies.

We paid 5,000VND extra to get VIP seats. 5,000VND is about a $0.25. The movie was pure joy, as was the audience. The crowd laughed and clapped and stomped along. A totally genuine bubbliness that matched what was on screen, which was bubbly and funny in a way that was magic. It felt like watching people having fun making a movie about people having fun figuring out what to do with their broken selves. Which is, of course, to begin again. And again. As needed. 

Here are some things:

1) The Awkward Robots are killing it of late.

Go read or listen to the awesome Lara Donnelly’s story, “Chopin Eyes” at Strange Horizons.

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides“, the Shirley-Jackson-Award-nominated story from –superhero, community organizer, writer–has been included in Wilde Stories 2014, an anthology of the year’s best gay speculative Fiction. Woot!

In other Sam news, he and Ruby Katigbak, will be part of a “an unofficial, off-track, alcohol-fueled guerrilla reading” during Readercon, at midnight on Friday in the Burlington Marriott’s new Great Room. It will be hosted by Marco Palmieri, 

2) The awesome people I invited in my writing process blog post have put up there’s. Go read what A.S. Moser and Luke Pebler had to say and who they invited and how a blog tour can last forever.

3) My short story, “Jjincha”–which is about a little girl and a monster and also there’s a bridge–will be out in Dark Heart Volume 2 on July 11th. DarkHeart_v2

July 11th! That’s like. You know. Soon.

Don’t worry I’ll awesome all over the interweb when it’s available for clicking and reading.

3) I’m going to be in London starting in August. It’s a thing.

Happy Thursday, readers.


Some notes on notes

Hello, readers.

At one time, I kept a journal in which at the end of every day I wrote about the aforementioned day in the form of the following lists:

1) What did I do today?
2) What was I afraid of?
3) What did I do despite my fear?
4) What will I do tomorrow?

I did this for well over a year. It became a mental subroutine that, after some time, ran in the background throughout the day and then, rather easily, loaded up in the evening and generated output.

Three things I really loved about this.

1) I felt on top of things. I kept myself accountable. If I didn’t get something done, no worries. I knew that I would put it down in my journal with, more than likely, some thoughts of how to get it done.

2) Fear became conscious. Writing about my fears meant that pretty soon when I was scared to do something I would recognize that fear and think about how that night I would be writing about having felt that fear and how it influenced my actions. I felt stronger knowing my future self would be looking back at my present self.

3) I found having a schedule for reflection very helpful. Otherwise it’s all nostalgia all the time. My mind adores going over the past over and over again. Having a set time to reflect on my day, and its fears and hopes, was freeing.

One day, I stopped journaling. I felt that the sub-routine was so much a part of me that actually writing it all down felt unnecessary. And it was.

But lately I’ve missed writing a journal. I have and still do write all my stories long-hand, but what journaling I’ve done has been mostly in the form of this and other blogs, or notes stored in an Evernote notebook called Thoughts.

It’s not my favorite Evernote notebook.

It feels cumbersome to open Evernote and decided if my thought goes into the Thoughts notebook or another notebook.

Yesterday, I downloaded the Day One app and Vesper with this idea in mind of how to reflect on my life. I could use a notebook, but with my habit, lately, of always moving I am weary of collecting more notebooks than necessary (see above re: writing stories longhand).

Having Evernote, I did wonder if it was possible to have too many note apps. The answer of course is yes. Another answer and concern is that sometimes it feels like downloading apps replaces real action.

In this case, though, I feel like the different apps provide different contexts and so trigger different ways of thinking. Evernote, as some say, functions ike a big filing cabinet. Vesper will, I hope, function as a small notebook that stays forever tucked in my back pocket. I’ll take it out and make notes throughout the day and file the best ones away in Day One, or in Evernote.

And some of those thoughts, however filed, may end up here on the blog. Like this post. Which I wrote a large amount of in Day One when I was thinking of how I spent yesterday.

I don’t imagine that will happen too much.

Also, I’ve been thinking about creating a video blog. Which is a whole other thing. I wonder in what context, I would draft scripts? There’s an app called Drafts I might try.

Using all these apps, maybe I’ll keep my Evernote cabinet, and my mind, uncluttered by shards of half-considered inspiration. Or is that what I want? A cabinet full of the land of was and might be. I don’t know.

I don’t want to be fragmented in an unconscious way. I want my life to be chaotic and tagged, whimsical and precise. We’ll see how it goes.

Happy thoughts, readers.



Hello, readers.

Last night, some friends went to a HCMC karaoke place called Nnice. I don’t know what the extra ‘n’ is for. The room seated 9 comfortably and included walls on which rows of cut-out circles lit up like an equalizer. The rum was not good. Don’t drink it. I sang, among other things, “Stand By Me,” “I Swear,” and “Rainbow Connection.” The last may be my new go-to karaoke song. It’s singable and also it makes some people cry in the best of ways.

Previously mentioned future-writing-process-blogger, Luke Pebler, has put up his writing process blog in which therein are discussed: near-future immigrant power bandits, rock music revolutions on the moons of Jupiter, and how drafting stories is like “old progressive jpegs.” It’s great stuff.

An interesting article about how smart people sometimes are dumb by dint of their being smart enough to put themselves in contexts in which they keep being right and forget how often they might be wrong. (via daringfireball)

During the course of a 30+ hour journey from the U.S. to Vietnam, I spent about 8 hours in Tokyo’s two airports, Narita and Haneda. There was a missed connection and a transfer via a limousine bus involved. At Haneda, two Korean girls had a selfie-like photo shoot that was AMAZING. So many poses. Walking poses, surprise peek-a-boo poses. I loved it. I wish I had some pictures.

Two years ago today, I took a walk with a person who I knew I liked but didn’t know how much I would grow to love them. We had margaritas, missed a bus, and then attempted to find fireworks. We saw some from a bus that we didn’t miss. On the bus, there was a crazy person who kept yelling about things I’ve forgotten. What I remember of that night is that we got off the bus, walked down near the ocean, and saw some fireworks.

I love fireworks. I hope you have some in your today, readers. Or, if not today, then tomorrow. Or yesterday. Fireworks explode across time.


Happy love and fireworks, readers.