By Somebody Else

Two Quick Pointers

Things elsewhere on the Internet edition!

  • I wrote for Salon on a recent episode of Cult Faves all about the Satanic Temple and its late unpleasantness (don’t miss this week’s new episode on Thursday, when I finally unload all the great Anton LaVey anecdotes I’ve been squirreling away for weeks and then I promise No More Satan for awhile). Snippet:

    When we think of organized Satanism — if we think of it — most of us probably mentally conjure the winged eyebrows of Anton LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan back in 1966. But the headline-maker of note where Satanists are concerned lately is The Satanic Temple, and it seems to be embroiled in a battle for its own soul.

    My inbox has had some good Satanic tea following this.

  • AND Carrie, Rachel and I wrote a big process post about how we collaborated on Dead Air for long-time favorite site The Book Smugglers.

    Carrie Ryan: The three of us holed up in an apartment with our editors, several packs of post-it notes, sharpies, and a wall of windows. We started out with Gwenda’s basic story idea, and three days later we left with those windows covered with what turned into the book. It was truly a collaborative effort.

    Go check it out and get caught up on the podcast and serial, if you haven’t. You can get a 10% discount code for the serial at the end of the podcast OR go to redeem at the Serial Box site and use DeadAirBond.

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Read Alouds

At the end of last year, I drove up to Louisville one afternoon to participate in an exceedingly excellent idea for a new radio show Erin Keane was putting together with some of her colleagues at public radio station WFPL, where she's arts doyenne/reporter. Erin and I have known each other since high school, when we met at the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, and have been friends and fans of each other's work all these many long years since.

Erin is one of those amazing writers who not only works like a madwoman on her own craft, but also builds literary community to support others. For example, she founded the long-running and wonderful InKY reading series in Louisville. In fact, if there's a fab literary project or magazine out there that's reached out to her or that's crossed her path, chances are she's lent them advice, a hand, or bought a subscription.

Erin on the other side of the studio.(my crappy instagram photo of Erin on the other side of the glass)

Her latest venture is her biggest and best yet, I think. It's a radio (and podcast) series called Unbound, featuring two writers per half-hour themed episode reading their own work. To quote: "The show will be produced for broadcast in the WFPL listening area, available online via podcast and offered for syndication to other public radio stations. The show will launch this summer."

And it will include a wide range of writing (witness the fact I'm in the first episode, reading from Blackwood — not only a YA novel, but a fantasy one, which a great many literary enterprises might not decide to include, but here's one right up front) from writers who may not be household names. And because it's public radio, they have the ability to use partner stations to record authors who aren't able to get to the Louisville studio, too.

And from my side. #nervous(my slightly less blurry instagram photo from my scary side of the booth, getting ready to read)

I don't know about you, but I love being read to and hearing authors read their own work. And I love anything that helps put the spotlight on newer literary voices, which can sometimes be difficult to hear about in our noisy culture. The beauty of all this is you–yes you!–can help. 

Unbound's Kickstarter began yesterday. They've secured sponsorship to cover much of the costs of producing, distributing and promoting the show, but need (modest) help with the rest. I urge you to check it out (bonus? you can hear me being dorky about all this at the 3ish minute mark on the video). Click through, read and hear all about it.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to support the project if you can and help spread the word. You can also follow the show on twitter at @radiounbound and, of course, listen when it starts broadcasting. Yay.

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Guest Post: Emma Newman & A Split Worlds Story


Today I'm bringing you something a bit different than usual, but undoubtedly a treat–a guest post complete with bonus story from the fabulous Emma Newman, set in the world of her forthcoming fantasy novels for adults with good taste. The first, The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns, will be out soon (pretty cover to the right). I'll let her tell you what this is all about….


Emma Newman: In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called "Between Two Thorns." This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra tit-bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It's also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

This is the forty-second tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds.  If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.  You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.

The first part of this story can be read here or listened to here.

Story starts behind the cut tag:

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Guest Post: Lewis Shiner on “Tango: The Dance”

Shade_cropI first discovered Lewis Shiner's work years and years ago now, when a mutual friend gave me a copy of his short fiction collection Love in Vain. I immediately added him to my Favorite Writers list, and tracked down his novels. One of the things I love about Lew's work is that while everything he writes is immediately recognizable as his, I never know what to expect from the next novel or story. His latest novel, Dark Tangos, just out from Subterranean, is no exception. This tightly-strung thriller set in Buenos Aires sends recently-relocated techie Rob Cavanaugh on a journey filled with brutal political realities and undeniable romance, and it's highly recommended (and not just by me; Booklist gave it a starred review). I recently interviewed Lew about it, and today I'm thrilled to host his fascinating post about the dance in question.

Most people in the US have an idea of what tango looks like. That idea comes from Hollywood, and it looks a lot like this famous scene from Scent of a Woman:

I've just published a novel, Dark Tangos, that has tango at its heart, but it's nothing like what Pacino is doing in the video. My novel deals with tango the way it's danced in the nightclubs of Buenos Aires–arguably the most romantic dance in the world. Given Gwenda's ongoing interest in romance in literature, she was kind enough to give me space here to talk about dancing tango.

First, a few definitions. What you see in Scent of a Woman, True Lies, and Rudolph Valentino movies is variously known as American Tango (ignoring the fact that Argentina is part of America too), International Tango, or Ballroom Tango. Valentino basically invented it for the movies in the 1920s, and ballroom dancers codified a set of patterns for the sake of competitions–the head snaps, the cheek-to-cheek extended-arm promenades, the spins that yank the follower in and out like a yo-yo.

Argentine tango itself is divided into two schools: show tango and salon style. Show tango is generally performed in open embrace, to make room for lots of fancy footwork, including kicks and leg wraps. This is what is most commonly taught as Argentine tango in the US, again because there are defined moves to build a curriculum around ("This month: Ganchos!") and because the dance is so dramatic. Here's a great example, from Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson:


The skill level here is indisputable, but I have to ask, where is the romance? This looks more like a stylized kickboxing match than a makeout session. (You can also see Robert Duval pursuing this style in Assassination Tango.)

Finally, there is salon tango, more specifically, milonguero style tango. Milongueros are the old guys who hang out at the milongas, the tango dances in Buenos Aires, generally dressed in cheap suits with an open collared shirt. These guys have been dancing tango since they were kids; maybe they did the showy stuff when they were young, but now they have pared tango down to its essentials. They always dance in close embrace–one long, gentle, sensual hug.

My favorite teachers in the US are Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt, who completely understand the milonguero style, based on many months in Buenos Aires, learning it from the masters.  Here's a video where they're performing for a small group of students to "Poema," one of the most beautiful of all tangos:

None of this is choreographed. Ney is leading all the steps, spontaneously, in the moment, and Jennifer is responding to his leads and embellishing in the spaces he leaves her–though, obviously, they both know the song really well. Notice the pauses, the changes in energy as the music changes, the way they never break their embrace, as if they can't bear to be away from each other for even a second.

Ney never leads with his arms–everything comes solely from his chest.  And all the steps must fit to the stringent rules of the dance. To say that this is harder than it looks is an understatement of epic proportions. My protagonist explains early in the novel:

"Tango, at some level, is simple. There are only three steps: forward, backward, and the so-called open step to the side. The lead comes from the torso. The arms, relaxed, merely extend the torso and add clarity. The hands are still.

"The steps come only at specific intervals in relation to the music. On the beat, or tiempo.  Double time, or doble tiempo, and half time, or medio tiempo. Then there is contratiempo, the skipping heartbeat of the habanera rhythm, the African ancestor who will not be denied, da-dum dum dum.

"Yet for every rule, tango finds a loophole. The leader can pivot the follower, or himself, before taking any of those three steps. Leader and follower do not have to step at the same time, or in the same direction, or take the same number of steps. The complexities multiply exponentially until hope of mastering even the bare essentials of the dance recedes into an improbable future."

Part of my protagonist's journey involves his experiencing the terrible violence that is part of Argentine history, especially the Dirty War of the 1970s (see post at Chasing Ray later this week). But part of it involves his growth as a dancer from someone who is just walking through a series of learned moves to someone who is actually interpreting the music. Given that tango music is so often about betrayal, loss, and doomed love, the two journeys are inextricably entwined.

In fact, writing Dark Tangos took me to a new level of understanding of tango–seeing it in light of Argentine history let me finally see both inevitable sadness in the music, and the triumph implicit in the very act of dancing to it.


Visit all the stops on Lew's blog tour this week:

Mon 9/5  "Big Idea: Justice"
  John Scalzi's Whatever
Tue 9/6  "Tango: The Dance"
  Gwenda Bond's Shaken and Stirred
Wed 9/7  "Tango: The Music"
  Ron Hogan's Beatrice
Thu 9/8  "The Bare Necessities: Inspirations"
  Rebecca Joines Schinsky's Book Lady's Blog
Fri 9/9  "Old Fears: A Short History of a Dirty War"
  Colleen Mondor's Chasing Ray

Guest Post: Lewis Shiner on “Tango: The Dance” Read More »

Happy Sandstorm Release Day: D&D Salon

Sandstorm Today my partner-in-life-and-crime Christopher Rowe's first novel, Sandstorm (Amazon | Indiebound), releases into the wild, as they say. Said novel also happens to be part of the Forgotten Realms universe, a Dungeons & Dragons-related property of gaming publisher Wizards of the Coast. I'm sure a few years ago, I'd have thought I knew what that meant and I might even have been guilty (guilty is definitely the word) of dismissing many media tie-ins without a second thought. But that's because a) lots of people do so unfairly all the time and b) I didn't know anything about how such novels come into being. Suffice to say, it's pretty much like writing any other novel. Blood, sweat, tears. (In Mr. Rowe's case, also a typewriter.) With these, just about everything except the broader world is the creation of the author.

I also didn't realize just how many of my favorite writers have been strongly influenced by these books and gaming more generally. You might be thinking DUH, which I can certainly understand. It's been a great deal of fun to realize that D&D proves the lesson of modern pop culture:  Everything geeky is secretly (or not-so-secretly) cool. I decided it would be fun to ask a few of these writer friends (including Christopher) to share some thoughts about this non-guilty pleasure on Sandstorm's release day. They gamely (ha) and immediately signed on to this wacky plan. So, without further ado, behind the cut you'll find geektastic comments from my esteemed panel:

NYPL Young Lions Finalist and Crawford Award winner Jedediah Berry

Crawford Award winner and Nebula finalist Christopher Barzak

Hugo, Nebula and Printz winner Paolo Bacigalupi

Fabulous new writer Shveta Thakrar (who you'll be hearing a lot more about), and

Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award finalist Mr. Rowe.

I hope you'll share stories about your own fantastic geekdom in the comments.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t break in to point out that the remarkable and sloth-obsessed Richard Butner has a fabulous piece on the North Carolina Renaissance Fair over at The Morning News:

Some have “favor sashes” covered in pins and ribbons, gifts from friends. It’s a precursor to Myspace in that regard, counting friends and relations with physical tokens. When the longtime queen retired from the cast of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, the local rogues guild sent her off with an ambush of roses, kind words, and chaste kisses. Beyond economics, the wenches and rogues have staked their claim to the alternate psychic reality of the fair. They’ve found a ludic space that is as real to them as their day jobs.

Do check it out.

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New Kid on a Different Block

Mr. Christopher Rowe has finally begun using his new typepad blog. Isn’t it pretty? Go say hi.

p.s. The reading went great and kicked off a very fun evening with an Easy Listening Band of Doom at a really terrible Mexican place. More on that later. The day got away from us and I have still–rudely–not answered email. It’s nothing personal, I promise, and you’ll hear back from me soon. Off to Atlanta in the o’dark morning.

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Guest Essay: Cars and Katrina

Mr. Christopher Rowe recently went back to college, as many of you know. Yesterday morning he had to get up early to write a one pager of thoughts on Hurricane Katrina for his anthro class. He saw fit to include one of my favorite CVR anecdotes and I asked him if I could run it here. He had little choice but to say yes.

Here it is:

When I was sixteen I made the first and only trip I ever took to New Orleans. I traveled with my late stepfather, who was a used car salesman possessed of a deserved "colorful" reputation in matters of business. It was also the first time I ever flew on an airplane, and when we took off from the Nashville airport I was carrying $30,000 in cash in the pockets of my jeans. My stepfather explained that it was best if we split up our money in case we were mugged.

We were going to buy "sinkers," which was used car terminology for the considerable number of automobiles that are pulled from the waterways of Louisiana, Mississippi and even extreme southeast Texas following accidents or storms. There’s nothing illegal about it, actually. We bought dozens and dozens of cars at various lots in the city dedicated to the "rehabilitation" of sinkers. I remember that the lots weren’t paved with gravel, but with crushed seashells, because on the Gulf, it’s easier to find shells for grinding than the limestone we use here. Eventually, we arranged for the cars to be shipped back to Kentucky on freight trains, where my stepfather would resell them to car lots throughout the Commonwealth. When I asked him if the dealers who sold the cars to new owners would admit that they’d once been submerged in swamp water, my stepfather replied, "What do you think?"

I think that in the next year or so, a lot of sinkers will be making their ways to car lots all over the country. I think that sales of the smaller, more fuel efficient cars will outstrip those of SUVs and trucks, because I think that fuel prices–corrected to something approaching half the world average for end users in the wake of the destruction and obstruction of much of the USA’s domestic production capability–will continue to rise.

Revealed by Katrina’s winds as having been a thin scrim of a First World vacation town resting atop a Fourth World city teeming with poverty and desperation even before the storm, New Orleans may or may not rise again. The city’s location in the Delta was not chosen by caprice at its founding almost 300 years ago, however, as a deep water port is crucial at the mouth of the Mississippi if the vast center of the nation is to continue to engage in international trade. Further, Bourbon Street and the Quarter did not develop and maintain their reputations as destinations for Midwestern burghers and their college aged children to engage in a few extra-Christian activities far from the eyes of their neighbors only to see the bars shut down because the people working in them no longer have homes.

I believe it can be said, then, that the Port of New Orleans and the French Quarter will definitely be rebuilt in fashion that serves the business and social needs of the ruling plurality. Whether the city itself will be rebuilt is another question.

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