Funk and Fugue

With the inauguration now in the past the world exists in the consensual illusion of having returned to something like normal. That is absolutely not the case of course, and it will be a long time before we even have an idea of what normal looks like. It certainly won’t be what things looked like on this date four years ago, or even one year ago.

On this weekend in any other year I would be at ConFusion right now, hanging out with old friends, meeting new friends, talking about reading and writing and past cons and publishing and not getting published, and drinking and carousing and enjoying being in the company of good, smart, talented people.

Of course ConFusion is cancelled for this year, and I think ConFusion 2020 was the last normal thing I did before lockdowns began last March. I miss the experience terribly, but it is not as bad as it would be if it were going on and I was not there.

Right now I am sitting in the waiting area of a hospital, waiting on test results for a family member who is in poor health. This is part of a process which has been ongoing for some years now, so while it is not unexpected, it is also not a thing which could be predicted in any meaningful way.

Thus even though the exceptional chaos of the past four years is over, we are still awash in the ordinary chaos of daily life here in the cyberpunk hellscape that is the mid twenty-first century.


It’s been a quiet week for books here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. One book arrived – War Stories, an anthology courtesy of my subscription to Apex Book Company.

I am almost done with Democracy, Incorporated, and am about 120 pages into The Brothers Karamazov. I plan to round out the month with short stories before I pick up another book to follow the Wolin.

Writing is still going nowhere, though I can feel the knots in my mind loosening up and the creative juices beginning to flow again.

In the absence of ConFusion for inspiration I will need to rely on the mundane chaos of the world.

Breaking Cat News!

We have achieved cuddling! I repeat – we have achieved cuddling!

Poe and Pepper are getting along famously. Zyra and I started letting them interact under strict supervision about a week ago. Two days ago, after the usual running and tussling and what-not, they fell asleep near each other on the floor. Then last night while Z and I watched a movie, the Orange Ones climbed onto the sofa with us, piled up, and fell asleep. Then this morning, with the whole house and its innumerable nooks and crannies available, The two of them chose the same shelf and fell asleep.

2020 Just Won’t Let Go

Just when you think you’re safely out of 2020, the eldritch, cyclopean terrors of the time rise up and pull you back under. More about that in a dedicated post.

Not a lot to report for this past week. Work has been keeping me busy, and at any given time during the day I likely have a small orange cat asleep in my lap, which is the exact opposite of motivation to be productive.

Two new books arrived this week. On the left is the new hardcover version (Kickstarter exclusive) of Dyrk Ashton‘s fantastic Wrath of Gods, the second book in the Paternus trilogy. On the right is Arkady Martine‘s A Memory Called Empire, from my most recent order from Books and Mortar.

In reading news, I am almost 100 pages into The Brothers Karamazov, which puts me at just under 15% of the way through the book. I am also less than 100 pages from the end of Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy, Incorporated, and I am no longer either angry or sad when reading. Now I am just taking notes.

Still not a lot of writing happening here, though I feel like some could happen at any minute. Yup. Aaaaaany minute.

Maybe once I get caught up on my sleep. So, sometime after 2035.

Hitting the Ground Running in 2021

We had a great start to the acquisitions process here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. The first full week of 2021 saw six new books arrive.

On the top left is Box of Bones, by Ayize Jama-Everett and John Jennings, from a recently-completed Kickstarter campaign run by the ever-excellent Rosarium Publishing.

In the top middle is volume 2 of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s A Writer’s Diary. I picked up volume 1 around 20 years ago, and I swore I had purchased vol. 2 at some point, but it is nowhere to be found and I suspect it was lost during a move or vacation or something. I had to buy this one used, as new copies sell for over a hundred dollars.

On the right is Kim Stanley Robinson’s newest book The Ministry for the Future. I am already 400 pages in, and it is magnificent! I have been a fan of Mr. Robinson’s work since I first read Red Mars over twenty years ago. The Ministry for the Future is more in line with his works like the Science in the Capitol series or even New York 2140, of which this could well be a prequel. Robinson shows his work and imbues his novel with a strong sense of hope, though hope born of difficult struggles and terrible loss.

The bottom row is the result of an impulse purchase made after I discovered The Russian Library series published by Columbia University Press. I have recently started following Read Russia, and they are in partnership with CUP to publish lesser-known (outside of Russia) Russian writers of the past 250 or so years; from the late 1700s to well into the 21st century. So far they have released about two dozen books, and many more are scheduled for the next few years.

On bottom left is Writings from the Golden Age of Russian Poetry by Konstantin Batyushkov, translated by Peter France. In the middle of the bottom row is Between Dog and Wolf by Sasha Sokolov, translated by Alexander Boguslawski. On the bottom right is City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov.

(Yes translators are important, and they deserve as much recognition as the writers.)

So between these books, and Doctor Zhivago which arrived last week, and my slow but steady process through The Brothers Karamazov, I am in for an interesting few months of reading.

Speaking of reading, I am currently making progress in three books: The aforementioned The Ministry for the Future, the aforementioned The Brothers Karamazov, and Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated. Cheerful stuff, here in the first full week of 2021, four days after an insurrection and attempted coup at the nation’s Capitol Building.

Assuming society still exists next week, I will post an update to my progress through these books.

Publication Announcement – Coffin Bell #4.1

Today is a grand day! My short story “Occupied Space” was just published in issue 4.1 of Coffin Bell, a “journal of dark literature”. This my first unsolicited prose piece which has been published since, well, ever. I have had a few things published here and there over the years, but they were always requested in advance. So this is kind of a big deal for me.

“Occupied Space” started during NaNoWriMo 2018 as “Crossing Zones”, one of a dozen or so short stories I wrote in lieu of 50,000 words of a novel.

I submitted the story to several venues before and after sending it to Coffin Bell back in late January of 2020. Not expecting it to get picked up, I submitted my story at the $10.00 tier in order to receive editorial feedback. 2020 became kind of chaotic after January, and I lost track of my submissions until September, when I realized I still had one outstanding. I sent a note requesting a status update, and in early November I received notice that “Occupied Space” had been accepted.

The editors also sent their notes, which amounted to a couple of pages of bullet points which were immensely helpful even after the fact, because how we write one thing is generally, in a technical sense, how we write everything. The feedback helped me solidify some ideas I had been mulling, and now I think “Occupied Space”, rather than being a one-off story, will become part of a larger series or collection, or perhaps even the seed of a novel.

According to my trackers at Duotrope and The Submission Grinder, this submission had a response time of something over 250 days, but again, in 2020 I give everyone a free pass on everything. I’m just happy that Coffin Bell managed to stay open and in business during the Plague Times.

Reading through the Coffin Bell blog, I felt a strong sense of deja vu, particularly in this post about litmag financial transparency. Point by point I saw every problem, complication and decision we had made at The 3288 Review duplicated in another publication. I am sure if I searched the sites of a hundred other small magazines I would find 99 other posts or stories which echo this one. It isn’t easy to run a literary journal. It has to be a labor of love, or nobody would ever do it.

So please: read my story, and also read the rest of the stories and poetry in this and all the other issues. The work is beautiful and the pieces well-chosen. I will probably submit work to this venue again, after a cooldown period of a year or so.

2021 Books and Reading Material Acquisitions List

Welcome to the list of books and other reading materials which arrived in calendar year 2021.

This is the seventh year I have made a list like this. The previous six are here:

I keep the complete list of books I own over at LibraryThing, and the terribly incomplete list of books I have read over at GoodReads. This list will be updated frequently.


  1. Pasternak, Boris (Pevear, Richard and Volokhonsky, Larissa, translators), Doctor Zhivago
  2. Jama-Everett, Ayize and Jennings, JohnBox of Bones, book 1 (Rosarium Publishing)
  3. Robinson, Kim StanleyThe Ministry for the Future
  4. Batyushkov, Konstantin (France, Peter, translator) – Writings from the Golden Age of Russian Poetry (The Russian Library, Columbia University Press)
  5. Khvoshchinskaya, Sofia (Favorov, Nora Seligman, translator) – City Folk and Country Folk (The Russian Library of Columbia University Press)
  6. Sokolov, Sasha (Boguslawski, Alexander, translator) – Between Dog & Wolf (The Russian Library of Columbia University Press)
  7. Martine, ArkadyA Memory Called Empire
  8. Ashton, DyrkPaternus: Wrath of Gods, (Kickstarter exclusive HC, signed, # 108/500) (Paternus Books Media)
  9. Liptak, Andrew and Gates, Jaym (eds.) – War Stories (Apex Book Company)

Last of the Old, First of the New

And with that, we are in the first book post of the new year.

On the left is the last book to arrive during calendar year 2020: Some Kind of Monster by Tim Waggoner, from my subscription to the catalog of Apex Book Company. On the right is the first arrival of 2021: Boris Pasternak‘s magisterial Doctor Zhivago, translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who have translated so very many of the great works of Russian literature.

I am a bit ashamed to say that I have never read Doctor Zhivago, nor seen the movie. In the larger picture, despite devoting more than a little of my life to studying Russian culture and literature, I have many gaps in my education. To make up for this short-coming, I have just started reading Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s The Brothers Karamazov for about the fifth time. To clarify I have started it for the fifth time. I have not yet made it more than about 40 pages in, though this time I am pacing myself and have managed to stay focused for 30 pages. Pacing is the trick, and one which helped me read Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina to completion back in the mid-1990s when my attention span was much shorter than it is now.

2021 will be the year of Russian literature for me. I recently (re-) discovered Read Russia, an organization devoted to Russian literature and book culture. Through them I have found a wealth of contemporary and current Russian writers whose works have been translated into English as part of The Russian Library series from Columbia University Press. Currently they have over two dozen books in print, with more being translated and added to the collection every year.

Welcome to 2021, everyone! May your year be full of beautiful writing.