how not to cook a wolf

2014-02-12 08.27.35

Holy shit, THREE KINGDOMS is starting to go full Westeros on me. (Not pictured: The part where they talk about how losing wives and children is like losing clothes, but losing “brothers” [-in-arms] is like losing a limb.)

NB: Liu Xuande is the big damn hero of this story, as I understand it.

the land across


One of these days I’m going to read a Gene Wolfe book properly–read it for the first time to appreciate the lines, then again, immediately, to see if I can figure out how the engine works. (I tried this once with PEACE, but got derailed.) Probably not this time, though, not because I didn’t enjoy THE LAND ACROSS but because reading time is precious, and there are so many books. So for now I’m just making a few notes on things to watch for again on reread.

  1. Obviously ages are meant to be important clues to something or another. My main insight on this is unsolved but, I think, important: Wolfe is at pains to let us know that Grafton is in his mid-twenties max, in the age of iPhones, meaning he’s substantially younger than me. But, as several Goodreads reviews gripe about, his diction is archaic (“kept my yap shut,” “swell,” “bet the rent,” “dope them out,” “smart off,” &c.). For a prose stylist like Wolfe, this can’t possibly be unintentional. But I freely admit I don’t have any idea what it means. (Is the whole thing a translation from German, or one of Grafton’s other languages? What would that mean?)
  2. Coming off thinking of PEACE, you can’t help but notice that the layout of Puraustays and the capital is an awful lot like a cemetery–no straight streets, a strip of trees and flowers around each building, &c. I’ll have to go back and pay attention to this. (The description of City Hall on p. 14 is notably weird.)
  3. The (were?)wolves of Puraustays have a decent shot at being some sort of representative of Wolfe himself–he’s done this before, for sure in THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS and I think elsewhere as well. Again, though, I’d have to go back to figure out the significance of this.
  4. How did he figure out the head of the Unholy Way? (This might be mentioned fairly explicitly in the text, I just don’t remember.)
  5. What’s with Grafton’s dad/the third border guard? What about his mom? What does JAKA stand for?
  6. Early in the book, Kleon beats up Grafton handily. Toward the end, the tables are turned. What changed?

Plenty more to think about, for sure. This is (one of the reasons) why I love Wolfe. One day, maybe I’ll be smart enough to read him.

If you’re not familiar with Wolfe and this has whetted your interest, maybe check out this NPR article on the book. For people not heavily into genre, I think this and most of his recent books–AN EVIL GUEST, THE SORCERER’S HOUSE, HOME FIRES–would be good introductions to Wolfe, as would PEACE; for people who are pretty comfortable getting thrown into deep water, just go straight for the Book of the New Sun (a four-book series starting with THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER, sometimes collected in a two-volume series starting with SHADOW & CLAW).

new book, free book

BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is free on from 8/6-8/8!

bloodwaxmirrors DKcover_1563x2500

Not entirely coincidentally, THE DANDELION KNIGHT is now available on for $4.99! The plan is to get it to other distributors as well, but that’s going to take a bit of time. What I’d really like you to do, naturally, is to view this as an opportunity to get $8 of books for $5, rather than $3 for $0—but if free’s all you’re up for right now, I’ll take it.

It is perhaps worth saying that BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is unlikely to be free again in the foreseeable future. For those not conversant with how Amazon works, there are only two ways to make it free: (1) Put it up free somewhere else and wait for Amazon to price-match it, or (2) Enroll it in KDP Select, which allows me to make it free for 5 days out of each 90-day enrollment period in exchange for exclusivity on Amazon. BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is now in KDP Select, but I don’t want to keep the book exclusive to Amazon, so I don’t plan to re-enroll it. After I’ve built up my library a bit, it’s possible that I’ll go route (1), price-matching to free—but I think I need more books and stories out before that starts making sense.

This reminds me, I really need to see whether I can publish “Statler pulchrifex” and “Wormwords” on Amazon; those would be neat to have as permanently free promotional stories, since both are available for free online anyway. I’m reasonably certain I’m allowed to do this, but I’ve lost track of the contracts, so I should probably contact the editors at NATURE and COSMOS to be sure. Also, I need to set up proper affiliate links and update the DANDELION KNIGHT page on this here blog.

Also, I have a kid and a job. Well, one step at a time.

html for ebooks

I’m starting to get really frustrated with Calibre, so I thought I’d look up how to format an ebook in HTML. This looks dead easy. And Mobipocket has free HTML-Mobipocket conversion tools; it looks like you can do epub conversion just by editing the HTML file.

Has anyone tried digging into this stuff? Honestly, I feel like an idiot for messing around with Calibre to convert from Word and LaTeX when it seems like it should be easy to create a clean HTML version of a book and go from there. I guess the Mobipocket conversion is probably the most important for most people, so if that tool can’t even do good work with clean HTML, maybe Calibre is still the best free tool for the job. I suppose I should try this out in my copious free time. (It also makes me think that maybe I should do my writing in HTML rather than LaTeX. I bet converting HTML to Word is enormously easier than LaTeX to Word. Plus no compiling. Hmm.)

an obligatory cavil


I haven’t read Warren Ellis’ GUN MACHINE, though now that he’s emailed his subscribers about selling out, I kind of want a first edition. I’m glad that he got a good review from the NEW YORK TIMES, and almost everything about that review makes me happy and excited to read the book. But I’m going to single out the one thing about it that, not having read GUN MACHINE and having read Ellis’ other work, still nags me like a hangnail:

Mr. Ellis, the British author of one previous thriller, “Crooked Little Vein,” was a well-known and successful writer of comics and graphic novels before turning to prose fiction. (The best known among them is probably “RED,” which was turned into a movie starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren.) There is nothing comic-bookish about his writing, however, which races along in crisp hard-boiled fashion, and the world of the novel is less cartoonish than just odd and pretty grim.

If I read GUN MACHINE, and I will read GUN MACHINE, it’s on the strength of Ellis’ comics—of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which was my gateway, and then of GLOBAL FREQUENCY, of NEWUNIVERSAL, of NEXTWAVE, of BLACK SUMMER, of the never-to-be-finished FELL and DESOLATION JONES. I have nothing but respect for his turn to prose fiction, as I have nothing but respect for China Mieville’s work on DIAL H; but Ellis’ writing comes from comics, and there is not a shortage of comics writers as good as Ellis. (If you need a list: Carla Speed McNeil, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Matt Fraction, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughan; I know I’m forgetting some).

I know what Charles McGrath means when he says “comic-bookish.” But that word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.