Hello, friends! Are you in the Boston area? Are you planning to attend Boskone? No? Why the hell not?
What’s Boskone, you say?
Well, it’s only the New England Science Fiction Association’s annual scifi/fantasy convention, held each winter in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts! This year, it will be February 16th-18th at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.
It really is a top-notch convention, too, drawing writers, editors, and agents from all over the country, but most particularly the northeast (which includes a little town called New York City) and even the UK (given that Boston is about as close as you can get to England and still be in the US). I went last year as a fan and had a ton of fun. This year? They invited me to participate!
So, if you’re coming, here is my schedule of panels and what-not. Most of it is on Friday and I have a signing on Sunday. Perhaps most interestingly, I’m hosting my own Kaffeeklatch! Basically, you sign up/sit down with me and a small group of people and get to pick my brain for an hour. I hope to see some of you there!
My Favorite Game
16 Feb 2018, Friday 15:00 – 16:00, Lewis (Westin)
Join us as we explore the wonderful world of board games. Our panel of expert gamers will discuss their favorites from the past 10 years. We’ll compare bragging rights, and swap tales of our victories (or defeats). Let’s include our top ten lists — feel free to bring and share your own!
Auston Habershaw, Walter H. Hunt (M), Carlos Hernandez, Dan Moren, M. C. DeMarco
Law and Justice in Speculative Fiction
16 Feb 2018, Friday 17:00 – 18:00, Burroughs (Westin)
In an SF or fantasy world, justice may be meted out by a familiar legal system, by religious hierarchies that rule through faith, by some corrupt order that props up an evil regime, etc. How do you show the complex evolution/interplay of a society and its justice system in a single tale? Why do so many stories concentrate on crime and criminals? How do you quickly sketch out a justice system for a culture that’s different from our own?
B. Diane Martin, Bracken MacLeod, Kenneth Schneyer (M), Alan Gordon, Auston Habershaw
The Sword in the Stone: A New Beginning for the Arthurian Legends?
16 Feb 2018, Friday 18:00 – 19:00, Marina 2 (Westin)
First published in 1938 as a stand-alone tale, T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone departs from older sources to (wonderfully) imagine King Arthur as a boy in Merrie Olde England. What did it bring to now-popular tropes such as shapeshifting, the hidden prince, or the magical education? Later incorporated into the first part of White’s 1958 novel The Once and Future King, it helped spark the musical Camelot. (And, of course, Spamalot.) Would we remember much about King Arthur, his Knights, and their Round Table without these books? How did they influence the wider fantasy genre? Have they been replaced by the stories they inspired?
Faye Ringel, Elizabeth Bear, E. Ardell, Auston Habershaw, Heather Albano (M)
Kaffeeklatsch: Auston Habershaw
16 Feb 2018, Friday 19:00 – 20:00, Harbor I – Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)
Autographing: Auston Habershaw, Christopher Paniccia, Max Gladstone
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 13:00 – 14:00, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)
Christopher Paniccia, Auston Habershaw, Max Gladstone
Come on down this February! I look forward to meeting you all!
I just received word that I’ll be giving my first public book signing on Saturday, May 9th, in the Barnes and Nobel Prudential from 2pm to 4pm. I will be signing copies of the Writers of the Future Volume 31, which is a fabulous collection of short stories by some very talented people…and also myself. I’d love for all of you to come down, enjoy scenic and historic Boston, and then come get your book signed by me, your new favorite author. It’ll be grand!
See you all there!
Seriously, though, you all have to go. I mean it. If you don’t, I might end up sitting there, all alone at a folding table, stacks of books around me, and people will be walking by me and staring and muttering to each other about who that weirdo is and why he keeps trying to make eye contact and “I thought L Ron Hubbard would be older” and it will be super, super awkward. And then, you know, after I’ve been sitting there for an hour or so and the manager of the bookstore has decided I’m some kind of hack, some well-meaning old lady will walk up and ask if I’m lost or something and I’ll only just manage to strong-arm her into buying a book because she’s got a grandson who likes comic books and yes, yes old woman, this is exactly the same thing and your grandson will love it just please for the love of God let me scribble on this book to validate my existence!
So you see there’s a lot at stake here. I’m counting on you all. I’m holding you all personally responsible for my emotional well-being. Hell, if you don’t want me writing on your book, that’s cool – I can just pretend! I won’t take the cap off my pen and you can sit there and nod and pretend like something awesome is happening (even though you obviously will forget my name, face, and species the moment you turn around) and I, meanwhile, will twiddle my un-pen about on some random page and say something gregarious and encouraging and then, collectively, the two of us will turn away from each other and politely decide to delete this from both of our memories forever, as it lessens us both. Not too much to ask, right? Then you can stroll off and browse the food court, which is pretty snazzy by mall-food-court standards, I must say. It’ll be worth the trip.
What if I dress in costume? I could put a fishbowl on my head and pretend to be a spaceman! And elf ears! What I’m saying is that I really need you there, understand? This is my first time doing this in the wild, okay? Last time it was after an awards show where a whole lot of really awesome people came and applauded for me and my fellow winners and some very impressive writers explained how great we were. So, you know, after they did all that, they kinda had to walk around and let us sign their books, right? I mean, it would be rude to do otherwise, not to mention undercutting all the nice things they just said about us and all that clapping they went through. That’s not quite the same thing as me sitting in a Samsonite chair in a mall bookstore on a Saturday afternoon. Nobody owes me crap there. I won’t even be wearing that killer vest.
Anyway, you get the point: May 9th, Barnes and Nobel Prudential Center, 2pm-4pm. Be there, or be a rhombus.
A tough week to be a Bostonian. To be honest, I don’t really want to talk about it; that’s not what this blog is for. I am angry, though, which makes it hard to do other things. I want revenge; not justice, no, I want revenge. That’s the wrong thing, I know – vengeance solves nothing. Justice, while not a ‘solution’, per se, is something that salves the pain and doesn’t spread it further. It’s an elusive thing, justice; I worry about it’s existence sometimes. It seems a phantom ideal, something which we as a species have fought long and hard to define, and yet have never once agreed upon.
All in all, I find myself thinking back to a post I wrote last July in the wake of the Aurora Colorado shootings. It is both tragic and terrible that I need ever revisit that place, but here we are again. I link to it here because I can’t bring myself to write it again. It’s about geeky stuff, of course (that is what this blog is about), but it’s also about this past Monday at the Boston Marathon and all other days like it. Here:
Coincidentally, the trailer for the new Superman movie is up, and it echoes certain sentiments in the article I wrote there. I won’t lie, it made me choke up a bit. We all need a hero like that. I feel fortunate that I live in a city full of them; a city where, when the bombs exploded, more people ran towards the danger than away from it. That is the sentiment I want to hold on to. I want to drown my lust for vengeance in it. As has been said many times, darkness can never drive out the darkness – only the light can do that.
Be safe. Be well. Be good.
Author’s Note: In the interest of completeness (backwards, but still complete) here is an excerpt from the first chapter of The Rubric of All Things, the book which precedes the book from which “Hond’s Interrogation” was taken. I’ve been shopping this book around for a while now and had a few nibbles (two full or partial manuscript requests), but no full-on bites yet. I’m putting it here because, well, it can’t hurt and hopefully can give interested parties some idea of just how far the reader is taken from here to Hond’s non-room. Anyway, hope you enjoy it:
Cal’s heart pulsed in his chest like a diesel engine. The sweat on his face mingled with the cold March rain while his lungs, like a pair of steel-mill bellows, fed oxygen to the fires in his quads and calves. He was going full speed along the Charles river, blazing past casual joggers in an intimidating display of athletic prowess. He was the fighter jet and they were the two-seater prop-planes and ponderous jet-liners. They stayed out of his way.
It was early, and the gray waters of the river shuddered and leapt with each rainy gust of wind.Calfelt good, even considering the miserable weather. He was on pace for a four-and-a-half minute mile, he guessed—not a personal best, but the best he’d done in a while. More than the time, though, was the feeling of getting back into the regimen of his morning run. At this speed his whole body felt like a well-oiled and tuned device, as simple as it was elegant. He wasn’t some messy pile of meat and juice wrapped around a jigsaw puzzle of bone struts—he was a functional, precise thing, like a watch or a bicycle. It meant a lot to him to feel that way. Things had been crazy lately.
Cal’s cell phone broke into the first few bars of Suicide is Painless. It was the kind of sick joke a homicide detective would find funny, particularly one like Cal’s partner, who had selected it. Slowing to a manageable pace,Cal answered. “Lyons here.”
“Morning, Superman!”Cal’s partner, Detective Theodore O’Brien, or ‘OB’, sounded cheery, which was generally a bad thing.
“What’s up? I’m not on duty for another hour.”
OB’s chuckle was mostly static over the phone. “You’re on duty now, buddy. We got us a good one.”
“What is it?”Cal inwardly hoped it wasn’t messy—he and OB had just finished working a murder-suicide where an old woman had strangled her husband, drowned herself in the bathtub, and wasn’t found for two weeks. He had only just gotten the stink out of his jacket, and he had to buy entirely new shoes.
“Well, see, that’s the problem—we haven’t decided what it is, yet.”
Calblinked. “Whaddya mean? Have we got a corpse?”
“He ain’t dancing, if that’s your question. Look, just get your spandex-clad butt over to Charlestown. You’re gonna have to see this for yourself.”
Cal memorized the address.OB hung up with a giggle and a “We’re gonna love this one, Supes.”
* * * * * * * *
Cal sprinted home and changed without showering. Altogether, it took him a little over a half hour to get to the scene. It was on a narrow side-street, where the roads coiled around Bunker Hill like so much discarded rope, and the blank granite face of the obelisk that stood there watched over everything. The freezing rain drifted off the eaves and gutters of the surrounding buildings in misty swirls and umbrella-eviscerating gusts of wind raced down the alleys. When Cal pulled up, there was a cruiser blocking the end of the street and another parked just outside the entrance of a narrow building with worn concrete steps. This second car was parked just outside the tell-tale yellow tape that indicated the perimeter of the crime scene, which ran in a rough triangle in front of the building. Next to the second car, a huddle of uniformed police gathered around a single golf umbrella, which was doing its best to pull a Mary Poppins and sail into space. Cal got out, flashed his badge to the first uniform to challenge him, and then spotted the massive frame of OB chatting it up under the umbrella.
OB saw him coming, and ducked out from under shelter and into the rain. His trenchcoat was sodden and his Red Sox ball cap was looking a shade darker than usual. Still, good humor was evident on his broad, meaty face. He clapped his hands together. “Beautiful morning, ain’t it?”
“I hate this crap.”Cal said, and added, “You interrupted my run.”
OB shrugged. “Get your high like everybody else—drink coffee. Come on.” He led him over to the two other officers under the umbrella. “Boys, you know Detective Lyons.”
Officers Amaral and Lopez nodded. Lopez added. “How’s it going, Superman?”
“Fine, Mike.” Cal resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He liked to think they called him ‘superman’ because of his stellar work at fighting crime, but the fact was that ever since everybody on the Boston Police had gotten wind of his competing in the Ironman triathlon a couple years back, the nickname had become permanently affixed. He tried not to let it irk him—he knew it was done in good humor—but the fact was it simply reminded Cal of how a lot of guys on the force would never accept him as one of their own. The smarty-pants kid from the suburbs turned city cop would always, in their eyes, be analogous to an alien from the planet Krypton.
OB pointed at Amaral. “Steve found the guy this morning on a call from one of the local residents. Mike was in the area, so he helped him secure the scene.”
Amaral nodded. “Nobody’s touched anything since we got here. There were a couple bystanders, but it’s still early and the weather sucks, so…”
“…so what happened?”Calcut him off. “What have we got? Accident? Murder? What?”
The three of them exchanged glances and then turned around and looked. Cal followed their gaze. Just past the tape and dead center in front of the building’s steps was a telephone pole adorned with a skirt of bright yellow police ponchos affixed at waist height. This perplexed Cal at first, but his initial confusion melted away as soon as he noticed that around the base of the pole was a puddle that was much too red to be pure rainwater.
Cal looked at OB, who took a deep breath, reached forward, and tore back the ponchos. Then all Cal could do was stare.
The corpse was a white man in his mid-sixties, wearing a cardigan sweater, tweed jacket, and half-moon spectacles. His lips were pulled back into a grimace, as though he had just stubbed his toe. He had not. He was, rather, impaled through the exact center of his torso by the telephone pole and was suspended three feet above the ground. A human ka-bob.
Cal said nothing. Everything—the rain, the wind, the cold—seemed to fall away from his notice. It was just himself and the spectacle of the corpse. He scanned the telephone pole from top to bottom—no cuts, wires still intact at the top. The body was not mutilated; the man’s clothes didn’t even look mussed. It was as though he had simply materialized inside the telephone pole, realized his error, and died instantly.
Vaguely, he heard Amaral talking. “…him this morning. No witnesses—nobody was walking around in this crap. Called the coroner, but we couldn’t figure out how to get him out, so we called public works, too. Then we were waiting on you guys.”
Cal pulled on a rubber glove, never taking his eyes from the bizarre body. “ID?”
Lopez pointed. “We think that’s his wallet on the stairs, but we didn’t move it.”
OB, gloves on, retrieved the sodden leather wallet while Cal gently prodded the dead man’s ribs. Amaral asked, “How do you think it happened?”
“I have no idea.”Cal answered as he walked around the pole, looking at the corpse from every angle. “Can you guys knock on some doors and ask if anybody’s power or phone service or anything went out?”
As the officers dispersed, he looked up at the top of the pole, twenty feet up. “Maybe somebody disconnected the wires, stuffed our man down the pole, and then re-connected them. Whaddya think?”
OB snorted. “Gimmie a break, Cal—what’d they do, rent a goddamned telephone truck? There isn’t even any blood on the damn thing above his body.”
Cal threw up his hands. “You got another theory? Did they show up with a giant robot, lift the freaking pole out of the sidewalk, and stuff him up through it?”
OB shook his head, still staring at the telephone pole. “Jesus. Could this be an accident or something?”
“Yeah, sure. Telephone poles sprout up through people’s guts all the time.”Cal snatched the wallet fromOB’s hands. “Gimmie that.”
“Easy there, big guy. Don’t have to get mad at me.” OB chided.
“I hate when things don’t make sense.”Cal snarled.
OB chuckled. “Cal, we’re in homicide. When does anything make sense?”
The wallet contained a variety of paper currency from five countries, a smooth blue stone, a collection of business cards following no obvious pattern, and an expired license. It read ‘Aldous Hambury,’ and sported a picture of the dead man wearing a blue bow-tie and smiling wider than anyone in the DMV had a right to. Cal handed it back to OB, who looked himself.
“Aldous? What kind of name is that?”
“British, I think. Notice anything weird about that license?”
OB held it up to the pale light. “No hologram—it’s a fake. Why would you fake an expired license?”
“Why would somebody stuff an old man through a telephone pole?”
OB snorted. “Screw that, Cal—how do you stuff an old man through a telephone pole?”
Cal crouched down to get a better look at the underside of ‘Aldous Hambury.’ He was looking for…well, heck, he had no idea what he was looking for. Blood, guts, a calling card—some kind of explanation written in physical clues. What he found was that the telephone pole seemed to have neatly punctured through Hambury’s jacket, as well as his body. He shook his head. “This isn’t possible.”
OB stepped forward and prodded Hambury’s side with a gloved finger. “Well, he’s here, ain’t he?”
“The goddamned pole has to go through his spine, OB. The spine holds the body together. If he hasn’t got one then…” Cal trailed off, circled the body twice more, and wound up standing next to OB and staring down at Hambury’s strange grimace.
OB nodded. “Fifteen years, Cal, and they just keep getting weirder.” He pulled off a glove and produced a small plastic box that rattled as he shook it. “Tic-tac?”