Archive for September, 2010

Banned Books Week

Monday, September 27th, 2010

September 25 through October 2 is Banned Books Week, celebrating freedom of speech and the fight against censorship. It’s hard for me to believe, sometimes, that in 2010 in an allegedly enlightened society we even have a problem with this, but we do; proof, I think, that we’re not actually anywhere near an enlightened society. Let me be very clear: I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to express their opinion, and that includes both authors and concerned parents/teachers/etc. If you think a book is trashy or evil or whatever, please tell the world–that is your right. But as soon as you take the next step and actually restrict others’ access to that book, you have crossed a line. You have attacked and limited someone’s freedom. Freedom only works when it is granted to all people equally, and the simple truth is that your freedom to dislike a book is the very same freedom that allows other people to read it.

The list of frequently banned books is like a parade of history’s greatest literature: The Catcher in the Rye, the Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and on and on and on. The only reason the list isn’t longer is that it only goes back to 1901; when you look at the deeper range of history you get books like Huckleberry Finn, which might be the most banned book ever. From a certain point of view it’s no surprise that these books are being challenged, because most of them are, by nature, very challenging books. The best books are the ones that reach out and poke you, forcing you to think about things in a different way, and for some people the only reaction is to poke back. Consider The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, which exposes the horrible conditions created by the industrial revolution, and the horrors endured by early factory workers. That book challenged society by forcing us confront an injustice we wanted to ignore, and the people who most benefited from that injustice fought back by banning it: it was burned by Nazis in 1933 and banned in the USSR in 1956.

Consider also the most famous banned book of my generation, Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. The book was critical of Islam, and as such earned not only a widespread ban but an actual sentence of death: Rushdie has lived in hiding ever since, bookstores have been forced to remove it from their shelves after receiving death and bomb threats, and even the people who helped publish it have been targeted and sometimes killed (the Japanese translator was murdered, and the Italian and Norwegian translators were attacked and seriously wounded). The book challenged a group of people by forcing them to think about their religion in a new light, and certain members of that group fought back.

Now let’s consider Animal Farm, by George Orwell. It’s a very short book, a quick novella that’s more of an extended allegory than anything else, using talking animals to expose the extremes of communism and the underhanded crimes of the USSR. You’d think such a staunchly anti-communist book would be embraced in the US, but no: Orwell had the temerity to imply that even though Marxism never works in practice, its principles are sound in theory, and for that he has been repeatedly attacked and banned. The book asked people to reconsider their thoughts on politics, and some people hate reconsidering things–they hate the mere suggestion that there are other ideas out there–so they poked back and tried to have the book removed from schools and libraries. They didn’t want anybody to read the book and agree with it, so they tried to suppress it and its ideas.

I’m going to be very clear here: this kind of behavior is abominable. Restricting access to words and ideas because they are different from your own is the act of a tyrant and a coward. If you think your ideas are so flimsy they can be knocked down by an opposing book, you don’t have very much faith in your ideas; the more effective, more ethical answer to the problem is to write a book of your own, explaining your ideas as clearly as the opposing author explains his, and let people read both and choose for themselves.

I like to call this the Sleeping Beauty principle. In the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty’s parents were afraid that one day she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die, so they destroyed all spinning wheels to make sure their daughter never came into contact with them. Inevitably, of course, she did, and not knowing what it was she pricked her finger and the parents’ nightmares came true. The better strategy would have been to show her a spinning wheel early on, teaching her what they’re for and how to use them safely, so that when she got older and started making her own choices she was better prepared. If Sleeping Beauty’s parents had been a little smarter, a little less scared, and a little more trusting of their daughter, they could have avoided the whole problem through education instead of making it worse through tyranny and destruction. (Not to mention, how did their society function for 16 years with no spinning wheels? What did they wear?)

You can apply this principle to any book that people want to ban. In 2008 the second most challenged book in America was the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman, thanks to the movie coming out and several religious groups warning people that the books are pro-atheist. The cowardly, anti-freedom solution to that problem is to picket the movie theaters and demand that libraries stop letting people read the books; the intelligent, moral solution is to educate people about your own beliefs and let them choose for themselves. If your kids want to read the books, you should read them too–read them first if you’re really nervous about it–and then talk with your children about the characters and ideas. Do you agree with them? Do you disagree? Why? Your child will be able to consider the ideas, learn why you disagree with them, and will gain with a much stronger appreciation for your beliefs than they would if you simply hid them in a back room. When they do eventually come into contact with opposing ideas (and they inevitably will, no matter what you do), they will have a much firmer foundation to stand on, and will be able to make informed choices on the issue.

The fourth most challenged book in the US in 2009 was To Kill a Mockingbird, called out for offensive language and racism. Books like this are the hardest to deal with because of the way they’re written: To Kill a Mockingbird is about, at the deepest level, our urgent need to accept people for who they are, to allow equality in society, to treat everyone the same, and to to give everyone respect regardless of race, gender, religion, or mental disability. The trouble is, it does this through the lens of an older time when words like “nigger” were much more common; our modern sensitivity to this word makes this proudly anti-racist book look very racist on the surface. Most of the challenges to this book, as with Huckleberry Finn and similar works, come from the African American community, and I’ve seen first-hand what happens when school-children who don’t know any better are suddenly exposed to old-school racism and racist epithets through ostensibly innocent education. What’s the answer? Do we stop reading a great book, that teaches highly admirable principles, because of the way it teaches them? I can’t, in good conscience, say yes. I’ve seen the effects of mishandled knowledge, but I’ve also seen the life-long effects of knowledge properly studied and internalized. To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and books like them had a huge effect on me and the way I treat other people; because I had teachers and parents willing to really discuss the books, I was able to see past the vocabulary to the messages underneath, learning in the process the value of brotherhood and the perils of intolerance. I suppose the great irony of the situation is that the best way to learn about accepting new ideas is to read the kinds of books people ban.

As an author–and even more than that, as an author with a book coming out this week–I obviously have a vested interest in a fight against book bannings. I wouldn’t even be surprised if someone eventually attacked my books (Kirkus Reviews ended their glowing review of I Am Not a Serial Killer with the line: “Buy multiples where it won’t be banned”). But this is not about money, this is about right and wrong. We should all have a vested interest in our freedom from censorship simply because we are human beings–we are thinking creatures, blessed with a matchless capacity for thought, consideration, and perception. We should oppose bannings and restrictions because it is the right thing to do, and because the world would be a sadder, more dismal, more frightening place with censorship in it.

I have a saying that I’ve shared a few times in the past: good art will either challenge or inspire, and great art will do both. Do yourself a favor this week and read a book that challenges you–read something that makes you see the world in a new light, or from a different angle, or simply with a new frame of mind. The ALA’s Frequently Challenged Classics list is a great place to start, but here’s my personal recommendations:

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman
Equus, a play by Peter Shaffer

San Francisco signing with F. Paul Wilson

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Reading, Signing, and Q&A
1:00 pm

This was just added to the schedule! I will be appearing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco with F. Paul Wilson, author of the incredible Repairman Jack series. Borderlands is a fantastic bookstore, and Paul is a great guy and an amazing author, so this event should be fantastic.

Leading Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

Friday, September 24th, 2010

When I was in college (at BYU) I worked on the staff of a science fiction and fantasy magazine called Leading Edge. University magazines come in three flavors: the pro magazines, run by a hired staff of primarily non-students, the prestige magazines, staffed by students but heavily overseen by faculty, and the student magazines, run entirely by students with little or no faculty oversight. Each magazine has its purpose and place, but for my money there’s no question whatsoever that the most valuable student experience comes, unsurprisingly, in the student magazines. The others get more money, and look prettier, and get distributed more widely, but the student magazines actually teach you how to edit, proof, format, design, budget, plan, and otherwise run a magazine. This is the experience that Leading Edge gave me.

I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t have a faculty advisor; at the time I worked on it, our advisor was Linda Adams, and she remains a good friend to this day. But she subscribed to the Mama Bird philosophy of faculty advisorship, which was essentially “throw them out of the tree and see if they can figure out how to fly before they hit the ground.” She taught us to run a magazine by–imagine that–allowing us to run a magazine. If we had issues we couldn’t resolve she was always available to help, but for the most part we learned on the job, coming in cold and learning from older students and making real decisions and setting our own deadlines and staying up late to meet them and passing along what we’d learned to the next generation of students. Obviously we made poor decisions every now and then, but that’s kind of the point: better to make them on a student magazine than in a real job, post-graduation. We could see all the ramifications of our work, and we could figure out what went wrong, and we could fix it and do better next time.

Let me give you a quick example. We received a story that we loved, and we happily accepted it, edited it, and published it. We were almost instantly informed by a reader that the story had been plagiarized–we had paid someone for someone else’s work, and then published it without that someone else’s consent or knowledge. We had to contact the original author, apologize profusely, and come up with a plan to pay him for his work and make sure he got the credit for it. It was a long, difficult, embarrassing process, but through it we learned not only responsibility but caution; we learned how to avoid plagiarists, how to work with clients, how to resolve business and ethical issues, and how to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. Those are not the kinds of problems most publishing students face, but they are exactly the kind of problems actual publishers face, every day, and our experience on a student-run magazine prepared us for them better than class or seminar we ever took.

Leading Edge helped us in other ways, as well. Because of its nature as a science fiction magazine, it taught us about the science fiction publishing industry. We learned who the big players are, how they work, and what they want in both their fiction and their employees. We learned how the creation of art can be swayed and shaped and sometimes even stymied by the constraints of business and the pressures of the market. When we traveled to conventions and conferences, our status as small press editors helped us talk to a lot of very important industry leaders, and we were often surprised by how many of them were familiar with our magazine–Leading Edge is small, but people recognize it as a source of good writers, good artists, and good staff.

Our work on Leading Edge gave me, my friends, and nearly four decades of other students an incredible education and a huge boost toward ongoing careers. That magazine has produced group after group of editors, writers, art directors, journalists, creative directors, illustrators, publishers, and more. We are senior editors at publishing houses. We are New York Times bestselling authors. We are creative professionals, small business owners, artists, and more. The Leading Edge is not only one of the oldest magazines at BYU, it has a nearly unmatched track record for graduates going on to incredible success in the industry.

And despite all this, BYU continues to cut its budget, reduce its support, and quietly sweep it under the rug. The latest round of budget cuts was not as devastating as some, but are still quite damaging and were made without the staff’s knowledge or input. I will let the current editor speak for herself:

Leading Edge’s funding has been cut. Funding was actually cut before the College of Humanities even told us. While we may not be able to undo this re-budgeting in the near future, we are hoping to inform the dean of the impact that cut creates. Current staff members are going to write the dean to tell him what Leading Edge does for us; we’re hoping former staff members can share what Leading Edge did for them. While Leading Edge itself is far from dead, the lack of funding will drastically change the way it manifests itself unless we can serious increase our circulation numbers.

If you have a minute, and if you loved Leading Edge, please send me an email I can send up to the dean. …

On a more positive note, we are putting together our 60th anniversary issue. It will come out in April (though it may come out in a different form than past issues have).

Thank you,

Kristy Stewart
Senior Editor
Leading Edge

We are sending out a call, here and now, to everyone who has ever worked on or enjoyed the magazine. Make yourselves heard–tell the university that Leading Edge is not only valuable but invaluable; not only useful but incredibly important to the school and its students and their futures. These are the ways you can help:

1) Tell us, and the school, how your experience with Leading Edge helped you in your life. Do you have a career as a writer or editor? Did a skill you learned while working on the magazine help you to get a job, solve a problem, run your household, or otherwise improve your life? Please tell us about it. Emails can be sent to editor@leadingedgemagazine.com, and snail mail can be sent to
Leading Edge
4087 JKHB
Provo, UT 84602
You are also welcome to post your comments here, and I will make sure they get forwarded to the Dean of Humanities.

2) Spread the word. Link to this article in your blog, post it on facebook, retweet it to the world, anything you can do to let other Leading Edge alumni know that the magazine needs their support.

3) Subscribe to the magazine. If we want the university to support the magazine, we need to put our money where our mouth is and support it as best we can ourselves. You can subscribe on their website.

The Monster is taking control

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

The US release of Mr. Monster is now less than a week away, and I couldn’t be more excited. I got two boxes of books in the mail on Monday, both paperback and hardback, and I have to say it’s just a gorgeous book—pure white, with a couple of ridged slashes and an austere knife blade, and just a tiny drop of blood. It captures the book perfectly, suggesting a blank, emotionless slate and the capacity for, but not the presence of, violence. It’s like the difference between kinetic energy and potential energy—potential energy is so much more frightening because you never know when or where it’s going to go.

My signing tour will take me down the west coast, just like last time, but this time we’re adding some Midwestern locations including Minnesota, Ohio, and more. My schedule is still incomplete, but as soon as I have them finalized I add each event to the calendar on the left side of my website. The first weekend of events is in Seattle and Portland, so if you’re in the area please drop by and say hi. I’ve decided to offer an extra incentive this time around: anyone who comes to an event wearing one of our T-shirts will get a free magnet with a full list of John’s rules. They’re perfect for sticking those special papers to your fridge, like restraining orders, covert photos of your neighbors, and any shopping list containing duct tape.

And speaking of shirts, we have an awesome new one. John Cleaver’s rules, and his struggle for self control, is a major theme in Mr. Monster, so we’ve made it the primary motif of all the new swag. Whereas the I Am Not a Serial Killer shirt was black and covered with spooky type, the Mr. Monster shirt is white and simple, just like the book cover, with the title on the front and the rules on the back. Imagine how pleased people will be when they stand behind you in lines and learn that you’ve decided to stop torturing animals! This is a shirt where everybody wins.

While you’re browsing through the catalog, take a look at some of the other new items we’ve put up. If you love the list of rules but want something more permanent, how about a mounted poster? My friend the state social worker is getting one for his office—think what it could do for yours! You’d get a lot less questions about what you did over the weekend, if nothing else. Or let’s say you want something even larger: how about a rugged vinyl sticker for your garbage can that says “Clayton County Medical Disposal, Human Body Parts Only” in six inch letters? Your neighbors will be delighted that you’re finally separating your trash.

Writing a short story: The End

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Mountain of the Lord is finished! It ended up at 74 pages, and 16,211 words that’s really long for a short story, and is in fact well into novelette range, but the anthology’s upper limit is 17,000 and I just have to hope that they like it enough to accept something that large. If they don’t, well, sad me I guess—I’ll have a story that’s too long, and with too narrow an audience, to ever publish anywhere else. That’s the problem with writing stories specifically for collections like this: if the collection doesn’t want it, you’re not likely to sell it anywhere else. Short fiction editors know that as soon as the (for example) airship anthology makes it’s final selections, they’re going to be flooded with airship stories that didn’t make the cut. Watch out for the flood of Mormons and monsters stories, Asimov’s!

The main thing I learned writing this story is that I am not very good at writing short stories. Obviously the pacing of a short story is different from the pacing of a novel, but even knowing that and planning for it I still had a devil of a time trying to make it work. The final scene is a great example: I brought my hero to the second plot turn, where he makes his decision to use his powers and fight back, and then I sat down down to write the resolution in which he actually uses his powers, and I realized it didn’t work—it was too long, and too unfocused. In a novel it would have been fine, and in fact if I’d done it as a novel I would have lengthened it a little, but for this story and this length I realized I needed to combine the two scenes into one. The hero has his epiphany right there, in the moment, while the necromancer is getting ready to sacrifice everyone, and then as soon as he makes his choice he rises up and saves the day—no waiting, no stalling, just get on with the story.

I had intended to use the old lady, Mollie Hammond, as the character who convinces Silas that his powers come from God. Once I got there, though, I realized two things: first, I wanted Silas to have a stronger social redemption, since he begins the story as an outcast, and that meant I needed him to make a more meaningful connection to someone. The old lady didn’t work for that, but I still wanted her to get her own little redemption. The second thing I realized is that the necromancer already knew who Silas was by this time, and what he was capable of, and would plan ahead. He wouldn’t just tie him up and wait for his epiphany so he could fight back. Gideon would take and threaten a hostage, to help keep Silas in check, so I needed to figure out who. The answer was obvious—Mollie Hammond was not only the only prisoner without a family member in the party (making it very easy for her to lie and say Silas was her relative), but she could use the opportunity to redeem herself by actually giving her life—she knows that whoever is chosen as a hostage will die when Silas changes and attacks, so she’s putting herself in that position to protect the people Silas loves. Since she was gone, I let one of the girls have the big soul-searching conversation with Silas.

The story turned out well, and it was really fun to write, but what’s most interesting to me was the process of writing it like this, on the Internet, discussing every secret and plot point in detail. Anyone who’s read this blog will have nothing new to discover when they read the actual story, but I’ve heard from a ton of people who loved watching it come together and seeing what choices I made and why. If the story actually sells, I’ll make sure to let you know how and when to pick up the anthology, so you can read the final product.

Castle Ravenloft

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I am a big fan of the board game Descent: Journeys in the Dark. It’s a “dungeon crawl” game, which means that the players each have a hero who moves around a dungeon map, exploring rooms and corridors and fighting monsters and finding treasure. Descent has a ton of variety in the characters and their powers, and a pretty slick combat system, and my game group used to play it all the time—I say used to because the game relies on pre-designed scenarios, and we eventually realized that none of the scenarios were properly balanced. Sometime the heroes would win, and sometimes the evil overlord would win, but the games were never close and the winning team was usually obvious from very early on. We’re still looking for ways to balance it, but it’s been months since we’ve played because we just got disillusioned; it’s fun to play, but the games are long and the imbalance makes our accomplishments, or lack thereof, feel hollow.

The trouble is, we love dungeon crawl games, so we’ve been searching far and wide for a replacement. Last Night on Earth fills a similar niche, as a zombie survival game that really feels like you’re playing a zombie B-movie, and we love it. If you like zombies, you should definitely check it out. But there’s something iconic about the fantasy dungeon, and sometimes you just want to be a wizard or a barbarian and beat up monsters with a magic sword. Then a few months ago Wizards of the Coast, the company that owns Dungeons & Dragons, announced a new dungeon crawl game set in the D&D universe, and using a simplified form of the D&D rules, and I was intrigued. The current version of D&D is already very close to a board game anyway, so the mechanics would translate well; on the other hand, if we’re going to play D&D anyway, why not just play the real game? Would the new boardgame fill the niche that Descent used to fill? Would it capture the quick, goofy fun we wanted from a boardgame, without crumbling under balance issues or bogging down in source material baggage?

In a word, yes. In twelve words, Castle Ravenloft fills that niche better than any game I’ve ever played.

Castle Ravenloft is superior to other dungeon crawls because of two main things: its quick, almost abstract simplicity, and its full automation. First, the quickness: a game of CR takes about 10-15 minutes to set up, and about 60 minutes to play. That’s really fast for a boardgame, and blazingly fast in a genre that includes 4-hour epics like Descent. It does this by abstracting a lot of things such as line of sight and monster movement—you can figure out who can attack who with just a quick glance, and there’s no need to agonize over details. This takes away some of the deeper strategy and theme you get in a game like Descent, but leaves you with a light, often frantic adventure with plenty of action. Sometime the bookkeeping of a more detailed game is fun, but sometimes you want to forget the details and get straight to the good stuff. Castle Ravenloft does that perfectly.

The other thing that sets CR apart is the full automation—in most dungeon crawl games there is a specific scenario already mapped out, and one player controls the bad guys instead of a hero. Being the bad guy is fun, but it invites all the balance problems I was talking about earlier, especially if the pre-designed map is out of whack. CR uses a fully random tile-laying system, which not only avoids the balance issues (since you don’t have to rely on someone else’s map and hope they tested it for fairness), but makes the game far more replayable. Every time you play a scenario the dungeon layout will be different, different monsters will arrive in different places, and the game feels new. The monsters all follow simple tactics, so you don’t even need someone to control them, making it a fully cooperative experience: the players against the game. After several games I can say that the game engine is tough but beatable, which makes it challenging and exciting.

What has me most excited, honestly, is the prospect of future additions. The game is complete on it’s own, and Wizards of the Coast is releasing new games, also complete, that use the same system, so you can combine them for an even bigger experience.

Castle Ravenloft is a blast, and incredibly essay to learn and play—though often quite difficult to win. What more could you ask from a boardgame?

A rilly good blog post

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I live in Utah, and in Utah, as in every region of every country on Earth, we have a regional accent. That’s kind of the way languages work: there is a single, overarching language (such as English), and then each area that speaks it will develop, through usage, different ways of pronouncing certain words, different ways of using certain words, and sometimes entirely different words. A native English speaker from Texas will sound different from a native English speaker from New York, or Boston, or Alabama, or Minnesota, or wherever. These smaller groups of linguistic differences are called dialects, and these can be broken down into even smaller groups, all the way down to an ideolect, which is the specific version of a language spoken by a single individual. There are many people who share your dialect, but you are the only person in the world who speaks your ideolect. The technical term for this uniqueness is called “being a precious snowflake.”

Spanish is a great example. Assume that a single, “correct” version of Spanish exists (it doesn’t, but assume it for the sake of this explanation); each country speaks a slightly different subset of this uber-Spanish, and each region of those countries speaks a different version of their nation-Spanish, and each city speaks a different version of their regional-Spanish, and so on. In Spain they pronounce the z as a th, whereas the rest of the Spanish speaking world pronounces it as an s, which is why everyone makes fun of Spaniards for lisping. In Mexico they have a lot of regional dialects: in the south, in Chiapas, they have a lilting, kind of sing-song quality to their sentences, thus changing the tone of the language; in the north, in Chihuahua, they pronounce the ch as sh (as in “Shihuahua”), thus changing the phonemes of the language; in the middle of the country (I forfeit the exact region), they use the word “buscar” to mean both “to look for” and “to find,” thus changing the vocabulary of the language. And those are only a tiny handful of examples.

Each new generation learns to speak their language the same way their parents speak it, while also adding new variations of their own, which both perpetuates the dialectal differences and creates new ones, thus drawing the dialect even further from the hypothetical uber-language it descended from. This can eventually create an all-new language—Spanish descended from Latin via this exact process, as did French, Italian, Portuguese, and others. This is why it’s not only impossible but ridiculous to tell someone from Chihuahua that they’re saying the ch sound wrong because it differs from “real” Spanish—you might just as well say that the entire Spanish-speaking world is wrong because their language differs from “real” Latin. For that matter, you might just as well tell a sparrow his biology is wrong because it differs from the standard dinosaur template his biology is descended from. Things change, and we have to deal with it. That’s why most linguists just look at France’s attempts to legislate their language and laugh.

A great modern example is the word “hopefully,” which used to mean “in a hopeful manner” but now means “I hope.” This modern definition breaks ever grammatical rule we have in English, and yet it is still “correct” because that is how everyone uses it, and usage creates correctness, not the other way around. There’s actually two schools of thought on this, called prescriptive (linguistic rules should prescribe the way people speak) and descriptive (language rules should describe the way people speak). I obviously fall into the latter camp, but there are an astonishing amount of gray areas and exceptions and corner cases in the issue. If I decide that “shnoogenblat” means “blue,” am I wrong? Not within my own ideolect, but no one else will understand me. What if a whole city starts using it? What if a whole nation does it? At what point does it become correct, and is there a point in the middle where it’s still not correct but isn’t really incorrect, either? If everyone in the whole country uses the word “ain’t” instead of “isn’t,” is it still wrong? Who decides? How does a proofreader know when to correct them? What does it mean, if anything, that my spellchecker not only accepted the word “ain’t” but actually suggested it when I wrote a-i-n? Even the modern definition of “hopefully,” so commonly used that most people don’t realize it used to mean anything else, is painful to allegedly-descriptive ears. I’ve forced myself to stop correcting people when they use it, but I haven’t yet been able to say it myself.

So anyway, I was talking about the Utah accent. I find this stuff fascinating so I get off on a lot of tangents. Anyway. One of the things we do in Utah is shorten our vowels, for example turning ee into i, and the ay into eh. “I got a rilly good dill on some still-belted tires. They were on sell.” We also drop the Ts from a lot of words, replacing them with glottal stops so that the word “button” turns into “bu’un”, and “mountain” turns into “mou’un.” Most regions of American English drop the Ts from these kinds of words, but it can get really exaggerated here: “I was si’in on the mou’un at Brigh’in, ge’in ready to ski.”

The thing I love about Utah, though, is that people think our accent sounds irredeemably hickish. People in Boston pahk their cahs, dropping their Rs all over the place, but that’s okay because they’re from Boston; people in the south are happy to git somethin done fer ya, but that’s okay because they’re from the south. I knew a guy from New York who named his son Don and his daughter Dawn, and he pronounced them completely differently. I knew another guy from Louisiana who explained that “yall” meant “several of you” and “all yall” meant “all of you.” These are accepted, even “cool” accents and dialects that most people hear without even thinking about, and have no problem understanding or accepting. Tell someone their tell light is out on their car, though, and suddenly you’re a backwoods yokel who doesn’t know how to talk.

Which is not to say that I’m any more accepting of dialectal differences than anyone else. My wife is from Wyoming, where “to be” is a fully optional verb (“The car needs moved”), and I make fun of her and her family all the time. And it still gives me a jarring, ear-gouging headache when people itch something instead of scratching it, or ask me to borrow them some money. I’m a descriptivist, but I also have a degree in editing, and so help me if you say something “wrong” I will love the opportunity to get all up in your face over it. I appreciate, support, and vehemently the defend the concept of linguistic change, but I still love telling people they’re wrong. I guess in the end it’s like freedom of speech: “I do not agree with what you say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it incorrectly.”

Awesome fan art for Mr. Monster

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

John Cleaver is, shall, we say, a man who appreciates a good fire. Burning things is not just a hobby, it’s an emotional release he can’t get any other way. John has strict rules, and burning things is explicitly forbidden, but…the pressure is on in Mr. Monster, stronger than ever before, and a lot of those rules get broken. John needs to burn something–he doesn’t want it, he needs it, or the pressure will build up and explode. That kind of thing won’t be good for anyone.

Of course, an angry John Cleaver, barely in control and running around burning stuff, isn’t too great for anyone either.

This fantastic piece of art was modeled by SOULTY666, and I think it’s the most awesome thing ever. You can see his entire portfolio here.

We’re just two weeks away from the US launch. Check out my schedule on the left and see if I’m coming to your city! I’m adding new events as soon as we schedule them, so check back often.

LA Signing with F. Paul Wilson

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Reading, signing, and Q&A
2:00 pm

F. Paul Wilson and I will be appearing together at Dark Delicacies, one of the coolest horror-themed bookstores in the world. I’ll be signing Mr. Monster and Paul will be signing Fatal Error, the latest in his incredible Repairman Jack series. Paul is a good friend, and our books sit in the same “supernatural thriller” genre, so this event should be awesome. Tell all your friends!

San Diego Signing #2

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Reading, Signing, and Q&A
2pm to 4pm

Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111

Ask any SF/Fantasy author about their favorite bookstores, and Mysterious Galaxy will come up pretty quickly in the conversation. It’s a small store, but always well-stocked, the staff is incredibly knowledgable, and they host a terrific signing.