So a couple of months ago, I decided I didn’t have enough to do this year and got it in my head to Put on a Show on the island. Specifically, to corral enough islanders and Portlanders to mount a reader’s theatre production of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood sometime around Christmas.

(The seed of this was very likely talking about Under Milk Wood a lot while I was in Australia, as it is my favorite play and I love it beyond love, but meeting a fellow who had also read it and also loved it jarred me out of my usual “It’s only me who likes this weird thing!” haze.)

It was a thorny process–there are about 50 speaking parts in UMW, and I will tell you straight up, should you ever decide to do this insane thing, that you have absolutely no chance of getting 50 non-professional actory type adults with full time jobs and children to volunteer to read some weird Welsh radio play without getting paid for it just because you think it’s super awesome. Still, we started out ok, with about 35 people in the cast. Which, eventually, dwindled to about 13.

That meant a lot of doubled up parts (and tripled, and quadrupled) and justbeast juggling sound effects and Captain Cat and everyone working together to make it a going concern.

I had designed it to be as low stress and low commitment as possible–for everyone but me, as it turned out. I am not so good with the Executive Functioning thing, it is an Exciting Feature of my ADD. Turns out directing is ALL ABOUT Executive Functioning! I had to Make Decisions! And Design Flyers and Programs! And Advertise! And herd cats with people with very busy schedules and then also be First Voice, which is a fat part, to be quite honest. But it has my favorite monologue of all time, the opening one, which I read for my first drama class as a child and made my teachers squint at the 12 year old reciting Dylan Thomas from memory.

So I stressed and was afeared no one would come and hoped it would be what I’d always wanted, to be able to share this piece of beauty with a village not so different than Milk Wood. To make something out of nothing, to contribute to my community that I love so much, to add to the net beauty and interest of the world.

So on Saturday, our show went up at a 150 year old church on Peaks Island, to a full house, a (partially) standing ovation, and praise all around. We raised canned food (admission was one can) and money for the Peaks Island Food Pantry and gave them a good start on their winter work. Many, many people expressed the wish that it happen again next year, which was my fondest hope, to start a tradition. (I think UMW year after year would wear on folks, so I’m thinking a three or four play slate that would cycle through year by year. Skin of Our Teeth for next year, methinks.)

It was our smoothest run, and we had no tech glitches at all. The only real actor trip-up was unintentionally meta-hilarious: Our Second Voice tripped a line pretty hard, but the next line was Mr Pugh saying “What was that again, my dear?” –and the fellow playing Mr Pugh was Second Voice’s husband. The audience erupted with laughter and clapping–which wouldn’t have happened were it not a village where we all know each other, and all knew they were married.

We had some amazing readers, singers, actors, and even atheorist on the cello, because everything on this earth needs moar cello. I was so impressed with it all. And the audience laughed at the right times!

I’m not even sure if I could have managed something like this if I didn’t live in a place like Peaks Island, where everyone is so supportive of people being weird and following what calls them, where there was such joy in seeing people we all know become other people. Where you can just Put On a Show like people used to do, and have people volunteer to help you and play the parts, have a hundred folks show up, and tolerate your interest in Welsh radio, and feed hungry islanders in the bargain. It was really and genuinely special.

I’m so grateful that it happened In Real Life, not just in my idle Someday I Will Do This daydreaming instant messages. That I didn’t think about it ten seconds longer and decide it was too much to take this year. (It was. Doesn’t matter. Worth it.)

Thank you to everyone who acted and attended–you are all my heroes. I still can’t believe we really did it. We made a thing where there was not a thing. That, by any definition, is magic.

We are not wholly bad nor good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood…

 

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Myths of Origin, my VERY FIRST OMNIBUS EVER, is finally unleashed on the world!

It contains The Labyrinth, a surreal beatnik hero’s journey, Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, a chronicle of an old Japanese woman and her madness or enlightenment, and The Grass-Cutting Sword, a retelling of the Shinto creation myth, all of which were out of print, and quite pricey hardbacks to boot, along with Under In the Mere, my Arthurian book, which was written at the same time as those early novels, though published much later. That all would have cost you about $100 back in the day, and now are just about $10 anywhere you’d buy it.

It also has detailed notes on each book, where they came from and where they fit in with my life and aesthetic development. It’s a pretty awesome package–and check out that gorgeous cover!

Given that 2011 was a breakout year for me, it’s appropriate that Myths comes out this year, contexualizing the wildest and weirdest of my books. I look at this hefty tome and see how far I’ve come, and how far I still have to go, and remember the girl I was when I was just starting out and didn’t know any of the rules, so just barreled through writing like a 6 year old playing Streetfighter, mashing away the buttons to see what worked–and coming up with occasional fireballs.

You can pick up Myths of Origin at Amazon, BN, on Kindle or Nook, and even some brick and mortars. Anywhere you normally buy books. (On BN, if you’re fast, you can catch a glimpse of an old cover version!)

Later in the week I’ll see if I can dig up some old school icons from the ancient book releases. I’m using one now!

And now, as celebration of the New Baby, I will make an offer I never have before.

Ask me anything about these four books. Anything–even if it’s “what the fuck?” I’ll answer honestly and completely, with spoilers. You can ask me about the worldbuilding, or the answers to riddles, or why I made any of the choices I did. About what a sequel would have been to any of them, a prequel, a musical, a movie. Fire away, I’m all yours.

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Hey guys! Silently and Very Fast, my AI novella and REAL SCIENCE FICTION I SWEARZ has concluded over at Clarkesworld.

You can still get one of the last copies of the hardcover here, or just read it for free in electronic form at CW. Either way, I hope you enjoy it and do not throw eggs in it. Feel free to leave comments there or here.

I’m mainly consumed with my mom visiting and Under Milk Wood going up on Saturday night–if anyone is local they should definitely come! (630pm, Brackett Church on Peaks Island, admission is one canned food item for the Peaks Island Food Pantry) and selling books at the craft fair tomorrow. It is a PACKED weekend here on the island. Plus I’m turning in the final Fairyland edits today. No rest for anyone, ever.

But Monday I shall return!

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Cat’s AI novella Silently and Very Fast has reached its conclusion over at Clarkesworld Magazine. Already praised and chosen for Dozois’s Year’s Best SF anthology, Silently has been published in limited edition hardcover and posted serially at Clarkesworld over the final three months of 2011. The novella explores artificial intelligence through the lens of folklore and twisted family, following an entity from its first moments through a swath of human history and beyond.

Read Silently and Very Fast.

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I’ve been watching 24 lately as I frantically try to accomplish all the things this week (finish my mom’s Christmas present, finish editing Fairyland 2, and the play I’m directing goes up on Saturday, too).

I pay attention to some seasons and episodes more than others–it’s not really hard to follow, even with only half a brain focused on it. A lot of the show is like a YouTube montage of people yelling WE’RE OUT OF TIME/RUNNING OUT OF TIME/WE DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME!!! only it’s not a montage, it’s just the show.

But the thing that frustrates me is such a writer thing to be frustrated by.

The villains, we just never know where they’re coming from.

Oh sure, America sucks, blow things up, yes, we get that they’re Bad and want to Do Bad Things. But we never hear why they want those things, what specific beef they’ve got, what their history is (I want to hear Marie Warner’s story, you guys) and how they got to that point. Most importantly, we never hear what sort of world they hope will follow their apocalypse party.

So you want to meltdown all the nuclear reactors/release a virus in all kinds of cities/whatever. You basically hope to bring about the end of America as a civilization, right? Because that’s what will happen. (And money is not a good answer either, even though they occasionally try that one, because it will not be worth much when everyone is dead and you are hoping to trade non-irradiated water for uninfected food.) And many of the effects of the 24 crises would actually be worldwide. So you want the zombie apocalypse. What is it you hope will follow that? I’m willing to hear that you want a pre-industrial Caliphate–I won’t like it, but it’s at least a concrete goal. I’m willing to hear that you think nixing half of humanity with an incurable 100% mortality virus will heal the earth because overpopulation or whatever.

What I do not like is the constant YOU CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND that the villains spout, and then clam up. Like, somehow that’s an acceptable response during an interrogation? It’s as good as asking for a lawyer, it would seem. We could never understand? Well then! No more questions, sir! Would you like the light or dark cell? Right this way. There’s something to be said for villains monologuing. At least we get to understand. No wait, we couldn’t understand, so I guess we won’t even try?

And I am always interested in the why. When I was editing Apex I asked for a rewrite on a story to give me more “whyporn”. I want it laid out, at least a little, why the villain does what they do, and more than that–why they feel they are righteous. Because they all do believe they are doing the right thing, the hard thing, but the right thing. To act as though those motivations are incomprehensible is to simply dismiss those who commit terrible acts as inhuman and beyond understanding–and really, most of the time they’re terribly human and very understandable. We just feel better about our own stupid, petty, venal motivations when we shrug them off and say they’re monsters, who cares why?

But most of the time, in real life, villains are acting out those stupid, petty, venal impulses on a large scale, that’s all. And it pays to understand the process by which the small ugly thoughts we all have blossom into this horrible angry all engulfing Thing.

That’s how you write a good villain. An interesting villain. And 24 makes interesting villains and then just stubbornly refuses to examine them or even allow them to speak. I know it’s supposed to be this Rah Rah Jack Bauer Punches People In the Soul show, but in its first seasons it was often quite deft and interesting–right up until we should actually hear the whyporn, and then the YOU JUST WOULDN’T GET ME scowly crap starts up, every single damn season.

Show, I am frustrate. WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

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