Nice person on the Internet (there are such things! the universe is not quite lost) recently had occasion to ask me if I had ever written about a magical unicorn.

I had not, but attempted to oblige her.

Nice person referred to this concept art as "disturbing."  I mulled this over and concluded that any disturbing element in the picture was doubtless attributable to a deficiency of gay.  I accordingly made modifications.

There.  Sorted.



Doing the final edit on Shell Game now, before it goes to the printers.  It is a bit of a mind trip to work on something like Shell Game after The Ghost and the Machine.  One minute you're researching PTSD and railway systems, and looking up Napoleon's influence on the sugar beet industry to try to figure out whether ordinary Austrians had jam in 1838.  The next minute, you've heaved all of your reference books out the window and are gleefully inventing the sexual practices of an imaginary aristocracy.

I've had such a goofusly huge amount of fun over Shell Game, and yet there's something that keeps hitting me whenever I go back to it.  Whatever else can be said about Shell Game, it really, really is a remarkably silly book about pirates.

Gay pirates.

I'm not going to apologise for that- either for the silly or the piracy.  (And certainly not for the gay.)  Silliness has an important place in the ecosystem; it helps to counteract self-importance and pomposity.  The real sin, to me, is not silly but boring.  I've done my best not to be that.

And piracy?  It's a concept as hackneyed as all sin, but let's face it, all of the themes and concepts and images that resonate with us were old long before our time.  When I read, what excites me is old ideas turned inside out and made new again, or twisted around so I have to re-examine what I think I know.  I get snarly and sarcastic if I can guess the ending of a book from its first page, but I would be just as bored by a story that contained nothing familiar, nothing that bridged the distances between the author and me, nothing that made me feel that she wanted to invite me into her world and show me around there.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but...pirates?  Gay pirates?

A while back, there was an author who was worried about whether his pirate book would sell, pirates being such a hackneyed concept and all.  So he wrote a little poem for the front page, addressing it to potential buyers:



If sailor tales to sailor tunes,

Storm and adventure, heat and cold,

If schooners, islands, and maroons,

And buccaneers, and buried gold,

And all the old romance, retold

Exactly in the ancient way

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today:

So be it, and fall on! If not,

If studious youth no longer crave,

His ancient appetites forgot,

Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave,

So be it, also!  And may I,

And all my pirates share the grave

Where these and their creations lie!


Translation?  GO AWAY HATERS I HEART PIRATES FOREVER SHUT UP THEY'RE AWESOME.  The author?  Robert Louis Stevenson.  The book?  Treasure Island.  

 So there.  




Some days?  Some days should just not exist.  Some days should just go away and put their heads in a bucket and stand in the corner for a million years while thinking very hard about what they've done.  Yesterday was like that.


Why yes, yes that IS a picture of me summoning a mystical crayon doomsnake to devour yesterday, symbolically represented as a box.  So glad you asked.


Fortunately, it was not a powered scooter

So on the subway today, I was accosted by a little old lady who began trying, in all seriousness, to ram her walker into my legs.

It is difficult to frame a socially acceptable response to this kind of thing.  Especially when the little old lady in question is giggling happily as she attempts to break your shins.

Did I mention that she was giggling happily?

Because she was totally giggling happily.

Fortunately, I am no amateur in the art of evading sneak attacks (I am a lawyer, lawyers make people unhappy a lot, unhappy people sometimes attack, QED) and I executed the one move in my playbook guaranteed to put a stop to shenanigans of this kind.  I shot up the nearest set of stairs.

She seemed a bit peeved but she recovered well, lurching towards a couple who were waiting for a nearby bus and slamming her walker into their innocent thighs.

The giggling followed me out the subway door.




Paper will save you when the apocalypse comes

The Ghost and The Machine launches this week, as a book with actual pages and things.  Or as a computer file which can live in the depths of your tablet devices, humming innocently, until you wish to embark on an exploration of the strange and twisted entity which is my imagination.

Now, I am sympathetic to those who prefer to keep all of their reading material electronically compressed.  I become more sympathetic every time I move, and have to lug countless crates of Penguin Classics and foreign language dictionaries up and down sets of stairs.  There is a secret underground brotherhood of movers who have sworn to assassinate me and burn all my Greek lexicons on my own grave.  

But what with the apocalypse looming and all, I thought it appropriate to remind you that there is a very compelling reason to keep accumulating books on paper.  Namely, paper books have so very many uses as survival gear.  



Observe the effortless transformation of the paperback into a zombie-repelling torch.  You could try to do this with a tablet, I suppose, but good luck trying to get the flame to catch, and good luck trying to hold a machete after globs of melted silicone run all over your fingers.


Survival is all mental, they tell us.  What better way to improve your morale and bolster self-confidence than to don a fetching chapeau?  Side benefit: The vaguely military appearance of your BookHat will cause other survivors to rally instantly under your banner.  You can then send them out on scouting expeditions, use them as cannon fodder, and/or steal their stuff.

Other survivors will not rally to your banner if you attempt to make a hat out of a tablet device.  They will look at you quizzically and ask why you have an e-reader stapled to your forehead.  Whatever you answer, they will edge gently away.

This one is so obvious that I blush to mention it.  When the apocalypse strikes, you want to be surrounded by things that you can quickly layer into a mighty and impenetrable fortification.  Books good building material, tablets not.  I rest my case.