Five Things I’m Enthusiastic About This Month

1. The live HD simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera production of The Magic Flute, directed by Julie Taymor. I went for three reasons: Out of curiosity, to see if the idea of live opera viewed from a remote movie theater would work or not. Because I’m a fan of Julie Taymor (Marianne and I drove up to NYC to see her production of Grendel at the Lincoln Center not long ago). And because The Magic Flute is, well, The Magic Flute.

It was glorious. Not as glorious as it would be live at the Met, but a lot cheaper and with the advantages of close-ups and good camera work. The music was of course wonderful, the singers were to nobody’s surprise magnificent, the sets and costumes appropriately operatic, and the plot a rickety and arbitrary farrago of contrivance. But you already knew that. So I had a good time.

Nevertheless, no matter what the libretto says, I shall never swear allegiance to the wizard Sarastro. My heart belongs, now and forever, to the Queen of the Night. Who is also, I hasten to remind you, the Queen of Fantasy.

2. Postscripts. This is PS Publishing’s quarterly magazine/book, edited by Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers. I’m particularly keen on issue 8 (Fall 2006) because I have a story in it. In fact, they gave “The Bordello in Faerie” the cover. I’ll not mention the stories by Gene Wolfe, K.W. Jeter, and others, nor the essay by Terry Bisson because I want to caution potential readers that my story is, as the Locus review put it, “very bawdy.” If you don’t want to know exactly what goes where, you’d best not read it. But, oh man, is this one handsome zine! It has an extremely fine wraparound cover by a Victorian fairy artist that suits the story perfectly. To see it is to want it.

At Philcon on Saturday afternoon, I ran across Darrell Schweitzer, who not only has a story in that issue but had also bought a table in the huckster room. He was upset because he’d special-ordered ten copies of the issue, figuring they’d make great impulse buys for his customers, and hadn’t gotten them. Then on Sunday afternoon I saw him again, looking strangely pleased with himself. He said they’d finally arrived and that he’d sold them all that morning.

So that’s one pretty darned nifty issue. Available at $10 for the paperback or (brace yourself) $45 for the hardcover. Which is, however, autographed by all the contributors and is, as I’ve implied, quite a nice object for those who can afford it. I got one free for being a contributor.

3. Anthony Lawton. I first saw Lawton years ago in a one-man performance of Shel Silverstein’s very adult poem sequence The Devil and Billy Markham. He was stunning, and since then I’ve made an effort to see him perform whenever I can. So when the Lantern Theater Company hosted his solo adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, I was there.

I happen to admire much of Lewis’s work. (If you haven’t read Til We Have Faces, I highly recommend it.) But I am no great fan of The Great Divorce, in which the Christian polemics totally swamp the story. Not that I disapprove of Christian polemics per se. But this work is a sermon that never reaches beyond itself to become successful art. The depiction of Hell as a rundown urban neighborhood extending to infinity , the depiction of sinfulness as a willful refusal to be happy, and the depiction of virtue as a release of our hideous self-regard are all first-rate. The story is not.

Lawton’s performance, however, is everything theater should be. His face dances from character to character. He grows and dwindles as the part requires. He creates characters that live – particularly that of an ambitious wife who makes her husband’s existence an abject misery. I don’t know why this guy isn’t famous as famous can be yet. But if you ever get the chance to see him, do. He’s got the stuff.

4. Joseph Cornell. A major retrospective of Cornell’s art boxes, collages, and related art is showing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through February 19, 2007. If that’s within your reach and you have any interest at all in the man, I recommend you go. The show contains some 177 boxes, collages, and “portfolios.” These latter were never meant to be shown as art, but were simply sources of materials for possible future art, and I’d argue that displaying them has the effect of downplaying the man’s intelligence and making him out to be something he is not - an “outsider” artist. But there are fads in the curatorial arts, as in everything else, and so we are simply stuck with this. As for the boxes themselves - I liked ‘em going in, and I liked ‘em even more coming out. So it was a satisfying show.

As long as you’re there, check out Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Superhighway” (you can hardly avoid it) and Deborah Butterfield’s “Monekana.”

5. THE DOG SAID BOW-WOW. Speaking of major retrospectives . . . I’ve just signed with Tachyon Publications for a new short-fiction collection titled The Dog Said Bow-Wow. It contains sixteen stories, including all of my best work written since my last collections, Tales of Old Earth and Moon Dogs, excepting only the reworked out-takes from my next novel (no date available for that yet), The Dragons of Babel. Though it does contain two of them, “An Episode of Stardust” (because it’s so radically different from what will appear in the novel) and “A Small Room in Koboldtown” (because it’s a locked-room fantasy mystery, and when you’ve written one of them, you want everybody to know about it), as well as three stories that won the Hugo Award, several that lost, dinosaurs, Coyote, space travel, and the adventures of my two favorite Postutopian con-men, Darger and Surplus. So if you like my stories (and I for one do), you’ll want this book.

Best of all, it comes out in the fall of 2007. This year! Happy New Year, everybody – may it be a happy and prosperous one for us all.

P.S. This just in, at the very last moment: Jill Roberts, the Managing Editor of Tachyon Publications, briefly blogs the collection at She's also offering a free copy of Michael Swanwick's Field Guide to the Mesozoic Megafauna to the first person answering a trivia question about, of all things, me. So if you're the kind of person who wins contests, or would like to, check it out.

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