Today I was driving downtown and I saw a momma duck walking down the middle of the street with six little baby ducks following her. Downtown Stevens Point isn't really a bustling place, but there's still two lanes of traffic, and she was walking right down the center line.
I did a quick job of parallel parking, which turned out even more lousy than my usual. Then I hopped out of the car and made sure that they got out of the road okay.
The babies were still really young. They still had their baby fluff, and were smaller than tennis balls. Mom was taking small steps to they could keep up, and they were all trucking along to keep up with her, none of them ever falling behind by more than a foot and a half.
The other thing I noticed is that if she stopped moving, all of them sat down immediately. They did it in unison, six little duck butts hitting the pavement all at once. Then when mom started going again, they all bobbed back to their feet and started following her again.
Momma duck eventually headed off the road to the sidewalk and hopped up the curb. I was surprised that the baby ducks could make it up there too. But they did, bouncing up a sheer wall three times taller than they were. It was really cute. Hallmark cute.
I walked with them the five or six blocks to the river, stopping traffic when they needed to cross the road. I thought I might need to herd them too, but momma duck knew where she was going, and I only had to steer once to keep her going the right direction.
That said, she really didn't like having me around and made it clear whenever I got too close. She would snap her beak, and the feathers on the top of her head stood up. I had no doubt that were I to cross some invisible line, she would bring all sorts of momma-duck wrath of god down on me.
A lot of the drivers I stopped of didn't care for me much either, and their mouths made similar snapping motions behind their windshields when I stepped in front of their cars and held out my hand for them to stop. Luckily, this is something I can do with incredible authority. I worked in a parking ramp one summer, and that was the skill I carried away. I can stop a car at thirty feet with a hand gesture no matter what the driver might think of me.
However, people didn't stay pissed for long. Once they saw what I was doing, everyone was full of smiles and willing to help. I believe, given the chance, the vast majority of people are eager to do the right thing. I believe that people are good, and that most of the ugliness in the world comes from folks being thoughtless, or misinformed, or simply inattentive to the world around them. No one willingly runs over baby ducks, but it happens all the time because people aren't careful.
Sometimes you need someone to step out in front of you and say, "No. Stop. Look at this thing that's about to happen. Think about what you're doing. Attend. Be mindful." Whatever you call this impulse, I have a great deal of it, and it's constantly leading me to step out in front of moving cars. Metaphorically speaking.
Everything said, it took about an hour for me to escort the ducks to the river, and the milk that I'd left in my car got hot from sitting in the sun too long. But the truth is this: walking those ducks to the river was the best time I've had in months. Maybe longer. I felt good afterwards, better than I've felt in a long time.
It's strange for me to admit this, but a lot of my life has felt very hollow lately. Many of my days are not particularly good days, though I would be hard pressed to explain why this is the case.
I've had fun, don't get me wrong, but a lot of it has been fun like eating one of those giant Pixy Stix. It's great while you're doing it, but afterward, you don't really feel.... good. It's not a substantial experience.
I need to think on this. If an hour spent helping some ducks feels like the most worthwhile thing I've done in a months, I probably need to re-examine my life.
That's all for now folks. Have fun, but look out for ducks while you're doing it. And if someone steps in front of you and holds up their hand for you to stop, you might want to slow down whatever you're doing and have a second look around, just in case.
I'm back from Portland, where my first attempt at marraging two people up seemed to go pretty well.
When we were planning the ceremony, I asked my friends what they'd like me to say when I pronounced them husband and wife. I've been to a lot of weddings, and I've heard a lot of different authorities cited. Sometimes it's "By the authority given me by god and the holy Catholic church." Or "By the authority vested in me by the state of California."
I really didn't know how to handle that. In some ways, it seems like a product placement in the wedding, like the officiant is saying, "This wedding brought to you by God, the new Pontiac Sunfire, and the letter G."
So I asked what they'd like best, and there was a long pause. Then my friend said, "How about, 'By the power of Grayskull?'"
We all had a good laugh, but I have to say that when the time came, the temptation to actually say it was almost overwhelming. I'm still a little disappointed in myself that I didn't. I mean, that's a wedding story that they could have told for years and years.
If you're curious as to what I look like when I'm pretending to be a grown-up, here it is:
Enjoy the sight of me in a tie. It probably won't happen again for years. Longer if I have any say in things. Which I do.
While out in Portland, the folks I was hanging out with wanted to go to Brewfest: a A big shindig where, apparently, 60,000 people show up to try all sorts of clever local beers. They were all excited about it, so I went along for moral support, and possibly to hold their hair out of their faces while they puked.
But here's the thing. I don't drink.
I can drink, and I occasionally do. It's just that, generally speaking, I don't. I don't like the taste of beer or wine, and alcohol is a drug that has nothing to offer me. I'm plenty uninhibited. And the three or four inhibitions I've kept serve a vital purpose. They are like heavy chains restraining my true inner nature. Without them, I would devolve into a pure Dionysian force that would rampage through the countryside. While this would be a lot of fun for me and the Bacchae, I worry about the damage we might inflict on the general populace. Hence my restraint.
[Note to self: group costume idea.]
So the fact that I don't drink, combined with my dislike of crowds, drunks, and noise meant that Brewfest really wasn't my scene. So I left my friends to booze it up and went to visit Powells.
I was not disappointed. It's like book Valhalla. The sort of place where I could spend a long weekend very happily gathering more books than I can carry, afford, or load into a car.
What's more, they had a bunch of copies of NOTW there, both hardcover and the paperback. I'm guessing I signed about two dozen, so if you're in the area, odds are you can still get in there and grab one.
They also had me sign their author wall, which was pretty cool....
If you look closely, you'll probably recognise a few names there...
So my Japanese publisher has put up a website to help promote their newly published translations of the books.
Personally, I think it looks cool as hell.
Of course, I can't read a lick of Japanese...
Well, that's not entirely true. I know two words, and one of them is a profanity. Neither one shows up on this page though, so that doesn't help me very much.
This makes me feel a little bit like a caveman. All I can do is point at this and grunt. I don't know what it means, but it's pretty.
I mean, this is just cruel. There's obviously something cool going on here, but I have no idea it is. There's a flow chart about my book (I assume) and I haven't the first clue what it means. For all I know it could be speculation as to the future sexual interactions of the characters. In which case I'm guessing Bast would be the box in the upper righthand corner. Yeah, the one connected to the most arrows, pointing in as many different directions as possible.
In related news, the Japanese publisher has asked permission to translate some of my blogs and post them up on the site over there. I gave the thumbs up, but I do wonder how well some of my rantings will come across when translated. Also, I make a lot of odd references that I doubt people in other cultures will be able to catch.
And just so you know, they might also be translating the comments too. So beware, now if you make a lame post, people in two different languages will laugh at you. Generally speaking though, I've been very impressed by the signal to noise ratio in the discussions here. I think the fact that they're consider the comments worth translating is a testament to that.
A lot of folks have been asking if I'm going to be at San Diego Comic Con this weekend. This is to let everyone know that I'm not.
Yes. I know. Everyone cool in all of god's creation is going to be there. All the authors. All the actors. All the geeks of different creeds and nations. All the JossWhedon.
I've never been to San Diego Comic Con before. This was going to be my first year, but in an act of true selfless love, I agreed to perform my friend's marriage ceremony, and it happened to land on the same weekend.
Don't get me wrong, I don't regret it. This is one of my very best friends, the guy who helped keep me sane during the two years of burning suck that was grad school. We live in different parts of the country now, but I still miss him, and if it were possible I would transplant him here in central Wisconsin. But alas, raised in the Pacific northwest, he is like a delicate hothouse orchid. One of our winters would either kill him, or throw him into some terrible psychosis.
So I'm looking forward to the wedding.... but... well.... the whole Dr. Horrible crew is going to be there. It would have been really cool if I'd managed to get to say howdy to Felicia Day in person, buy a copy of the Guild DVD, and get the cast to sign it.
Then this morning on my daily troll through the interweb, I see that just about all my favoritewebcomicartists are going to be there too. I feel like the kid who forgot his permission slip. And believe me, I know what that feels like. I was always that kid.
So if you're going, have an extra portion of geeky fun on my behalf. Tell JossWhedon I love him, and I'll catch y'all there next year.
So, I can't imagine my life without Dr. Horrible. I'm dimly aware of doing things prior to watching it. I wrote a book, learned to walk, lost my virginity, etc etc. Silly things. Trivial things.
JossWhedon. I don't think there's even a word for what I feel for him.
There's awe, that's a given, plus a vasty respect. Then those two emotions are tangled up with an odd, primal terror. I know that sounds odd, but that's the only way I can describe it. He terrifies me. It's the same fear a caveman would feel when confronted with, say, Opimus Prime. It's the terror that drove people to burn witches at the stake. Why? Well, because they can do things. They have preternatural abilities that freak us out right down to the marrow of our bones.
So. You take that knot of molten awe, respect, and holy terror, wrap it up in a fluffy blanket of love, then sprinkle it lightly with toasted coconut. That's how I feel about JossWhedon. Is there a word for that? If not, we need one.
Were I not Pat, I would be Diogenes. Were I neither of those, I would be JossWhedon.
But I'm not. I can't be Dr. Horrible either. Is it wrong that I want to dress up like him? Where can I get a lab-coat like that?
I think that there might be something wrong with me....
By tomorrow I'm guessing I will have settled down a little. But right now I'm thinking I might want to do a video blog or two. But honestly, I don't know if that's a good idea, I am many things, but I'm no Neil Patrick Harris.
What about you guys? Would any of you be interested in seeing a video blog?
If nothing else, they will give you something to read while you're waiting for Dr. Horrible's page to load. I'm guessing it's going to get hit pretty hard today.....
P.S. By the way, let's keep the comments section spoiler free, shall we? Not everyone will be able to watch it right and nobody likes having the good bits given away before they've had a chance to watch something themselves.
While I understand the desire to talk about the awesomeness of something like this, we must restrain ourselves. Sublimate the urge to say something along the lines of, "That was so cool when he blew up the sun and died at the end." Instead, say something gushy and loving about the show itself. Extra points given for odd-but-appropriate comparisons. For example: "That was so cool that I feel like I just got to hug a kitten and eat an entire ice-cream sundae."
Remember folks, people who give away spoilers go to the special hell: one reserved for child molesters and people who speak in the theatre.
A week or two ago a fan wrote in with the following:
Sorry to hear you didn't win the Locus award for Best Debut Novel of the year. Still, I hope you got to rub elbows with the famous people and wear a tux at the Locus awards.
I'd already had a handful of people send me their condolences about not winning. Some were gentle commiserations, while other folks were frothy with rage, upset at the sheer injustice of me not winning ever award in existence. Even the ones that were given out before my book was published. Even the ones that were given out before I was born.
Regardless of the tone, all the messages were sweet. And I told them the same thing: the winner, Heart Shaped Box, was a good book. A really good book, actually. I enjoyed it a lot. (Though I did something I rarely do, and listened to it as an audiobook without actually reading the paper version first.)
For the more morally outraged folks, I explained that Joe hill has actually been writing short stories for a while, so he had a bit of a pre-established readerbase even before his novel came out. Plus, he writes in the thriller/horror genre, which tends to have a bigger readership than epic fantasy. Both of those things, I explained, couldn't help but get him more votes, and that's the cool thing about the Locus Award - everyone gets a vote. It's like a democracy or something.
Plus, Hill's acceptance speech was very gracious. He mentioned all the other nominees, myself included. That's classy.
As for the Locus Awards themselves - they really weren't a tuxedo sort of affair. They're more of a Hawaiian shirt deal. Which, personally, I found kind of refreshing.
I also didn't get to do much elbow rubbing while I was out there. I had some sort of strange fever that left me exhausted and sweaty. Really sweaty. There were occasions where I was literally dripping, and that's not the best way to make a good impression on folks. So, for the most part, I just hung out.
I did get to hear William Gibson talk, which was pretty cool. And I got to hang out with Peter S. Beagle for a while (for reasons that I will discuss in a later blog.) That was terribly exciting despite the fact that I didn't feel very well. My only anxiety is that I looked like I was having the worst panic attack ever. But sweaty exhaustion aside, the fact remains that getting to talk with Mr Beagle made the whole trip worthwhile.
And that, I thought, was the Locus awards in a nutshell.
But it wasn't. Just a couple days ago, someone sent me an e-mail saying it was a shame about the awards. I was robbed, etc. etc.
I bounced them back the same response: Lost to a good book, established writer, classy speech.
Then the fan replied and said, "You do know that they changed how the votes were counted after the polls were closed, don't you?"
To which I said, "What?"
So he sent me a link or two explaining what had happened.
For those of you without the inclination to click and read the details on your own, here's the short version. After the polls closed, Locus apparently decided to count their subscriber's votes twice when tallying things up.
Which changed the results, obviously. Cory Doctorow's story collection Overclocked would have won first place if everything was even. But after they weighted their subscribers votes double, he came in third.
And, apparently, if they hadn't changed things, I would have won in my category.
So now I really don't know how I feel. Honestly, it would be way easier for me to form an opinion if my book weren't one of those affected by the change. (or should that be "effected?" I can never remember....)
Changing the way the votes are tallied after the polls are closed looks pretty dodgy though, no matter how you shake it. It makes it seem as if things got counted up, then folks started saying, "Hmmmm.... Well, how does it turn out if everyone who lives in New Hampshire gets two votes? No. Not what we're looking for. How about people with a GED only get three-fifths of a vote? Still no good. Starbelly sneeches get ten votes? Yes. Perfect. That works. Let's go with that."
I don't really have a good note to close on. The fact remains that Hill's book is still great and his speech was still classy. If I didn't mind losing to him before, logic says that it shouldn't bother me now.
On the other hand, winning awards is cool. Aside from the warm fuzzy, it creates publicity, and that helps spread the word about the book.
Plus, this award was a plaque of some sort. I could have used that for all sorts of things. Obviously it would be useful for decorating the barren walls of my house and intimidating my enemies, but that's just for starters. I could have also used it for serving drinks when company comes over. It also looked pretty heavy, so I could have used it as a projectile in the eventuality of a zombie attack.
Meh. That's all I've got. I should get back to working on the book.
New Interview! See Pat's Magnificent Beard in Living Colour!
Captain Joe discovered this youtube video just a while ago. It's a video interview I did with my UK publishers back in January. I suspect that they released this video to help promote the release of the UK paperback, which came out over there in June.
Surprisingly, watching myself here doesn't make me cringe hardly at all. I'm halfway articulate here, so I'm guessing that I managed to have a good strong cup of coffee before the interview started.
The German version of The Name of the Wind is coming out soon. Check out the cover.
(Click to Embiggen.)
Though it happened a while back, this German deal was kind of a big deal. The publisher that's handling it in Germany doesn't do much fantasy, just a very few authors like Tolkien and Tad Williams. So the fact that they bought my book gave me some much-needed respectability that helped us make some other foreign sales. It also was nice knowing that they take their stuff very seriously, and would do a good job with the translation and publication of the book.
German is the only language other than English that I know anything about. But honestly, I can't claim to be anything other than illiterate in my second language. I can remember a few phrases, like, "Gleich um die Ecce," "Wennigsten functionieren die wasserliedung!" and "Ich habe zu vielen affen spielen im meinem obenboden."
Other than that, I have a bunch of nouns and verbs rattling around in my head, but my ability to string them together grammatically is really non-existent. Combined with my horrible spelling, I'm guessing that what I've written up above is barely German at all. And more like that language twins use to speak to each other.
My German non-literacy was really driven home to me when I read the title and thought, "Des. Des.... does that indicate the nominative case?" Then I realized I couldn't even remember what the nominative case was. In fact, I'm pretty iffy as to what a case is at all, nominative or otherwise. This pretty much shatters any hope I had of ever reading my own book in another language.