A Rare Panel Appearance: Keck at Ad Astra

•April 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’m putting in an appearance at the Ad Astra convention in Toronto this weekend.

Steve Erikson and I are going to join the conversation about writing and old fashioned role playing games at Ad Astra. They’re sneaking me in at the last minute. 

(Steve and I spent more than our fair share of time playing table top role playing games over the years). It should be a good time.

Not Fishing

•March 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I often think of hockey arenas when I think about writing.

There’s something about the huge (but finite) numbers of fans in the seats at a hockey arena. When a player steps out in front of the crowd, they are instantly under the gaze of 15 or 20 thousand people. 

This would be an okay number for a writer of fiction (though five times that many readers might be preferable — or perhaps “profitable” is the more accurate term). Yours truly would certainly not turn up his nose at such a figure, and I can only imagine what the roar of such a crowd might be like to experience.

While I am forced to guess at how the cheers of a multitude might feel, I do know just how lovely it is to receive the very occasional cheer from a solitary, patient “fan.”

These days, when my current project is so far delayed (by the ordinary and domestic responsibilities of a not-unusual life), I am more grateful than I can say for anyone who remembers. 

Imaginary Beings

•November 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

After a recent trip to the American Natural History Museum, David found himself with a copy of The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges. This is a stylish reprint and translation of a Spanish original, published in 1967.

Imaginary Beings presents an unusual blend of poetry and encyclopedia, with each thoughtful entry introducing a new inhabitant of the worlds of myth or literature.
Borges doesn’t bother with arch cleverness, and instead takes a mild and sensitive approach to each being as it passes. Although this is no true encyclopedia of the world’s monsters, it will make an interested reader smile as he turns the pages.

Dexter & the Opposite of Midi-chlorians.

•October 21, 2007 • Leave a Comment

David has just been reading Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels, having seen an episode or two of the Showtime series. At first, he was put off by the rather convenient high concept notion that a serial killer might channel his homicidal impulses to killing the bad guys. On a number of levels, the notion of a sadistic vigilante is troubling.

Lindsay, however, does a pretty good job of constructing a plausible rationalization for a do-gooder sadistic sociopath. And the characters and situations in the books are often deeply fascinating. What we have is, essentially, a bloodthirsty mystery series with a supervillain of sorts in the lead role. (Dexter is a remarkably engaging creature).

Interestingly, the third book departs from the formula. [We drift toward spoilers here]. Suddenly, the supernatural hops into the book. In fact, evil spirits explain why our Dexter is a killer. For those of you who watched the most recent Star Wars installments, this is the opposite of the midi-chlorian effect. There, a magical process was retroactively explained with pseudo-science. Here, a psychological process has been retroactively explained by magic. It may feel like changing the rules of the game.

In the end, the book is a immensely readable dark urban fantasy in which strong characterization and wonderful fish-out-of-water situations still manage to surprise the reader. It’s worth wondering how many readers will be jarred out of the narrative by Lindsay’s changing of the rules.


•September 3, 2007 • Leave a Comment

David just finished reading Scarnight by Alan Campbell. The book has a gleefully dark and singularly dramatic setting (there are very few cities suspended over abysses in the genre). Campbell’s a dab hand at vivid description and delights in poking at the creepy, gritty underbelly of human nature. And the conclusion makes it hard to get to work on time.

Heartbreaking Prose

•September 3, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In the fantasy genre, David’s latest find has been Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden. Valente writes in glittering, magical prose and the stories she tells are wry, unique, and sometimes deeply profound. I read that she’s also managed to get short-listed for the World Fantasy Award this year, so congratulations are due.

The Wonderful & Dubious O’Brian

•September 3, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Lately, David has been indulging his affection for Patrick O’Brian‘s Aubrey/Maturin novels once again. By all accounts O’Brian was a singular individual, but his books are a facinating trip through the 19th. century Royal Navy. The characters are remarkably stoic (stiff upper lips abound) and O’Brian works a real magic act by loading up on the period detail, scarcely ever explaining what any of the various terms might mean, and still managing to hang onto the reader’s interest. He also has a marvelous power to foreshadow entire plots that he simply discards with a randomness that seems very much like life. The books are a real achievement.