Back to December 2015

To Making Light's front page

Forward to February 2016

January 27, 2016
The Good Documentation
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:56 PM * 59 comments

It knows its systems and its systems know it.

I’ve spent the last two days in all-day work meetings, for Reasons. And although it’s not my main thing any more, I got rather emphatic—more than once—about the need for good documentation. It became kind of a Thing. It may haunt me in the future.

And then I come home to this in my Twitter feed:

Really, what’s a pastiche-monger to do?


1The DOCUMENTATION is my guide; I shall not wonder.
2It maketh me to understand the necessary concepts;
It leadeth me through the installation process.
3It reassureth me;
It leadeth me on the happy path for my desired objectives.
4Yea, though I work through the advanced configuration menus,
I will fear no failures, for thou art with me
Thy FAQ and thy troubleshooting they comfort me.
5Thou providest examples to me in the context of mine use cases.
Thou explainest my expected outcomes.
My results are perfect.
6Surely good performance and stability will persist throughout the system life
And it will run within the parameters of the DOCUMENTATION forever.

January 26, 2016
On sale today: Charlie Jane Anders’ debut science fiction and fantasy novel, All the Birds in the Sky
Posted by Patrick at 12:00 PM * 18 comments

all the birds.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Excerpt here. Author website here. Public launch event (tonight!) here. Author tour info here.

My flap copy:

From an early age, Patricia Delfine and Lawrence Armstead had different—and sometimes opposite—ways of seeing the world. Patricia could talk to animals and even turn herself into a bird, while Lawrence built a supercomputer and a time machine (that only went forward two seconds). As they navigated the never-ending nightmare that is junior high school, they become wary allies, until an enigmatic guidance counselor with a hidden agenda intervened.

They didn’t expect to see each other again. And yet ten years later, they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the secret academy for the magically gifted, and Laurence is an engineering genius who’s trying to save the world. As Laurence and Patricia reconnect, they find themselves drawn into the opposite sides of a war between science and magic. And the fate of the world depends on them both. Probably.

Some notice:

“What a magnificent novel—a glorious synthesis of magic and technology, joy and sorrow, romance and wisdom. Unmissable.”
—Lev Grossman

“In All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders darts and soars, with dazzling aplomb, among the hypotheticals of science fiction, the counterfactuals of fantasy, and the bittersweet mundanities of contemporary American life, throwing lightning bolts of literary style that shimmer with enchantment or electrons. She tackles profound, complicated questions, vast and insignificant as the fate of the planet, tiny and crucial as the vagaries of friendship, rocketing the reader through a pocket-sized epic of identity whose sharply-drawn protagonists come to feel like the reader’s best friends. The very short list of novels that dare to traffic as freely in the uncanny and wondrous as in big ideas, and to create an entire, consistent, myth-ridden alternate world that is still unmistakably our own, all while breaking the reader’s heart into the bargain—I think of masterpieces like The Lathe of Heaven; Cloud Atlas; Little, Big—has just been extended by one.”
—Michael Chabon

“Charlie Jane Anders’ brilliant, cross-genre novel All the Birds in the Sky has the hallmarks of an instant classic. It’s a beautifully written, funny, tremendously moving tale that explodes the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy, YA and ‘mainstream’ fiction.”
—Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times

“Charlie Jane Anders has entwined strands of science and fantasy, both as genres and as ways of experiencing life, into a luminous novel that reveals the exhilarating necessity of each.”
—John Hodgman

“Two crazy kids, one gifted in science, the other in magic, meet as children, part and meet again over many years. Will they find love? Will they save the world? Or will they destroy it and everyone in it? Read Anders lively, wacky, sexy, scary, weird and wonderful book to find the answers.”
—Karen Joy Fowler

“The book is full of quirkiness and playful detail—it’s not hard to imagine Wes Anderson adapting it, if he ever turned toward science fiction—but there’s an overwhelming depth and poignancy to its virtuoso ending, which tugs all of its rich cultural symbolism into a heart-wrenching whole.”

January 19, 2016
David Geddes Hartwell, 1941-2016
Posted by Patrick at 09:58 PM * 156 comments

Updated, 20 Jan, 4:00 AM, to add: I wrote this on the evening of Tuesday, January 19, but held off actually posting it because (as of then, and to the best of my knowledge, as of now) David has not yet actually died. Because of a misunderstanding, for which the fault is mine, another Making Light front-pager pulled the “publish” trigger on this while I slept. Kathryn Cramer has posted to the comments: “His heart is still beating, but he is being assessed for brain death. Whatever the assessment, he has had a massive brain bleed, which continues. He will not survive. He has not been breathing on his own since the EMTs arrived at the orchard house late this afternoon.” I apologize to Kathryn and to everyone who took my post as informed confirmation. I’m now putting the post back up, and I’ll amend this update as events warrant. —PNH

Updated, 20 Jan, 11:00 PM: For the elimination of doubt: David is gone.

Updated, 21 Jan, 8:00 AM: Kathryn Cramer’s post is here.

Updated, 21 Jan, 9:30 PM: One more post from Kathryn, and totally worth your time.

To call our relationship “complicated” is to understate the case. We were friends. We were also editors working the same patch—him older and more eminent, me younger and more energetic. (“Younger and more energetic”, those were the days.) Back in the impossibly-long-ago mid-to-late ’80s, Teresa and I worked on his poetry magazine, and we helped dream up his journal of SF criticism and quit it three issues after. (I named it and designed the masthead.) He declined to hire me as his assistant at Arbor House, saying that Terry Carr had told him “Don’t hire that guy, he’ll just get promoted in six months and you’ll need an assistant again.” Thanks, Terry. In a more recent century, he and I co-edited a pretty good reprint anthology.

Teresa and I first got to know him in the early 1980s, when he was attending tons of conventions on the Timescape / Simon & Schuster dime. When our friend-in-fandom Paul Williams sat us down in Seattle and explained to us how we needed to work in SF publishing—and how to do that—, step one was that I should wind up at the 1983 ABA (the thing now called BEA) in Dallas. Which I did, crashing on David’s floor, spending days in the crush meeting publishing folks. Evenings, I hung back and watched as David and Paul invented the Philip K. Dick Society and planned Dick’s wildly successful posthumous Hollywood career. All of which came to pass. Clearly here was a magician, albeit a crafty, subtle, and not always trustworthy one. Like all the best.

Over the years at Tor we had occasions to want to drop-kick him out a 14th floor window—and occasions to be gobsmacked by his utter brilliance. He was a true believer in the intellectual and emotional power of fantasy and science fiction. He was our field’s most consequential editor since John W. Campbell.

He is gone. It’s like a mountain range is gone, or nitrogen, or a verb tense. We can’t believe it. David. Goodbye.

Updated, 20 Jan, middayish East Coast time:

Thank you, Jo, for this lovely tribute in the comments. — Abi

Like nitrogen, supporting every breath
Always been there, it seems you always will
So vital, so involved, that is until
A moment brings inevitable death.

I know death finds us all, but you? But why?
You, in the midst of life, one moment there
Then dying flesh, and then an empty chair,
I can’t believe it doesn’t shake the sky.

Your life is over, not complete, feels wrong
To say “he was” and never “he will be”
When you were there like axioms so long.

What’s left is all you did and made, and we
So shaken at the gap where you belong
Counting your loss against eternity.

January 13, 2016
Tweet less, blog more
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:32 PM * 73 comments

I’ve been dithering for a while now over posting here about Hamilton, the smash Broadway musical rap hit about the Founding Father on the US$10 bill. I’m not sure I can come up with anything to say that improves on Sumana Harihareswara’s post last November.

I’ve been kinda obsessed with this thing since I downloaded the cast album shortly after Christmas (it was, at the time, only $2 on Google Play, but I guess that was some kind of special rate, and it’s now $19, so I’m not bothering to link), and listened to it pretty much non-stop for two weeks. Its grip on my brain is finally starting to loosen a bit; I’ve listened to the new Bowie album a couple of times.

If you haven’t heard any of the music, it’s easy to dismiss the show based on a casual description. “A rap musical about Alexander Hamilton” sounds like the kind of stuff you routinely see (done badly) on YouTube. But Miranda’s musical craftsmanship is top-notch, and the performances are great. The show makes use of multiple musical styles — not just rap and R&B, but British Invasion rock, and at one point a minuet — and the rap numbers draw upon multiple rap styles, with different styles corresponding to different personalities in the story.

It was, for a while, possible to listen to the whole cast album for free on NPR’s website, and I think it still is on Spotify, but I’ll have to rely on someone more familiar with Spotify to tell you how that works in the comments. The album gives you pretty much the whole story; the actual show is sold out for the foreseeable future (unless you get lucky in the Ham4Ham lottery).

I also have to give a shout-out to Chris Quinones, who got into Hamilton way, wa-a-a-y back when Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the opening number at the White House, like in 2009. (They’re both Hunter College High School alums, and both Nuyorican, so she’s been following his career since his first show, In the Heights.) Despite all the raves I was hearing, I didn’t really pay attention till she played the cast album while we were visiting her brother for the holidays. I think she was shocked at how deep I fell in.

It’s Quiet in the Shire
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:43 PM * 31 comments

So Avram and I were going back and forth on Twitter last night, playing with Hamilton and Lord of the Rings. After a day’s steeping, this is what I typed out instead of doing what I should be doing right now. (Original here.)

There are prices that the stories don’t count,
There is suffering too terrible for songs.
You bear the Ring as long as you can.
The aftermath is unimaginable.
That moment at the end of things
It feels easier to fall into the fire.

The hobbits return to the Shire
And learn to live with the unimaginable.

I spend hours in the garden
And sit and smoke by the door.
And it’s quiet in town;
I never liked the quiet before.

When I walk the woods in summer
A longing that I can’t ignore
I miss home.
That never used to happen before.

If you see him in the woods
Walking by himself
Singing to himself
Have pity.

Gollum, you would like it in the Shire
There is fishing in the Shire.

He is working through the unimaginable

His skin is so pale.
His hands are so frail.
They say he haunts the woods like a spirit.

And every year, I fall apart.

Can you imagine?

Look at where I am.
Look at me and Sam.
I know we’re only mortals, just hobbits.
But hear me out. That would be enough.

If I could leave this world,
If I could flee from Middle-Earth,
I’d be on the road right now
And I’d forget, and that would be enough.
I don’t pretend to know
The weight of what we carried.
I know the damage buried in my flesh.

And you go West.
But I’m not alone.
I walk with your people.
Just let me walk you to the shore.
That would be enough.

If you meet him on the road,
Walking through the Shire,
Longing for the sea,
Have pity.

Samwise, do you like it in the Shire?
It’s quiet in the Shire.

They are trying to bear the unimaginable.

See them standing on the ship,
Ready for the trip.
Ready for the journey to the Havens.

Is it you? Is it you, young Frodo?

It is time to leave the unimaginable.

There are journeys that the Ring can’t shape.
There is a home too far away to leave.
We sail away from what we never cease to love
To leave behind the unimaginable.
They are standing by the mainmast,
Bilbo Baggins by his nephew’s side.
He lights his pipe.

It’s quiet on board.

The Grey Havens. Can you imagine?
The Grey Havens. Can you imagine?

If you see Sam at the shore
Waiting for the ship,
Watching for the ship,
Have pity.
He’s the last to bear the unimaginable.

January 04, 2016
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.