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Astrology then and now

I had a short-term roommate in grad school who tried, via oblique and sundry ways, to determine around which time in the year I was born. I thought this odd (why be so round about asking?) until I overheard her chatting on her cell phone about how she just could not stand Scorpios.

Step back again to undergrad. This time, an ill-considered “wine party” that I should never have attended. At one point the host passed around a book of modernist poetry for us to read aloud, which should have been about the time I should have elected to leave. Anyhow, one of the guests (attending university, studying literature or philosophy or something of that sort) started explaining, with real conviction, how the cosmic rays from the stars can influence us, asking others about their place in the zodiac.

And then there’s my grandmother on my father’s side, who is otherwise a devout secularist and believer in science and nonetheless also believes in ghosts, folk magic and astrology.

There is some basic human connection on the story and language level towards the night sky as an indicator and influencer of life on Earth. Babylonian and Egyptian astrologers were meticulous in their observations, though the form of ancient astrology was far removed from today’s New Age mysticism. There are tablets and papyri exhaustively linking heavenly events to earthly phenomena on a wide rather than personal scale–and they are records of unusual and oftentimes impossible astral events and their meanings. The heavens provided prognosis for famine, catastrophe, and the like, but not whether you’d meet a tall stranger this week.

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I re-read Robert Bartlett’s The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages today and came across the following:

For there are animals called dragons and these animals fly in the air, swim in the water and walk on land, and sometimes when in the air they become aroused by lust, whence they often emitted semen into springs and rivers and because of this a deadly year ensued. So a remedy was found for this, that a fire should be made of bones and thus the smoke would drive these animals away.

-John Beleth, Summa de ecclesiasticis officiis (12th century), quoted in Bartlett, 71-72.

Yikes, as if dragon-fire wasn’t perilous enough!

…because every season in the SFF world is Awards Season.

I have two works published in 2014 eligible for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Aurora Award (being a Canadian author and all) under the short story category:

Mrs. Yaga

A somewhat creepy but very empowering fantasy…The prose is intoxicating, easy to get lost in, and the story moves smoothly, with only a small amount of grit.

- Review on Nerds of feather, flock together

In a mere 2,800 words, Wojcik traces a classically satisfying coming-of-age story, delivers some gut-punches to the quest-to-prove-your-love narrative, and invents a Baba Yaga who is both chilling and loving.

- Review on The Other Side of the Rain

Iron Roses

I have yet to see this reviewed anywhere. Such is life.

I suppose I qualify for the best fancast category for the Most Irregular Podcast Known To Humankind, but your vote is better spent on The Incomparable or Sword and Laser, methinks.

Go thee and read.

Farewell to 2014

Yet another year gone? Oh my!

I will keep the reading side of this brief, since the majority of my best reads for the year are going to appear on a guest post for The Book Smugglers. I did end up reading two major books after writing that particular list: the fantastically weird Lanark and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. The second is gentle and dreamlike for the most part, making the flashbacks to Manchukuo in the 1930s all the more harrowing. I have more Murakami in the wings since my local used bookstore suddenly had, as far as I can tell, all his novels except IQ84, which I immediately snatched them up for my bookshelf. I’m looking forward to working through the rest.

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“Mrs. Yaga” Anthologized

Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined

The first six stories published by The Book Smugglers are now available in a handy anthology format, including my story “Mrs. Yaga.” Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined is available from Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and direct from the publishers.

There’s also a giveaway running until December 31!

That’s not all: You can now obtain prints for the cover art of all six stories in the format of your choice. Yes, that includes wall clocks.

Lanark: An Appreciation

340-00479

Lanark is a weird book.

Published in 1981 after 25 (!) years in the writing, Alasdair Gray seemed bent on creating the most unpublishable novel imaginable and still managed to capture interest from the Scottish artistic community—spurring many cryptic and whispered coffeehouse conversations about his sprawling mess of a thousand or more pages—and nabbing a publisher in the end after all. At least, William Boyd’s introduction to my edition gives this impression: Gray, the eccentric muralist, through the power of his wild beard, seemed to have radiated an air of plunging into madness while composing his lifetime masterpiece against the scoffing of those who thought his words would never see the light of day. I’m not sure if that introduction isn’t itself a metatextual device like just about everything in this book: there’s a significant section where one character works on a masterwork (a mural this time) that drags on and on in the process of creation only for the church he’s painting to get slated for destruction. Gray’s afterward does make it apparent that a good many publishers didn’t want to touch it before Canongate came along, but that also accounted for the length of writing and revision: the novel he shopped around first was much shorter and didn’t have most of the strangeness. While the final version wasn’t the rumoured thousand pages long, there is an entire world there that wasn’t initially part of Lanark.

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