Inhuman Swill : Chicago : Page 2

Some time ago, Halsted M. Bernard tagged me in the Next Big Thing meme that's been going around. The intent is to share details about one's current writing project by answering a canned set of questions, so here goes.

  1. What's the title of your latest story?
  2. I've actually been working on various non-fiction projects lately, big and small, including a new epilogue for my memoir The Accidental Terrorist (which, yes, is still being shopped around). I'll soon be diving into a new short story for the Glitter & Madness anthology project, but that one doesn't have a title yet. So instead I'll talk about the novel I finally finished in November, which is called Waking Vishnu.

  3. Where did the idea for the story come from?
  4. For more than a decade I've been envisioning a fictional universe where physical items can be "magically" manipulated via hand gestures, as if they were blobs in an object-oriented programming system. I'd tried again and again to work out the story of the person who stumbles onto this magic system, but when I finally pictured the protagonist as a teenage girl the whole thing started clicking into place.

  5. What genre does your story fall under?
  6. Young adult science fiction, though it's designed to look a whole lot like urban fantasy at first.

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Happy New Year! I mostly try to keep all the news about Tuesday Funk, the Chicago reading series I help run, over on its own blog, but today I can't help trumpeting our mention in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times:

Article: Drink it in: Beers paired with the wisdom of Chicago authors

The feature by David Hoekstra in today's Entertainment section introduces four of tonight's five participants, who each discuss the pieces they'll read and suggest the perfect beer from Hopleaf's vast menu to drink as accompaniment.

Check out the accompanying slideshow as well, and if you're in town I hope to see you tonight upstairs at Hopleaf. The free reading starts at 7:30 pm, but you should arrive at 7:00, when the doors open, if you want a seat. You can find all the relevant information here.

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Curling with opossums

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Last Friday night, Laura and I went out for pizza with a couple of good friends. We were driving back home afterwards, north on Damen Avenue, when I thought I saw the silhouette of a small critter amble through the headlights of an oncoming car.

"I think there's a possum in the street up ahead," I said.

I slowed down, and as we got closer we saw that there was indeed an opossum in the middle of the street, just our side of a stop sign and crosswalk. It was walking in a slow circle, while cars alternately stopped and drove carefully around it.

"That poor possum," Laura said as we in turn drove past. "It looks scared. It's stuck in the middle of the street and doesn't know which way to go."

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Whether you'd like to join today's Unofficial Worldcon Pub Crawl in Chicago from the start, or want to meet up with us somewhere along the route, here's the revised itinerary I've come up. It involves three train rides and only two cab rides, and gets us all over the North Side to some great brewpubs and beer bars:

11:00 am: Group meets at front entrance of Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.

Transit: Walk to CTA Blue Line at Clark/Lake, ride (in direction of O'Hare) to California stop

11:30 am: Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.

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Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, gets underway tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Chicago! In case you're interested, I'm so far scheduled to appear on two panels:

Sunday, September 2, 4:30 - 6:00 pm, Columbus CD

Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction

If the sampling of short fiction presented and discussed in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast is any indication, mainstream literary writers draw heavily on events from their own lives, sometimes barely veiled, as inspiration for their work. Since science fiction is generally regarded as writing of ideas, is there any room for this same mining of one's personal experiences? Our panel will discuss to what extent when writing the fantastic they are writing about themselves.

Moderator: Cat Rambo
Panelists: Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak, Gwynne Garfinkle, Nick Mamatas, William Shunn
Monday, September 3, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm, Columbus EF

Getting the Most out of Writing Groups

There are all kinds of writing groups for all kinds of writers. What should you look for and what rules should you follow to get the most out of the experience? How do you handle conflicting suggestions and how do you comment on others' writing effectively?

Moderator: William Shunn
Panelists: Derek Kunsken, David McDonald, Sarah Stegall, Tim Susman
That first panel was a programming suggestion of mine, so I guess it's only fair that I should be part of it.

I've been told there may be an opportunity to get slotted in for a reading sometime this weekend as well. I'll be sure to post an update if that happens.

Also, and most importantly, on Thursday, August 30th (tomorrow!), I'll be leading a small group on an unofficial daytime pub crawl to various breweries and beer bars around the North Side. We'll meet in the front lobby of the Hyatt at a little before 11:00 am, then take cabs and trains to Haymarket Brewery, The Bad Apple, Revolution Brewing, and more. We should be back no later than 7:00 pm, probably earlier.

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Wet, dirty feet
It was not without some trepidation that Laura and I embarked on the Active Transportation Alliance's Four Star Bike Tour yesterday. After all, we had to get out of the RAGBRAI kitchen last month because we couldn't stand the heat. Who know how we would fare on this route?

Actually, I was fairly certain we'd do fine. The Four Star Bike Tour, which takes its name from the four stars on the Chicago city flag, offers a 62-mile tour of various Chicago neighborhoods and western suburbs, none of which are particularly hilly. And since we wouldn't be likely to encounter any triple-digit temperatures, we figured this ride would be a good way to restore our cycling confidence in ourselves.

What we didn't count on, about 26 miles into the ride at not yet 10 a.m., was the early arrival of the torrential rains that were predicted for the afternoon. The rain did ease up or stop from time to time, but there were also stretched where it rained so hard we could barely see. We were navigating by a combination of route map and green stars painted on the street. With the rain so heavy it became almost impossible to use the map, and it was very easy to miss the street markers.

There was also another dropped-chain incident with Laura's bike that required the application of an Allen wrench to fix, and the occasion bit of backtracking, but we persevered and made it through in about six and a half hours. Along the way we saw some of the toniest neighborhoods around, and some of the poorest too. As a study in contrasts without borders, it was instructive.

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a bike towing a dog with its hindquarters on a cart

a totem pole

a line of hand-holding kindergartners being urged by their teacher in French to move quickly across the path

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A few weeks ago, Andrew Huff of Gapers Block issued me a fascinating challenge: to take a piece of original poster art by Chad Kouri and produce a piece of writing of between 1,500 and 2,500 words to accompany it.

The resulting art/writing combo, along with seven other collaborations between artists and writers, will be on display and on sale at The Coop on May 18th. All the info is below. Hope to see you there.

8 x 8
Friday, May 18, 2012
6:00 pm until 10:00 pm

The COOP | A co-working space in River North
230 W Superior, 2F, Chicago, IL 60654

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The Chicago Writers Conference is Chicago's only homegrown mainstream literary conference focusing on practical business advice for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. The brainchild of Mare Swallow, it will feature such editors, agents, and authors as Chuck Sambuchino, Christine Sneed, Robert K. Elder, and Jennifer Mattson.

But it can only happen with support! The CWC is in the final eight days of its Kickstarter campaign and still needs to raise over $4000 for equipment rental, web development, speakers' travel expenses. There are lots of great incentives remaining for various donation levels, including art, signed books, and query letter or story manuscript critiques from Chuck Sambuchino and, ahem, yours truly.

But here, let Mare tell you more about the conference, and why you should support it:

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Biking on Bryn Mawr

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Biking on Bryn Mawr Avenue,
clear sky, afternoon sun,
I pull over to the curb
for the ambulance
hurtling my way.

But it turns on Clark,
and as I pass through
the intersection I see
the gapers gathered,
the body in the street,
face down, lying twisted
like a crash-test dummy.

I have to look.
But I can't look.
I make myself not look,
face forward into traffic,
lest I become the thing
I gaze upon.

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