Status report: Yesterday and today, I’m preparing for Readercon. That means I’m not working on the dissertation, but I may be able to take Sunday off from the convention and work on it then. The goal is still to have the entire dissertation revised and put together by the end of the month, before I go to New York and Asheville.
Tonight, I’ll be going to the Naked Cities reading at Porter Square Books to see Ellen Datlow, Jeff Ford, Kit Reed, Matthew Kressel, John Crowley, Ellen Kushner, and Caitlín R. Kiernan read from their stories. One of the nice things about living in Boston is that you can go to readings like that on a regular basis. Everyone’s in town for Readercon, which makes it easy to gather what is a rather amazing group. I can’t wait to see them all. (And I’ve never seen John Crowley read before. He’s one of my favorite writers, one of the few writers I’ll read just about anything by, so I’m really looking forward to hearing him.)
But about my own readings.
As you know, I’m participating in four readings at Readercon. (Four! How did that happen?)
And I have a bit of an announcement, which is this:
At my own reading (my own half-hour slot reading), I’m going to be reading from the Secret Project. As you may already know if you clicked the link, the Secret Project is a book called The Thorn and the Blossom, which is coming out in January from Quirk Books. That’s all I can tell you about it right now. But I asked my editor and got permission to share more information at the Readercon reading. So if you come to my reading, you’ll be the very first to hear about the book, and of course to hear part of it. I can’t wait to read from it for the first time.
Here’s my reading schedule for Readercon:
1:30 p.m. My Reading!
I’ll be reading from The Thorn and the Blossom.
4:00 p.m. Mythic Delirium/Goblin Fruit Reading
I’ll be reading “The Gentleman.”
3:00 p.m. Rhysling Award Poetry Slan
I’ll be reading “Ravens.”
7:00 p.m. Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza
I’ll be reading a section from The Rose in Twelve Petals called “The Hound” to the music of Brain Slattery.
The Rose in Twelve Petals was published back in 2001, a decade ago. It was my first published story. You can find it in my short story collection, but if you haven’t read it (and most of you probably haven’t), I thought I would at least give you the section I’m reading here. It’s a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story from various perspectives. This is one of them:
In a hundred years, only one creature comes to the palace: a hound whose coat is matted with dust. Along his back the hair has come out in tufts, exposing a mass of sores. He lopes unevenly: on one of his forepaws, the inner toes have been crushed.
He has run from a city reduced to stone skeletons and drifting piles of ash, dodging tanks, mortar fire, the rifles of farmers desperate for food. For weeks now, he has been loping along the dusty roads. When rain comes, he has curled himself under a tree. Afterward, he has drunk from puddles, then loped along again with mud drying in the hollows of his paws. Sometimes he has left the road and tried to catch rabbits in the fields, but his damaged paw prevents him from running quickly enough. He has smelled them in their burrows beneath the summer grasses, beneath the poppies and cornflowers, tantalizing, inaccessible.
This morning he has smelled something different, pungent, like spoiled meat: the smell of enchantment. He has left the road and entered the forest, finding his way through a tangle of briars. He has come to the village, loped up its cobbled streets and through the gates of the palace. His claws click on its stone floor.
What does he smell? A fragrance, drifting, indistinct, remembered from when he was a pup: bacon. There, through that doorway. He lopes into the Great Hall, where breakfast waits in chafing dishes. The eggs are still firm, their yolks plump and yellow, their whites delicately fried. Sausages sit in their own grease. The toast is crisp.
He leaves a streak of egg yolk and sausage grease on the tablecloth, which has remained pristine for half a century, and falls asleep in the Queen Dowager’s drawing room, in a square of sunlight that has not faded the baroque carpet.
He lives happily ever after. Someone has to. As summer passes, he wanders through the palace gardens, digging in the flower beds and trying to catch the sleeping fish that float in the ornamental pools. One day he urinates on the side of the tower, from which the dark smell emanates, to show his disapproval. When he is hungry he eats from the side of beef hanging in the larder, the sausage and eggs remaining on the breakfast table, or the mice sleeping beneath the harpsichord. In autumn, he chases the leaves falling red and yellow over the lawns and manages to pull a lobster from the kitchen tank, although his teeth can barely crack its hard shell. He never figures out how to extract the canary from its cage. When winter comes, the stone floor sends an ache through his damaged paw, and he sleeps in the King’s bed, under velvet covers.
When summer comes again, he is too old to run about the garden. He lies in the Queen Dowager’s drawing room and dreams of being a pup, of warm hands and a voice that whispered “What a beautiful dog,” and that magical thing called a ball. He dies, his stomach still full with the last of the poached eggs. A proper fairy tale should, perhaps, end here.