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Steve Taylor
Posted on Tuesday, February 04, 2003 - 07:50 pm:   

Elizabeth:

I'm thrilled you have this message board. I love your work. I was wondering if you could tell us a little about Mortal Love. I wondered what drew you to the Decadent period and how involved in research you had to be to complete the novel.
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Liz Williams
Posted on Wednesday, February 05, 2003 - 06:09 am:   

Elizabeth,

Very much enjoy your writing and am looking out for more of it,

best

Liz Williams
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iotar
Posted on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 01:07 am:   

Oh, Liz has a board! I wonder if she knows about it?
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Liz Hand
Posted on Friday, February 07, 2003 - 04:26 am:   

Yikes! I do have a board, and I hardly knew about it! Well, I did, but this is the first time I've been on one, so I'll have to get into the habit of checking in. I'll post something about Mortal Love later -- am up to my eyeballs revising it right now.

Liz, I just finished THE POISON MASTER -- extremely impressive! Can't wait to see the next one, and catch up with the earlier ones.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Sunday, February 09, 2003 - 06:08 am:   

Thanks, Steve & Liz, for the kind words. MORTAL LOVE started as one book and has gone through four or five metamorphoses over the last four or five years: hundreds of pages tossed, hundreds more revised. Originally it was THE MASTER STROKE, which was to be a (mostly) realistic novel about a clan of Wyeth-like artists on the Maine coast, and their relationship to the woman who was their muse. For many years now my editors have wanted me to write something that did not have supernatural content, and so this was to be that book. But the supernatural crept into it, and it became a much more generic fantasy; enough so that when my then-editor read it, she felt it was too much like my earlier work. She was right, and I ended up scrapping about 200 pages and pretty much starting from scratch. This was when an entire timeline in late-Victorian London appeared, grafted not very successfully onto the existing story in contemporary Maine. At this point the book was called WALKING IN FLAMES, and had a more direct connection to the Tristan and Isolde mythos.

Then 9-11 came down, and I stopped writing for a brief while, like many other people. When I finally took the book back up in earnest, in early Januuary 2002, yet another timeline appeared: contemporary North London, a part of the city I know just enough to be dangerous. New working title: PSYCHOMANCY. I also brought in the Benandanti from my earlier books. Several months into this the title changed, for good, to MORTAL LOVE. I cut nearly all the contemporary Maine material, but used one character, Ivy Tun, as the protagonist of my novella "The Least Trumps," published last fall in Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists, a US literary magazine. The final version, which I'm in the last stages of editing, has the Benandanti excised, except for the appearance of Balthazar Warnick in a small but important cameo.

ML isn't so much a decadent novel as a Symbolist novel; not a book about the thing but the thing itself. Algernon Swinburne is a supporting character, and really upstages everyone else when he's around. The central female figure is a sort of avatar of the White Goddess; at least that's how mortals see her: her true nature is something else entirely. All my p.o.v. characters are men, something I've only done in GLIMMERING; and in an odd way this novel may be a kind of anti-Glimmering, a novel of transcendence in which transcendence, of the human sort, erotic and creative, really *is* possible. We'll see.
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Roger Silverstein
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 09:21 pm:   

Ms. Hand,
I loved "The Least Trumps" in Conjunctions 39 (your story and the John Crowley story were my favorites, along with the Gahan Wilson illustrations). I have a question: can you tell us what stories will be in your forthcoming PS Publishing collection Bibliomancy?
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Stepan Chapman
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 04:41 am:   

Hello, Elizabeth.

I enjoyed meeting you when we did that Angela Carter panel at ReaderCon. I hope you're staying warm, wherever you are.

I see that you have a new story in the very secret Album Zutique One, upcoming from The Ministry/Night Shade Books. I look forward to reading that.

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jeff ford
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 06:45 am:   

Liz: Dug your essay on Darger in F&SF. I got into his work some years ago when RAW magazine did a section on him. I'm always torn when looking at it. It's unlitmately fascinating and kooky but at the same time there's that perverted sensibility to it. Have you ever looked at the work of Joe Coleman? I get the same kind of attraction/repulsion from it.
Anyway, do a I get a proof of your new novel?

Best,

Jeff
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GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 08:07 am:   

Have you checked out the Darger collection at the Museum of American Folk Art here in NY, Jeff? It's pretty great.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 02:04 pm:   

Hey, thanks for all the nice thoughts! Where's Angela Carter when we really need her?

I haven't seen the Darger collection in NYC, though I have the catalog and a friend sent me some materials relating to it (along with a note that said "I'm glad he's not MY uncle"). I did see the Dargers at AVAM, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, when I visited there a few years back -- absolutely amazing place. Having read the MacGregor book on Darger, I'm not sure what the impact would be of seeing all this stuff (or a great deal of it) at once -- as Jeff says, it's kind of queasy-making when you move from the more transcendental images to those of disemboweled little girls with their throats cut. Probably not someone whose work will be reproduced on Christmas Seals anytime soon.

It is WICKED COLD HERE IN MAINE. The coldest temps of the season predicted for tonight, and this during a record-breaking winter -- --25 F. Anyone want to house-swap?

Yes, "The Least Trumps" will be in BIBLBIOMANCY, along with "Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol," "Cleopatra Brimstone," and "Pavane for a Prince of the Air." Lucius Shephard is doing the intro, which I'm very psyched about, Bill Sheehan's doing a critical overview, I will provide Author's Notes. Just finalized the cover art yesterday, a beautiful eerie painting by the 19th century painter John Anstey Fitzgerald.

I loved that Crowley story. Very subtle, very mysterious.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 02:08 pm:   

P.S. The piece in Album Zutique isn't a story, but an excerpt from Mortal Love.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 02:14 pm:   

Jeff, I think I've seen Joe Coleman at AVAM -- self-taught artist, extremely disciplined & technically proficient paintings? These were almost reminiscent of WPA-style murals (though not mural-size) from the 30s, a brilliant but sort of dark palette, slightly cartoonish. Something ike Chris Mars' stuff, if you know him (former Replacements musician, also a painter). That sound like him?

Raw Vision is great.
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jeff ford
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 02:37 pm:   

Liz: That's the guy, I'm pretty sure. He did some portraits of serial killers and one of a full figure who was half his mother and half his father. Some frightening looking stuff. I lent a book of his stuff to a friend and when he gave it back he said, "I didn't know whether to look through it or bury it in the backyard. Coleman is actually a comics creator -- one of his more famous undergrounds was Woolerton Woobait. I don't know Chris Mars, but I'm going to go check him out right now.
Which Victorian painter turned out to be your favorite, if I might ask?

Best,

Jeff
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 04:15 pm:   

Jeff -- That's funny, I was going to say Coleman's stuff looked like comic art, but then I thought maybe that would be offensive (to who? him? Henry Darger?). I remember really looking at his stuff for a while at AVAM -- a whole kind of family psychodrama I think. Where have you seen his work?

You should check out the Henry Boxer Gallery online -- not sure of the url. A London dealer, he represents some fabulous stuff. Chris Mars is there, but also has his own site. I bought a painting from H. Boxer last year -- my first! -- a very Blakeian thing by an artist named Donald Pass. There was a wild article about him in Raw Vision last year, can't recall which issue but I think it's in RW online. I checked out Pass's stuff at Boxer's Gallery online and ended up buying the smallest watercolor, the only one I could afford. It's amazing. Darker and slightly more sinister than the more recent Pass paintings on the HB site.

I will definitely send you a galley when the book's done. We can share painting techniques!

Who was your favorite Victorian painter, Jeff? I'll have to brood about that a little (and also check the dates on some people, like Redon, who I like a lot, to see if he qualifies). I confess to having always liked the Pre-Raphaelites, but I was really blown away by the Victorian Fairy Painters exhibit a few years ago. I know a lot of people scoff at the PRB and English painters of that period, but some of the fairy painters were really weird.


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jeff
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 06:31 pm:   

Liz: My god, that Boxer Gallery stuff is great. And I checked out Chris Mars' work. He's something. Those figures he does are expressive, to say the least. Coleman is there at that site, the one with the half mom half dad. And did you see the painter who just signs their name X8? -- yikes amighty! I really have always liked outsider art, folk art, etc.
I'm sure you know the guy Howard Finster. I almost bought one of his small pieces, but got cold feet at the last minute.
Redon is a goody. I don't know the dates that make them Victorian or not. But I liked Vedder, Waterhouse, Tadema, Dadd, Ryder. Do you have that one big coffee table book called Victorian Art? I think it has a Waterhouse on the cover of Pandora opening the box. In it there is this painting of a sea cave with the ocean in view and a wrecked ship behind it. In the foreground, inside the cave, there are three sirens -- basically three beautiful, naked women with red hair, throwing the sailors gold around and laughing. It's an awesome painting. I'm sure it might be considered kitsche by a real art historian, but it was one I just loved the composition and colors of. I forget who it was by. That was my top favorite.

Best,


Jeff
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Jeff VanderMeer
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 06:52 pm:   

Liz:

I'll make it clear on the Night Shade site that the piece in AZ is an excerpt.
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iotar
Posted on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 05:52 am:   

Finished reading Black Light last Friday. Utterly good - a sort of magical coming of age story with a wariness about the magic and an ambivalent rite of passage. It was nice to see that the pagan elements of the plot, centred upon Kern and the Malandanti were treated with at least as great a suspicion as Balthazar and the Benendanti. And then the middle ground with that git Ralph is also unthinkable.

Kamensic reminded me of one of Lovecraft's strange places in New England. That might be because I've just reread a load of Lovecraft. But again, any potential for security is pulled from beneath the protagonist's feet. The Bolerium is also a wondeful creation - a multidimensional maze of every fucked party you've ever attended.

The only place where the tension flagged a little for me was the section where Ralph pulls Lit out into that primal windy steppe and procedes to explain his relationship to the Benandanti and Malandanti. I felt there was too much exposition in this part, most of which was revealed elsewhere in the novel. But perhaps it was also because I disliked the character of Ralph so strongly - which I guess I was supposed to!

But otherwise, I loved it! Warholian Factory ambiences, camp decaying Hollywood hasbeens, psychoactive paranoia and a brief exploration of pagan mystery cults. But Balthazar Warnick somehow stole the show for me: I'm a sucker for four century old morally compromised academics.

I can see I'll have to start reading backwards through yr oeuvre.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 06:39 am:   

Zali -- Glad you liked BL. I agree with you 100% on the Benandanti exposition: it should have never appeared on the page. I just cut a bunch of similar stuff from MORTAL LOVE, though Balthazar remains, as morally ambivalent as ever. One day he'll have to get a book of his own. In the meantime, he has a pretty big part in WTM. It's interesting that you read BL first, because I think it's more technically (if not emotionally) proficient than WTM (which was wildly overwritten), and is also really WTM's prequel, even though they were written & published in reverse order. So you may be one of the few people who read them chronologically.

I never read much Lovecraft; no real animus, I just never had the time I guess. Kamensic is an amalgam of the town where I grew up, Pound Ridge, and the neighboring village of Katonah -- I started writing stories set there when I was in high school. A gentuinely beautiful, malevolent place. Others beside myself ave commented on this, college friends who visited me, as well as my friends who grew up there. The ambience was much like that in the book. Decadent rich people, teenage junkies, interesting background music. I was -- am -- lucky in that I come from a very close-knit, conservative Irish Catholic family that was a real safehouse for me, and probably kept me from the sort of unhappy ending that claimed some of my friends.

I still have to decide on one of those paintings ...
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iotar
Posted on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 07:53 am:   

Interesting that you've based Kamensic on the town you grew up. It does have that sort of lived-in feel to the novel. I shied away from making that immediate connection - but do you see this novel as something like A Portrait of the Artist, a book which builds up escape velocity for both author and protagonist?

Part of why the the Bolerium scenes work so well for me is that they describe the sort of teenage paranoia I experienced: Realising that everything in your life had conspired to bring you into this trap that you can only escape by snapping all of your bonds of affection. I was pleased that BL achieves this without taking on a preachy anti-drug morality. It's the situations rather than the pharmaceuticals that break people.

On Lovecraft: It's probably just that New England atmosphere seeping through, and being hopelessly misunderstood by me on the other side of the Atlantic.

Well, it's certainly whet my appetite for WTM - and Mortal Love for that matter.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 12:16 pm:   

Hiya Liz! I was just thinking about your books today as I was looking for something new to read.

And it made me remember a list of recommended novels you made for me WAY back at Clarion '96.

Now, I know you wouldn't be able to duplicate that list from memory, but could you throw out some recommended novels, new and old, for those of us looking for a non-traditional fantasy/SF/horror kind of read?

Take care!

Mike Jasper

(How do you like that? I come to your board, uninvited, and ask for stuff...!)
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Liz Hand
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 12:46 pm:   

Mike, this is so weird -- I was just reading something (I think from your blog?) this morning! Great minds think alike!

Non-traditional sf/f ... hmmm. I admit I don't read too much fiction when I'm working, except for review; but Marina Warner's THE LETO BUNDLE was good, and I loved Elizabeth Moon's THE SPEED OF DARK -- the latter a wonderful character study of an autistic man, couched within a "Flowers for Algernon" - style story. I just finished Anne Carson's IF NOT, WINTER, her translation of Sappho's poetry; not sf/f but pretty magical. Ditto Ted Hughes' collected poetry, dark stuff but cool. D.B. Weiss's LUCKY WANDER BOY is a first novel I just reviewed for F&SF; some sidewys sf content, I really dug it. Ditto Liz Williams' THE POISON MASTER, Vanceian science fantasy & extremely well-done. Last night I watched THE FAST RUNNER, and, to keep the mood going, once again picked up Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's THE ANIMAL WIFE, one of her two brilliant paleolithic novels.

And I'm reading aloud to my ten-year-old, for the second time, Daniel Pinkwater's BORGEL, probably the funniest sf novel ever written. Hilarious!

And you? What's new and notable in your neck of the woods?
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Liz Hand
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 12:48 pm:   

I should add George Saunders' short story "Jon," in a recent issue of The New Yorker, an exceptional and funny near-future work.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 12:54 pm:   

Zali -- Yes, insofar as the Portrait of an Artist thing can be applied to my work, BL probably was it. Not literally, since I didn't escape to NYC but DC, but close enough -- I WANTED to be riding a train to the big bad city with the guy Jamie Casson was based on. Didn't, alas: c'est la vie. WTM was a pretty literal transcript of a lot of my university experience, though (or lack of same).
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iotar
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 01:38 pm:   

Liz: S'okay, I won't try re-reading it as autobiography - it's a bloody novel after all! I've got WTM on order at the moment - should be arriving in the next few days.

Also might look up that Liz Williams novel you suggested to Mike. I'm a huge Vance fan!

Well, I'm not really all that huge - but you get the idea...
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Liz Hand
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - 05:49 pm:   

Vance is awesome. THE DYING EARTH, one of my all-time faves. I felt like Paul DiFillipo nailed Vance when he compared him to Dr. Seuss: proof of genius!
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 12:47 am:   

Yes, I could read Vance until the cows come home. Someone described him as a P.G.Wodehouse of SF - and the Dr Seuss comparison fits too. I re-read all of the Lyonnesses over Xmas and the New Year. His politics, when they become apparent, are usually pretty suspect but you don't read Vance for politics!
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Liz Williams
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 09:25 am:   

As is probably really obvious by now, I am a huge Vance fan - his Planet of Adventure series was pretty much the first SF I ever read and it blew me away.

I told him at Norwescon last year during an interview that he had inspired me and he rasped "That's the kinda thing they oughtta put me in jail for...!"

Liz Williams
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 09:55 am:   

Liz (other Liz): Yes I noticed you were talking about the unfortunately named part of that series in yr SFsite(?) interview. I just saw on the JV information site that the new book, Lurulu, is finally finished and due out in 2004.

Favourite novel: To Live Forever - the city Clarges, even more than The Dying Earth, is *so* proto-Viriconium.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 10:17 am:   

I haven't read TO LIVE FOREVER -- I haven't read a lot of Vance -- there's so much -- but I'll check that one out. I have a stack of Vance books my friend David Streitfeld has sent me over the last few years. Maybe when this book is done I can finally read them.

I saw Eric Solstein's interview with Vance somewhere last year -- ICFA? Readercon? anyway, JV comes across as quite a character. I envy you, Liz, for having the chance to meet him.

I first read THE DYING EARTH when I was ten and on vacation in Maine. It was a rainy day, I was stuck inside the rented house; my mother had brought along a bunch of books she'd bought at the library book sale back in New York. There was a battered paperback with the cover missing; I sat in this big chair and spent a morning reading it while eating my way through a bag of homemade donuts we'd gotten at the general store -- real donuts, fried in oil -- in the process getting sort of orgiastically sick over the prose and what I was eating. For decades I associated that book with the taste of those donuts.

But I didn't know the name of the book -- the cover was gone. It wasn't until my twenties, when I was in Wayward Books, Doris Grumbach's used bookstore near where I lived on Capitol Hill, that I picked up a copy of THE DYING EARTH, something I'd read about. And realized, "This is THAT BOOK." I think I'd even begun Winterlong by then, can't recall for sure. Anyway a weird experience.

Still haven't had donuts like that again.
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 10:23 am:   

Zali, I'm sending you a jpg file of a mock cover for Mortal Love -- a detail of a gorgeous painting by Howard Pyle, it would be cool to get it up where people can see it.

Jeff, this isn't my all-time fave Victorian painting, but it's a very cool one, and fits your theme -- it's called "The Mermaid," and it's really sexy. The detail is just of the heads of the two lovers, but the woman looks pretty naked to me.
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 10:38 am:   

Liz: (first Liz, around here anyway... I'll get myself into trouble!) Good, when I get that cover I can cut and slice it and paste it into the News page. It'll be nice to have something pretty to greet the world with!

I actually read Cugel's Saga before The Dying Earth - but all those first three Dying Earth books are absolutely great. I read most of The Dying Earth itself one summer in a car that my mother was driving backwards and forwards, to and from, ("thither and yon" as JV would put it!) a Kentish farm called Mockbeggar where she was organising the catering for a wedding. Funny how excessive food seems to always get associated with that book.

To Live Forever is more SFish and it's got one of those great Vancean anti-heroes in it. I always wanted to be a Vancean anti-hero when I grew up!
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 11:16 am:   

Mockbeggar! A truly Viriconium name!

May we all be Vanceian heroes when we grow up...
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 11:29 am:   

Yes, that wedding was another one of those strange huge parties that filled my childhood. The bride lived in the gatehouse in Rochester. I only visited the place once but for some reason I can remember finding a copy of the video of Pink Floyd The Wall on the sofa. I saw her again, I think her name was Adele, some years later on the way back from failing last A level examination. She was looking up and down the road disorientated - her handbag had just been snatched. Now my memories are going into Course of the Heart Harrisonian mode!

There's a great JV parody/homage, with a villain called Vulgare Hokum, here: http://www.massmedia.com/~mikeb/jvm/phile/phile_2.html#sneak
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 01:24 pm:   

That's very funny! Vulgare Hokum indeed.

Zali, your youth sounds like mine. My grandparents even had a Miss Havisham-type retainer named Adele ... now I know what happened to her handbag.
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 02:21 pm:   

See email - otherwise I'll get too long and boring for anyone else wanting to talk to you on this forum.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 05:52 pm:   

Liz -- thanks for the list!

And would it totally be sucking up to say how much I dug "Chip Crockett" (again)?

Best,

Mike
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Liz Hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 06:32 pm:   

Oh, Mike, you're like the only person who *read* Chip Crockett!

I love that story. Or, no, I love the people in it. I know some writers just make up their characters and leave them on the page, but I can't really do that -- I always think of them getting older, having kids, grandkids ... they never call, they never write, but still, I love 'em. I sort of feel like they come from somewhere Outside, and then they just go back There. Sounds schamltzy, I know. But anyway, the people in that story are very close to my heart. I'm really glad you liked them.

I think sometimes it would be fun to have Tony Maroni make another appearance somewhere, but don't know what it would be. I was really devastated when Joey Ramone died. He really did seem kind of saintly to me.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 08:17 am:   

Yeah, Liz, those were all great characters. Tony's got to make a cameo somewhere.

Plus I'm a hopeless romantic at heart when it comes to Christmas stories. Just don't tell anyone, 'kay?
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Ellen
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 04:40 pm:   

_I_ love Chip Crockett too!

For those who don't know (Liz is sooo modest) Terri and I are taking her full version of the Darger essay for YBFH#16.
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 07:01 pm:   

Is this a "me too" club? If so, me too. I read "Chip Crockett" for the World Fantasy Awards a couple years back, and loved it. Wonderful story, and I can't wait for the collection.

Jonathan
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Ellen
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 09:05 pm:   

Hi Jonathan,
This is great--like old home week.
I'm going to have a topic too as soon as Jeff V gets around to creating it for me <g>
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 09:44 pm:   

Cool. I'll be sure to look you up when it's up and running. Read anything lately that knocked you out? I just read a terrific piece by Theodora Goss in Polyphony 2 that you should check out.

J
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 04:28 am:   

It's now up Jonathan.
I will continue to rave about Jeff Ford's story that we're publishing this coming Wednedsday "The Empire of Ice Cream." This is the second story in a row that he's written for me "on demand"--that is, I needed something desperately and he produced the perfect story.

I'm still reading for YBFH#15 and have 104,000 or so words so far. Still have to pick another 20,000 before I'm done with that aspect of the book. (this string should probably be moved to my BB)
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Jack Dann
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 11:01 pm:   

Hey, Liz,

Checking in from Australia. Been a while, hey, kiddo?

Hope all's well.

Hugs!

--JACK

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