Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Toastmaster: words by Michael Cisco, images by Stepan Chapman.

I've been a toastmaster for years.

Toastmaster Two

This morning, I really had a breakthrough with the toast. Simply the most perfection I've ever managed to introduce into a piece of toast. Fine grained. Light crumb. Evenly but not monotonously browned, with a subtle variability of embrownpoint traversing the surface with a series of elusive transitional shadings. I had arrived.

Toastmaster Three

Crowned heads of Europe stop me in the street and say: "When are you coming to make toast for me?"

I say: "I have no time."

I open my notebook and say: "Look at my timetable. You see any time in my timetable for you? I have no time. I'm toasting everywhere. I am booked."

Now they see I carry a piece of toast with jam and bite marks on it and everything in my hand, and they say: "Please, may I taste it? Let me only have a taste."

I say: "No."

I say: "NO."

Toastmaster Four

They say: "Please, a bite from that back corner there."

I say: "That corner is the best part! I've been looking forward all day to eating that part! The whole point of the process of toasting is to cultivate that very corner, to make it the succulent end point of your journey through the toast, to give it final delectableness!"

They say: ""Well, I don't care if you bite it or no, let me have a taste from the end you're eating then."

Toastmaster Five

I say: "NO - this toast is not for you. Everyone gets their own toast. Different toast. I made THIS toast for ME."

Toastmaster Six

If you want to become a toastmaster, you must understand that there is no technique. This is the first illusion you must disabuse yourself of, if you are to go on. You cannot make advances if you are weighted down with this Eurocentric concept of "technique."

Toastmaster Seven

It is in the spirit that the answer must lie. You must make toast as a whole human being, and not as a human being divided in intentions and of unfixed concentration.

Toastmaster Eight

A true toastmaster like myself can make toast out of anything, can make toast anywhere. I have made stone toast. I have made nourishing toast of air. You may eat a slice of fire toast that will give you power to race up steep cliffs. I have spread bitter tears on the toast of teasing. I have made toast from verbs and abstract nouns. I have eaten the supernal toast of beauty and justice. This practice is the best practice. It is to this practice you must look if you are to find the toaster's way.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


masulisch 16 grotesque it "the kingdom of heaven means nothing



the dashing rage of cottaged clouds

in bewildered atmosphere

weightless mountains loom

monument swells fall

to rise in musical fury of cyclones again

a white chaos from the moon

Like thin, false hands balled up in shrouds

That shred as they appear,

it snakes along the breakers’ backs

taking any water for its tracks

the black water crawls like lava

and plummets down the glassy slope

a locomotive on a rope of smoke


the firemen with wolfhound heads

and black and brawny hands

shovelling charge

the bellowing hearth


hurtle on like a comet without need

joyous in wild nightmare of speed

incurable dream of illness,

voluptuous and insane.

perch ministers, like spiders and owls


like a pendant over heaving breast

the reckless engine dangles

down elastic eversion of their triangles


Or a man about to drown.

Braids of foam, a hollow column,

acres of green hood

they lean far from the windows

when they reach

the reeking bottom of the waves

the cars bristle in nervous rows

of long boathooks and nets on staves

they look to see what chance will bring them

in eerie moment before the rise

one crazed fisher lunges so far his friends

must batten on his coat and arm to drag him in again

mow the reeking bottom of the wave

to bid on the briny armor

baleful moonlight

whose lividity embosses

pinions of raven albatrosses

with women’s cries borne forth on the blast

the howls of furies ring out like brass


by the train’s flanks in great gouts he breathed,

in mania rolled, in spume enwreathed,

the (whale) which even archaic name outspans


the cyclopean trunk of his sex

by mistake or - who will say? –

the monster couples with the train

mad amorous altercation flung in disarray of

the sharp clouts of titan heart’s pulsation

the people hilarious

the tempest

of power unencircled

The engine garlanded in sperm

laved in unliving alive witch light -aved

Moon - delirious

Sky - demented

Sea - depraved

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't Get Primed: A Primer on Prime Books for the Novice Novelist

a) I think I remember what money looks like ...

The Traitor appeared the better part of a year ago, and your reporter has not seen dime one from it. The novel wasn't even listed on my last royalty statement. Eagle-eyed vigilance in following the Amazon sales rank, especially following selection by VanderMeer for the top 10 fantasy books, and a glowing review from Nick Mamatas, gives me reason to believe at least 500 books have been sold just at that venue.

I am not alone. Every Prime author I have spoken to - and in the interests of full disclosure I must say this runs to no higher a number than four, not including myself - has complained of long, inexplicable, and unannounced delays in payment. One author is still waiting, lo these five years, for money she is owed on original cover art!

b) Oh, uh ... yeah um ... what was the question?

Prime counters allegations of misconduct with handwaving and/or dithering (hereafter "hanthering"). This can be accounted for in one of two ways. It could reflect a sinister scheme of data dispersal designed to insure a strict separation of authors and useful information, so that nothing can be known of your payment status or release date until a series of secret maneuvers is performed under shadowy circumstances. The answer goes round and round, then comes out here. Does it make sense? Were you informed? Who can say?

Or all the hanthering may simply be a sign that no one there knows what's going on. Either way, it's less than refreshing to have to deal with and plan around.

c) No means (mumble)

"I'd like five ARC's available to hand out at ReaderCon," an associate of mine asked Prime.
"Affirmative," Prime chirped (simulation).
ReaderCon comes along. No ARCs. What does the affirmation of this plan mean?

Let's release The Traitor at such and such a date, so as to give momentum a little time to build, then debut it at the Con, your reporter suggested.
"Sounds good," is the reply.
Subsequent experience indicated that these cryptic words are best translated: "Go away."

So take any positive statement from Prime as a - oh I don't know - an impressionistic extravagance. Why be so tied down to the bourgeois gridiron of times and places and checks? I mean, it's all about the art, right?

d) What was it you published again?

Prime's idea of publicity is sticking your book under a rock and informing the wind. You will have to do absolutely everything yourself. Blurbs, getting your text to reviewers, everything. Prime takes authors they believe are already being talked about precisely to as to avoid having to do publicity. I firmly believe Prime's neglect helped to scuttle my last TWO novels.

How many novels do you have to burn?

Prime is an attractive publisher for a variety of reasons, and I would advise any new writer to consider submitting material thereto, but do so forewarned and forearmed. You will not be told what is going on, your requests for information will be met with stalling, ignorance real or feigned, or - most often - silence. All the real legwork will be left to you. Payment will involve unnecessary headaches and a whole lot of waiting - if not outright defrauding (which has yet to be seen).

Good luck - and try elsewhere! Don't the same mistakes I did!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Your reporter will be attending Readercon 19.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Attention. A new interview with [unintelligible] has appeared here. Please make a note of it. That is all.