Monthly Archives: February 2009


I said something like this on a panel during ConDFW, and I think it merits repeating somewhere else.

Books and video games are uniquely positioned to be the best horror.

TV and films and comics have a separation in your mind that comes from the aspect of observation. By becoming an observer, the horror is not truly as horrifying, because it is always happening to someone else. The dread of what might happen is sympathetic.

In books, and in games, it is simulacratic dread. The veil of the real falls over the overmind, and the door at the end of the hall – you know the one – that you aren’t supposed to open. Behind that door is something awful. It’s going to try to hurt you. Annie, get your gun. Granny, say your prayers. There’s that awful door. The sounds are coming from the other side of it. The washing machine-like sounds. The squishing noises. The strange moans. Or – worse – utter, and complete silence!

Don’t open the door, you’d say in a movie theatre. That’s what you’d say. You’d shout. You’d close your eyes. The event would happen whether you were looking or not.

In books, if you close your eyes, nothing happens. You can’t wait for the bad parts to finish. You would only lose your place. In games, you can’t just walk away. You need the silver key. You need the magic serum that’s shimmering in the corner. You have to open the door.

Open the door.

Open the door.

Instead of shouting at someone else not to open the door, you have to shout at yourself to open the door.

(Bioshock is awesome! But, it’s a little *too* awesome, and it’s time for me to get my pulse down a little and read a while. Palimpsest is next. Then, I’ll probably write a new story.

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I love octopi, and cuddlefish in all shapes and sizes.

I’m particularly fond of stories like this one.

I need to write a story about intelligent escaping octopi interact with wild, mean, gangster squirrels in a completely non-childish, non-corny way. Like, mutant clone mosnters merged with human DNA struggle to reconcile their muddled instincts or something…

Right. Add that to the list of things to write. And, move on to the things I’ve already started…


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quick congrats

Quick congrats to David Schwarz for acquiring the Nebula Novels Jury nod, to get his book “Superpowers” onto the final ballot.

To say that kind of decision is daunting would be a understatement. To put this honor in an appropriate light, we on the jury received nearly every book that was published in SF/F, and also went out of our way to find the ones we were missing. And, four very divergent intellects all had to find something we could all unanimously agree on. It wasn’t a majority rule, but a unanimous vote.

Good job, David!

Right… I’m off to the store. Now that I’m moved and settled in, I need to add to my book collection.



So, it’s going to be a great day!

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Learning cool words

One of the fun parts of writing fantasy stuff is you can always – in the back of your mind – justify that you are doing important research by learning cool, new words.

Weir… Kiddle… Basket Weir… Hackle Weir…

Cool stuff!

Also very cool: The Shambles in York.

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Motel Story

While driving across country to move to Atlanta, we stopped at a motel for the night just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Between my mother, my sister, and myself, we picked up just a two bed room and asked for a cot.

We go upstairs, and the lady at the desk calls up to say that she can’t lift the cot up the stairs. It’s too heavy for her. Could we send me down to get the cot.

So… I go downstairs to get the cot. It doesn’t have wheels. Apparently it’s supposed to have wheels, but it was new, and it didn’t have wheels. And, it’s too heavy fo rher to get upstairs.

I go down to get it. I pick it up. It’s light as a feather. Weighs about as much as one of those hammock chairs in a bag.

I take it up, easy enough, and get it inside. I open it. Parts spill out across the floor, including the wheels. They are still in little bags.

Some assembly required.

So, we don’t have tools on us. We do our best to make it work for the night.

My sister gets the cot.

It caves in the night, crashing in the middle where the parts were supposed to hold the whole thing together.

I swear to god we were laughing the whole time about this stupid cot. I mean, how often do you go to stay in a motel and have to move, and assemble, your own furniture?

Ah, service.

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And in Atlanta.

Talk to you soon.

Your pal,


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Quick Shout Out!

Krista, thanks, for showing that to me! I think it’s cool that the ARC found a good home!

Right… Bed… Drive to Georgia… Etc…



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अवार्ड्स… अवार्ड्स… अवार्ड्स…

Hugo Awards:

You are running out of time to vote for a Hugo or a John W Campbell Award.

I know that I want to win a Campbell. But, in all seriousness, if I were voting, I’d vote for David Anthony Durham.

I think that not only did he produce a kick ass novel, full of a combination of “literary”-ness, as well as “Fantasy Geek!”-ness, but he shows every sign of being a prominent, consistently talented, and meaningful presence in the field for decades to come.

So, this is who I would vote for, in the John W. Campbell category, if I were eligible to vote:

Writers are eligible for a Campbell for two years. This is David’s last year of eligibility and my first.

(I can win next year. I’m cool with that.)

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Good-bye Texas

As excited as I am about my new job, I am very sad to say good-bye to everyone here in Tejas.

But, since each and every one of you crazy geeks would do exactly the same thing I’m doing at the drop of a hat if the opportunity presented itself, I don’t feel bad.

Also, I’ll be back. All I have to do to find you all is attend a Texas Sci-Fi Convention, right? You’re all there, already. Heck, I bet I’ll see a bunch of you at WorldCons and World Fantasy Cons.

I should write something poetic and beautiful about this place, but I can’t. Texas has been my home a long time. It’s my definition of what normal is, in my head. I write about strange things, which means I write about things that are “not Texas” in my head. I couldn’t tell you one thing about this place. I know too many things. I know too many people.

So, good-bye, everyone! Since we all live in the future with internets and planes, I know we’ll all still be in touch!

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Last Post Until I Unpack and Turn Internet On At New Place Next Week, or later

I will be at ConDFW this weekend. I will be hitting the road Monday morning, for Alpharetta, GA, and moving next week.

So, here’s a video found courtesy of Jeff Vandermeer that I think sums up exactly the right way to approach writing these days, and a notion I’ve put in action with my new day gig.

If you’ve met me, you know I want to write everything. Video games. Comic Books. Movies. Short stories. Novels.

I just happen to have gotten really good at novels and short stories first, because you need no fancy tools, and require no one else’s design budget.

Wish me a safe journey, and I’ll see some of you this weekend. I’ll be back on-line sometime next week or the week after.

Your Pal,

J M McDermott


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