Deal Me In, Week 27 ~ “The Tale of Gray Dick”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Tale of Gray Dick”  by Stephen King

Card picked: Ten of Clubs

From: Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: So, I spent last Saturday playing ultimate frisbee. If you’re not familiar with the sport, it’s played with a 175gm plastic disc which is thrown in several different ways in hopes of your receiver catching it. Surprisingly, this week’s Thrilling Tale has a disc throwing connection, kinda-sorta.

The Tale of Gray Dick is an illustrative legend within this short story. Gray Dick is an outlaw. After he murders the father of Lady Oriza, she invites him to dinner. To assure him that no foul play is intended, she offers to have dinner with him alone, naked, and to stay at her end of the table. Since she’s a rather good looking woman, Gray Dick agrees. He’s arrogant enough to not consider sharpened tableware as a possible weapon. Lady Oriza beheads him by throwing a bladed plate.

And so begins the Sisters of Oriza, a group of women who band together to quilt, cook, gossip, and throw the plate. They are a part of Stephen King’s Dark Tower world, which I know absolutely nothing about. This story touches on Margaret Eisenhart, an outcast from her native people, who can throw the plate, but also rightly fears the need.

About the Author: I’ve read Stephen King here and there, but I haven’t delved into his Dark Tower series. Probably because I like King best when he’s working on a smaller canvas. With “The Tale of Gray Dick,” I didn’t worry about references I didn’t understand. I just went with it.

Other: Not surprisingly, the University of New Hampshire’s women’s ultimate team is known as Sister of Oriza. Considering the fairly geeky nature of ultimate, I would have been disappointed if a team hadn’t claimed that name.

If you’ve gotten this far, you may have googled ultimate frisbee videos and thought, “Jeeze, Katherine does *that*?” No, not really. The video below is from our local recreational league, from six years ago. My team in white is near the end, but these are the people I play with and against all the time. It’s a little slower and a little messier than most ultimate you might find online.

(In fact, at 29:05 you can see me in strippy socks and a hat. I dump the disc to Dave Abdoo who throws a perfect forehand to me in the end zone. Glory! Of course, I get scored on the very next point…)

Deal Me In Lunar Extra ~ “When it Ends, He Catches Her”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

This is a Lunar Extra edition! I’ve picked a card on each full moon and read the corresponding dark fiction story written by a female author.

“When it Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster

Card picked: A deuce, and deuces are WILD!

From: Available online on Daily Science Fiction

Thoughts: Eugie Foster is one of my favorite spec-fic short story authors. Her writing is beautiful and she often approached stories from a fable/fairy tale angle, which I’m a sucker for. “When it Ends, He Catches Her” is a story outside of that purview, but blends the arts, in this case ballet, with a dystopian zombie-filled future. Not my thing, but it’s a small dose and well done. Aisa, once a prima ballerina, dances when she can with no audience and only to the music in her head until her partner Balege returns and changes her world.

About the Author: Eugie Foster was one of the first people I knew on the internet. That sounds odd, but it was a long time ago, on LiveJournal, and the internet was a smaller place. I loved seeing her stories get published because she was so good. Eugie died in 2014 at age 42 after a year of being treated for cancer. Each story of hers that I haven’t yet read will only be new once. I’m at a loss on how to properly savor each one.

Summer Reading, June 29th ~ The Victorian Internet


I’m appropriating Mondays for short reviews of my summer reads (I’m behind in reviewing all the books I’d like to review) and my weekly preview.

What I Read Last Week

The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

Cover via Goodreads

For centuries people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried and failed to develop speedier messaging devices. But in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention–the electric telegraph–shrank the world more quickly than ever before.

A colorful tale of scientific discovery and technological cunning, The Victorian Internet tells the story of the telegraph’s creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it. By 1865 telegraph cables spanned continents and oceans, revolutionizing the ways countries dealt with one another. The telegraph gave rise to creative business practices and new forms of crime. Romances blossomed over the wires. Secret codes were devised by some users, and cracked by others. The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by its advocates and dismissed by its skeptics. And attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be completely rethought.

The telegraph unleashed the greatest revolution in communications since the development of the printing press. Its saga offers many parallels to that of the Internet in our own time–and is a fascinating episode in the history of technology. (via Goodreads)

Oof. This is only my second book of summer! But it was a good one. The perfect lounging-in-the-cool-breezes of San Diego read.

The history of technology is a very cool niche and Tom Standage does a great job wearing both the history hat and the tech guy tie. I read The Turk at the end of 2013 and it shifted the way I look at the history of invention. The Victorian Internet isn’t quite as paradigm changing, but it was still enlightening. Standage provides us with a chain of invention leading from the optical telegraph system through the installation of the trans-Atlantic telegraph lines. The crux of the book is that telegraphy did for the world what the internet continues to do. The electric telegraph allowed for long distance communication to occur quickly, making the world seem to be a much smaller place. There are many other parallels as well. The abbreviations needed to keep messages short. The blind long-distance friendships that blossomed. The prophecies both optimistic (world peace) and dire (the death of the newspaper). I was also struck by how quickly the telegraph came and went, quickly transposed by the telephone within one generation. It makes me wonder how radically different the world will be at the far end of my life.


What I’m Reading This Week

For the first time in a year and a half, I’m behind on Deal Me In stories. I have “The Championship of Nowhere” by James Grady and Stephen King’s “The Tale of Gray Dick” for last week and this week. I’ve also been chipping away at The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 7. *And* I just remember that there’s a full moon Wednesday! I pick a deuce and deuces are wild. My choice is “When it Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster.


Deal Me In, Week 25 ~ “The Steel Flea”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Steel Flea” by Nikolai Leskov

Card picked: Eight of Hearts

From: The Enchanted Pilgrim, and Other Stories, translated by David Magarshack

Thoughts: “The Steel Flea” or “The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea” or “Lefty” or, as it is in my anthology, “The Left-Handed Artificer,” begins with Tsar Alexander I touring Western Europe. The tsar is amazed by the innovative craftsmen he sees during his travels, but his companion, Platov, is unimpressed. Being an incredibly patriotic sort, Platov insists that Russia has better. The only time that Platov might be utterly wrong is when the English craftsmen show the tsar a microscopic, dancing flea automaton. The tsar purchases it for a large amount of money*, but dies before its mysteries are investigated.

Under Tsar Nicholas, Platov again campaigns to prove that Russian craftsmen are better than the English. He is entrusted with the flea and he takes it to the gunsmiths of Tula. The gunsmiths are fine craftsmen, but are lacking on the science end of things. They fit the microscopic flea with horseshoes, each signed nanoscopically by each craftsman**. Unfortunately, these horseshoes are too heavy for the flea and it can no longer dance.

One of the craftsmen, the left-handed one***, is given a trip to England. The English are quite impressed with the “improvement” to the flea and do all they can to convince the left-handed artificer to stay. Lefty loves Russia and, when he makes an important discovery about how the English maintain their guns, he insists to be taken home as quickly as possible. Aboard the ship, he is challenged to a drinking competition, which he cannot refuse****. The left-handed artificer is severely drunk, as is the ship’s captain, when they dock. Lefty has lost his papers and is shuffled from jail to hospital to hospital. When the captain finds him, the left-handed artificer is on his last breath. He gives the captain a message to take to the tsar. What’s the message? Will the tsar listen? Well, keep in mind, this *is* a Russian tale.

* Did the English take advantage of the tsar? Maaaybeee…
** It’s not like anyone at this time has a microscope able to see this scale. The Tsar Nicholas  and Platov have to take the craftsmen at their word, which they do. Also, I may not be using nano- appropriately here.
*** His name is forgotten after his untimely death. Is this criticism about how Russia treats its craftsmen? Maaaybeee…
**** Here I will state that probably not all Russians drink, but this isn’t a stereotype that I’ve seen refuted in Russian literature…or in my own experience.

About the Author: Leskov walks a line with this story. On one hand, his main characters are unabashedly and sincerely patriotic. On the other,  he’s not shy about pointing out the problematic aspects of Russia in the late 1800s. Leskov is known to be a bit of an experimenter in style and form, but I fear much of that is lost in translation.

Is This Your Card?

I didn’t plan it, but this week’s darw brings us Piff and Mr. Piffles.

Review ~ Maps and Legends

Maps and Legends: Reading ans Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon

Maps and Legends is an essay collection by American author Michael Chabon that was scheduled for official release on May 1, 2008, although some copies shipped two weeks early from various online bookstores. The book is Chabon’s first book-length foray into nonfiction, with 16 essays, some previously published. Several of these essays are defenses of the author’s work in genre literature (such as science fiction, fantasy, and comics), while others are more autobiographical, explaining how the author came to write several of his most popular works. (via Amazon)

Some highlights for me:

Chabon treads on the issue of genre. “Imagine that, sometime about 1950, it had been decided, collectively, informally, a little at a time, but with finality, to proscribe every kind of novel but the nurse romance from the cannon of the future.” And that’s sort of what’s happened when one talks of literary fiction. It’s been decided that serious literature can only be one thing and things that don’t fit the mold (like “genre” novels) aren’t serious. This ignores the fact that many classic authors wrote detective stories and ghost stories and overwrought gothic romances. As a fine-arts-trained comic book reader, Chabon struggled with “literary” versus “genre.” He successfully sidesteps the issue by writing such things as a fine literary novel about comic book creators…

This dovetails with the Thrilling Tales anthology that I’ve been reading that was edited by Michael Chabon. The stories all seem to be investigations into genre by the Literary Establishment. Another essay introduces the notion that some of the things that fans enjoy most are the things in a story that are unmapped. For example, Irene Adler appears in one Sherlock Holmes story. One. Moriarty gets mention in two or three. Yet these two characters are incredibly important to the Holmes fandom. They are who a lot of other fiction is written about. We feel the need to fill in the blank places on the narrative map when we see them.

Many of these essays are pretty much Chabon talking about stuff he likes. Comics, Sherlock Holmes, Norse mythology, M. R. James. For me, those essays, even ones about things I don’t really care about (like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road), were more interesting than the essays in which Chabon talks autobiographically about writing. I think this is probably more due to me than the quality of the essays. I’d always rather hear about the things someone loves. I’m not implying that Chabon isn’t passionate about being an author, but that’s an issue that is complicated by a great many other things.

Publishing info, my copy: Open Road Integrated Media, Kindle Edition, 2011
Acquired: Amazon
Genre: Non-fiction

Summer Reading ~ The Last Unicorn (and Other Stories)


I’m appropriating Mondays for short reviews of my summer reads (I’m behind in reviewing all the books I’d like to review) and my weekly preview.

A Sort of Estella Project Review

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Cover via Goodreads

The unicorn had lived since before memory in a forest where death could touch nothing. Maidens who caught a glimpse of her glory were blessed by enchantment they would never forget. But outside her wondrous realm, dark whispers and rumors carried a message she could not ignore: “Unicorns are gone from the world.”

Aided by a bumbling magician and a indomitable spinster, she set out to learn the truth but she feared even her immortal wisdom meant nothing in a world where a mad king’s curse and terror incarnate lived only to stalk the last unicorn to her doom… (via Goodreads)

This isn’t *quite* summer reading and I hope I’m not out of line… See, I’m the one that recommended The Last Unicorn for the Estella Project. I intended to wait until after June 1st to read it, but May is a hard month for me and I needed a comfort read. And I think I won’t go too far into the story. Instead a few other things:

I own two copies of The Last Unicorn, a nice hard back “deluxe” edition that includes the follow-up novella “Two Hearts” (more on that in a minute) and the trade paperback edition I bought during my first trip to the university bookstore on my first college visit to UNL. That was back in 1993. I had seen The Last Unicorn movie in 1982 and had rewatched it many times on video disc. I knew it was based on a book, but I had never found the book in any library or bookstore.  Memorial Union bookstore had one copy. It has a tiny hole that goes through the front cover all the way to page 20, from the unicorn’s forest to the Midnight Carnival. It wasn’t the hardback I read in May, it was this copy that will soon be missing its cover.

But first! I had decided to read all the related stories, and in order. Peter S. Beagle has written two other stories related to The Last Unicorn. One is “The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon” from the anthology Sleight of Hand. It is one of a promised trio of Schmendrick stories. Schmendrick is my favorite character in The Last Unicorn, more favored than the unicorn and even Molly Grue. Schmendrick is cursed with youth… until he becomes a competent magician. When we meet him in “The Woman Who Married…”, before he’s met the unicorn, he’s already been young for a very long time. He admits that he’s “out of stories to tell myself, out of all the games I know to persuade myself that I am what I pretend to be.” And that’s a line that resonated with me in a way that isn’t comforting for a comfort read…

The second story is “Two Hearts.” It is a more direct sequel to The Last Unicorn. It won awards! And I didn’t read it in the deluxe edition either, but instead in the issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine that I bought when it came out in 2005. The great thing is, if you’ve read The Last Unicorn and you want to spend a little more time with Molly and Schmendrick and Lir and the unicorn too, “Two Hearts” is available online, free and legal! Be warned: bring a handkerchief.


What I’m Reading This Week

It’s What I Do by Lynsay Addario became available yesterday, so that’s what I’ll be reading. Unless I’m distracted by research stuff like I was last week. My Deal Me In read is “The Steel Flea” by Nikolay Leskov, and I probably should start the Best Horror of the Year anthology.

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Deal Me In, Week 24 ~ “Catskin”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Catskin” by Kelly Link

Card picked: Five of Clubs

From: Thrilling Tales, ed. by Michael Chabon

Thoughts, briefly (sometimes briefly is all I have): I’m generally a fan of Kelly Link. I read “The Specialist’s Hat” as my first Lunar Extra of the year and received an extra gothic surprise. She’s sort of a cross between Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson. Her fairy tales are dark gray, often in the form of “Do you see that object you think you know? It is not at all what you think it is…” And that of course leads to very uneasy moments as the world you think you know is slowly upended. In “Catskin,” cats, children, and houses are all tilted as a witch’s child and a witch’s cat (or maybe the dead witch herself), take revenge for her poisoning. Except, it’s not *that* straightforward. There are themes here of growing up and dealing with grief that I haven’t entirly processed yet. This wasn’t a comfortable read, but it was still enjoyable.