I had somehow missed the news that there’s going to be a film of the musical Cats this year. (Prefatory comment: if you’re one of the haters that doesn’t like it, please don’t come into my comments to say so. I imprinted on this thing around the age of six.)

I’m . . . wary, but cautiously optimistic? The cast looks excellent, even if I’m a little nonplussed by casting Idris Elba as Macavity. (The lyrics describe that character as “very tall and thin,” and while he’s got the height covered, in terms of build I’d envision someone more like Mahershala Ali.) But Gus the Theatre Cat will be played by Ian McKellan, which sounds perfect, and I love love love that they’ve cast Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy. I agree with the reservation Alyc expressed to me, which is that many of the people cast are good singers but not necessarily good dancers, but a lot depends on how they’re going to stage things; it may be that the bulk of the dancing is done by a backup corps rather than the lead characters.

A lot also depends on what they’re doing story-wise. Some of the people who dislike Cats as a musical do so because they went in expecting a full story, and instead got a series of song-and-dance numbers connected by a tenuous thread of plot. Are they going to beef that up for the film? If so . . . how? There isn’t a lot to work with, and I’m leery of any attempt to invent new material wholesale to create a bigger story. It makes me think of all the crap that got added to The Hobbit so they could stretch a very short book out to three films — I don’t want the same thing to happen here.

And I’m also crossing my fingers that they’ll make a couple of revisions to the lyrics. I may love Cats, but T.S. Eliot’s poems used a couple of unfortunate words for the Chinese characters, and there’s no need to carry those over to the film. But they’re single words and easily swapped out without breaking the scansion, so I hope they make that fix. From a different direction, I’m also wondering if they’ll do anything with the line about how Old Deuteronomy has “buried nine wives” — are we at the point as a society where we’ll just shrug and say, sure, Dench-eronomy had wives? We’ll see.

Ultimately, I just hope it doesn’t suck.


The release of Turning Darkness Into Light feels like it’s forever away — by which I mean, August 20th — but is tiding us over with an excerpt!

(Be warned that it does contain spoilers for the later Memoirs, particularly Within the Sanctuary of Wings. I did my best to minimize how much those appear in the first few scenes, but ultimately this is a story that takes place around the time Isabella is writing her memoirs, i.e. several decades after the events in question; it just wasn’t possible — or rather, plausible — to write in a fashion that completely bypasses the effects of what happened in the series.)

A new gallery!

My recent trip to Yosemite netted me enough good photos that I’ve broken all my shots of the park out of the California gallery and into one of their own. Before, there were two; now there are eighteen! I’ve also added three Yosemite photos to the flower gallery. (I . . . think the thing you see in two of them is a flower? It may be a fungus. I’m not exactly a forest ranger.)

As usual, if you’d like to purchase prints (on any medium: paper, wood, glass, acrylic, metal, and more) or license any of the images for use in book covers etc., drop me a line!

The return of THE GAME OF KINGS

It’s no secret that I love Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles: a historical fiction series set in mid-sixteenth century Europe, starting off with English and Scottish politics, but eventually ranging farther afield to locations like France, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. I blogged my way through a re-read of the first book, The Game of Kings, some years ago, inviting people who had read the whole series to join in on the analysis and enjoyment; I’ve written two articles for on her work, one a brief squee about a duel in that book, and one about what epic fantasy writers can learn from Dunnett. In Writing Fight Scenes I use the aforementioned duel as a case study in excellent craft. Dunnett, I often tell people, is the one writer who just makes me feel abjectly inferior about my own work: she’s just that good.

The problem is, finding her books has been easier said than done. The editions I have were published in the late ’90s, and they were getting increasingly difficult to acquire.

But sometimes it seems like you can’t throw a rock in publishing without hitting somebody who imprinted on this series hard. So recently I got an email from Anna Kaufman at Vintage Books, who is in charge of re-issuing the entire series in new editions, asking if I’d be interested in a copy of the first book, in exchange for helping spread the word that, hey, they’re coming out again with shiny new covers etc.


cover art for THE GAME OF KINGS by Dorothy Dunnett

So if you’ve ever heard these books recommended, or you read them years ago and don’t have copies but would like some, or you’ve owned them for long enough that pages are starting to fall out, I’m delighted to say that the entire series is out as of today. Six books of amazingly good historical fiction, with some of the most unforgettable characters and events and prose I’ve ever encountered. Dunnett’s writing is not always easy to get into — it takes a little while to get the hang of reading her work, since she has a habit of doing things like describing stuff around the key element in the scene and trusting that the penny will drop for the reader in due course — but it’s amazingly rewarding once you do. And I aspire to someday write both intrigue and interpersonal conflict as well as she does.

A last-minute change of plans

Up until a couple of days ago, I was not going to be at the Nebulas weekend down in Los Angeles. But then Alyc Helms told me that most of the panelists for their panel had backed out, leaving only Alyc and the moderator to carry the topic, and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in pinch-hitting. Here’s the topic:

The Gentle Art of Cursing

Cursing functions as punctuation in every language and culture. While some areas seem consistent, such as the use of excrement, others vary wildly. By taking a look at cursing, we can learn a lot about what a culture considers sacred or taboo. Extrapolating from that, one can use cursing as part of worldbuilding to create a well-rounded world.

Nah– We’re just f*cking with you. This is a bunch of linguists and folklorists sitting around cursing and pretending to be academic about it.

With a topic like that, how could I refuse?

So I’m going to be at the Nebulas! The panel will be at 5 p.m. Friday. If you’re attending, come hear us use bad language for intellectual purposes, or just say hi to me at some other point!

It all started with a Tumblr post . . .

A little over year ago, I linked to a Tumblr conversation my husband had brought to my attention, and noted that debates of that kind are probably a regular feature of Lady Trent’s world, where there are a) dragons and b) a religion based on Judaism. And I said something about wishing I was conversant enough with Judaism to write a short story that would riff on that general idea — maybe not candles on Shabbat, but the intersection of dragons + religion.

A little over a year later, and thanks to the help of Noah Beit-Aharon in particular, I sold “On the Impurity of Dragon-kind” to Uncanny Magazine.

It will be out later this year, probably in their August issue, so as to coincide with the release of Turning Darkness Into Light. And because I must always find new forms of nerdery to explore with this series, the story takes the form of Isabella’s son Jake delivering a dvar Torah as part of his (somewhat belated) bar mitzvah. Whether I wind up writing the other “dragons + Judaism” story idea I had while trying to work this one out, we will see . . .

A Trip Down Juvenilia Lane, Vol. Not-9

Once upon a time, I started reading through my old notebooks from high school, college, and graduate school, and blogging about what I found therein, preparatory to packaging these things up and sending them off to be archived with my papers at Cushing. I’ve finally picked that project back up again, so let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine to 2002!