Monday, November 17, 2008

prevarication and other great words

I've got something that's probably only a bad cold that caught up with me after five months on the road, so I was asleep last night by about nine... and awake this morning at six.

I finished typing the Dying Earth story for Messrs Martin and Dozois, who were sitting on an otherwise completed book drumming their fingers against their tabletops in a worried manner and waiting for me to finish touring. It's an odd story but it made me happy, and, while I get to do some Jack Vance impressions (no-one but Vance can do Vance properly) I got to do me too.

Again, tabs to close and plenty of them.

Or in one case, tabs to keep open. I'm now hooked on , reading my way through the ancient legal cases, loving the details and the names, occasionally marvelling at the difference in times and moral codes and modes of justice. (Like this: which reminds us of the value of freedom of speech...)

A slightly odd Batman article in -- I'm not exactly misquoted, but I'm not sure I'd entirely endorse any of their conclusions.

(I don't think I've ever had an Alex Ross cover on anything I've done, and it was lovely to see it...)

....and, now that it's been shown full size on the back of Previews, I don't think there's any harm in putting up Andy Kubert's cover, in its original uncoloured version. (which is the one I can find on my computer.) (If anyone grumbles I'll take it down.)


I've been pondering the word prevaricate on and off for a number of years. I'd used it once in Sandman to mean someone not making up their minds, and Emma Bull, reading it, said "You mean procrastinate. Prevaricate means to lie." And I changed it before it saw print, realising that if she thought it was being misused, so would many other readers. Then, eighteen years later, I read an article on how to hang Rothkos which contained the sentence "Rothko was always prevaricating over how his art should be shown," said Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for the Sunday Times, and decided to research.

I think it's a word with shades of meaning, and while in the US it tends to get used simply as "to lie" (as in "All politicians prevaricate"), in the UK it's more often used as a synonym for Equivocate -- i.e. to avoid giving a straight answer... even to tergiversarate. And it's the equivocation, with its implications of putting off a decision that then shades over into meanings that aren't simply "to lie".

And after writing that I just found some people arguing with each other about that on a French/English board, as if it's a new meaning that's just come along. It isn't. The Big Oxford English Dictionary that I need a magnifying glass to read lists as Prevaricate definition #2 "To deviate from straightforwardness; to act or speak evasively; to quibble, shuffle, equivocate." And it gives examples going back to 1651. (Squints. Checks with magnifying glass. Nope, 1631.)


Joe Gordon asked if I could mention this excellent Vertigo Encyclopedia interview up at the FPI blog, which I do, partly because I still feel guilty for not ever reading Alex's book A Scattering of Jades, copies of which were pressed on me in proof by friends, and which, like so many books people give me, never made it off the to-be-read pile.

Berkeley Breathed's favourite strips are up at

A few people have sent me links in to the Io9 article on How Sandman Changed the World. It's over at if you want to read it. I guess I have the same problem with it I do with a lot of Io9 stuff -- it's an article that reads like someone was assigned it, and sort of blogged it out in a bit of a hurry without any research or real thought. I don't think that Sandman actually did any of the five things he lists it as having done, and a lot of the things presented on the page as if they're facts are opinions, and dodgy ones at that. (Which sounds remarkably ungracious, considering it's a blog entry that says nice things about Sandman. If so, blame it on the author being in bed with a cold.) (And, before people write in asking about the "lost Sandman role playing supplement", and before it makes it into Wikipedia, the Mayfair Games Sandman event someone talks about in the comments is more or less entirely fictional. I think I had a chat about a potential Sandman game with Dan Greenberg, who wrote the DC Magic supplement, but it went no further and Mayfair went down soon after -- I've never before encountered the idea that the two things were linked, and no Sandman game was ever written, made, solicited or cancelled.)

On the other hand someone sent me a link to this article on children's literature at It's a fascinating essay which I agree with parts of, disagree with parts of (I really rate A.A.Milne as a humourist, children's writer and playwright, and my five-year-old love for the Winnie The Pooh books is all-consuming), but love his journey from premise to conclusion. If we are in a golden age of children's literature, it's probably mostly because of Sturgeon's Law. There are a lot of books being written right now, after all.

Also ran into this article by Roseanne Cash on songwriting (which I suspect applies equally to writing of all kinds) which I really enjoyed: so much of the magic is made by turning up and crafting something, simply by doing the work, and it's so hard to convince people of that, and it doesn't make the magic any less for it.

The Independent has its 50 best books for Winter up as a slideshow at (click on the picture of the Ali Smith book to start it). The Graveyard Book is one of the books, I'm happy to say, and it's also on's Years Best SF and Fantasy list.

And Meg Cabot says nice things about The Graveyard Book, and dispels rumours on her lovely chatty blog.


About seventeen years ago the phone rang. "You're nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best short story," I was told.

"You should make sure that Charles Vess is nominated too," I said. "He drew it. And as a comic, it's not just the writer. It's both of us."

There were a couple of phone calls, and when the nominations were announced, Charles had been added to the list.

Which was something I found myself remembering when I read,

The Canada Council for the Arts won't add Canadian illustrator Jillian Tamaki's name to the official list of nominees in the text category for this year's Governor-General's Award for children's literature.

"We're a little bit late in the game" to either discuss the issue or make the addition, Melanie Rutledge, head of writing and publishing for the Canada Council, said Wednesday evening. But "we'll take it under consideration going forward. ... We're always wanting feedback like this."

It's for Skim, a graphic novel [Jillian] created with her cousin, author Mariko Tamaki. The book, published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, is one of five titles short-listed for the $25,000 G-G prize in children's literature (text), with Mariko Tamaki cited as the sole creator. If you give a writing award to a comic and ignore the art, you're being foolish, short-sighted and fundamentally failing to understand what comics are or what comics writing means.

And it's never too late to fix things.

Now, before I head off on some barking mad Jeremiad against short-sighted Canadians, I shall drink some chicken soup and go to sleep.

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