I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Long shot Hail Mary

Tonight, I sent my first ever submission to the New Yorker. A few months ago I wrote a story called "Silent as Dust" for the Codexwriters Halloween contest. This was my third time entering the contest. The first two years, I came in second place. In fact, I split second place one year with Tom Pendergrass, so if you are a glass half empty kind of person, I tied for third the first year. So, this year, I was hungry to win. I'm not positive why... it's not like there's money involved. The stories don't get published. (At least, not a guaranteed publication... several contest stories have gone on to sales at various outlets.) But, my short story output has waned over the years. I find, as I've become a better writer, I have a harder and harder time finding stories I can get excited about writing. Ten years ago, any idea I had seemed like a pretty good one. Now, if find I'm much more picky. There are professional writers who can sit down and write a story about just about anything. They could take the headings from the spam in their email boxes and find inspiration. I don't have that kind of drive. So, the Codex contests keep me cranking out short fiction. Of the four contests I've entered, I've sold two of the stories, one of them twice, and have faith that the other two will find a home eventually.

Silent as Dust was my submission this year to the contest. I had a vibe when I submitted it that it would probably win. It turned out to be a landslide. In the aftermath, I had half a dozen people tell me I should submit the story to some prestigious market like the New Yorker or Playboy. And, I figure, what have I got to lose? It turns out the New Yorker takes email submissions. It can't even claim I'm wasting postage.

Still, the New Yorker rejects about a thousand stories for every one they accept. Pretty lousy odds, but better than the lottery. And, I don't exactly write a lot of stories that would fit in the pages of the New Yorker... I'm not positive this one does either, but it's a quirky little ghost story with very subdued supernatural elements. It's a more likely fit than, say, Final Flight of the Blue Bee.

Speaking of Blue Bee, I got my copy of ESLI with the story in Russian. It's utterly bizarre to open a magazine and not even be able to read my own name. I can only recognize my story by the illustration and the copyright containing the Asimov's first publication acknowledgement. I hope it eventually appears online and I can translate it using babelfish.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Talk the Talk

My friend Luc Reid has recently published a book called Talk the Talk. It's a dictionary of subculture terms, examining specific phrases unique to groups such as rock climbers, role play gamers, drug pushers, and homosexuals. It's being pushed by the publisher, Writer's Digest, as a reference book for authors. But, I think it's also going to be of interest to anyone with an interest in slang and obscure cultural references. It's well researched and attractively packaged, and would make a good coffee table book, or, let's be blunt, excellent bathroom reading. Also, I think it would make an excellent gift for a crossword puzzle fanatic, since I bet crossword puzzle editors dig through books like this for fresh clues. Check it out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm moved! For real this time!

I carried in the last boxes from my car tonight. Everything that used to be in my old apartment is now either at my new house or in the dump. Next time I move, I hope I'm in a strong enough financial position to pay someone to do it for me. I sincerely appreciate all the people who've helped me move these last few weeks, but dragging it out over the course of weeks has been exhausting. When you hire pros, they sweep in a box everything in a few hours, whether you want it boxed or not. There's a certain appeal to this.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gridlock! I hope. Maybe.

It's been ages since I've done a political post. I think there's been one since Laura passed away. I find that my interest in politics has waned during the last year. Part of it has been the unrelenting sameness of the news. During the Clinton administration, I was fired up over what I saw as government abuse of power. Things like the slaughter of children at Waco, the Clinton's pulling the IRS records of their political enemies to dig for dirt, the allegations of government monitoring of international traffic, and the involvement in a war against a country that posed absolutely no threat to us (Bosnia) seemed like the beginning of the end of what we think of as democracy. So, of course, all these practices continued, and were often taken to a whole new level by the Bush administration. Worse, Clinton had faced a hostile congress and actually was unable to pass any huge new spending initiatives like big health care plans. Bush with a friendly congress went out and spent money as if it was just some imaginary number on a government spreadsheet. And, he did it while cutting taxes, more or less. (Tax revenues are actually increasing, so I'm hesitant to call his tax cuts tax cuts. When the government has less money to spend next year than it did the year before, I'll call that a tax cut.) Bush and the Republicans are spending like a typical American consumer... they are living on credit cards, buying a lifestyle they can't afford at present by mortgaging the future.

I don't think the Democrat takeover of congress will signal an end to any of this. But, maybe it will slow it down with gridlock for at least a couple of years. Bush and the Dems can be like squabbling spouses arguing whether or not to use the credit cards for a big screen TV or to send the kids to summer camp. Maybe in the end one of them will end up sleeping on the couch and neither purchase will get made, though I recognise the risk that maybe they'll make nice and buy both.

I confess, though, I have lost most of my interest in politics due to a growing despair that we'll ever see the birth of sensible government. (I won't say a return to... when has our goverment ever been sensible.)

How would I define sensible government? Here are three things I'd like to see government do:

1. STOP KILLING PEOPLE. Seriously, the world just doesn't pose that big of a threat to us. Canada isn't going to invade, Mexico IS invading, but as near as I can tell their takeover mainly involves lawncare and hanging drywall, and the Chinese aren't going to mess with us because they are too busy selling shoes. And how, exactly, was Iraq supposed to invade us? Did they even have a navy? Using our military to try to stop terrorism is a bit like trying to use a sledgehammer to kill a nest of fireants. You can flatten that anthill, and probably kill a lot of ants, but it's not going to solve he problem on anything but a temporary cosmetic measure. And, was it a problem? Yes, terrorists had a big symbolic hit. They hurt a lot of people. But sending our troops out to stop a future attack has killed more American troops than the people who died on 9-11, and cost a lot more economically. Not to get all Christian on you or anything, but there is a certain strategic wisdom, at times, to turning the other cheek. We would have made much more of a blow to the passion of the terrorists if we'd just carried on with life.

2. STOP PORKING US! Okay, I'm a realist. I know that the big money in government is being spent on big projects... Social Security, Medicare, Defense, and paying interest on the debt. The money being set aside as earmarks for local projects is relatively trivial. But trivial adds up in the long run. If we have to spend federal money, we should be spending it on national projects only. Sending money that benifits only one district by building a bridge or a museum or a golf course is a misuse of Federal money. State and local money should finance state and local projects.

3. FLIP HEALTH CARE. Okay, here's why I'm not strictly a libertarian anymore. My close involvement with the health care system during Laura's illness has made me think that, yes, maybe there is a government role to be played here. But, I think that all government schemes I've seen for "universal" health care are awful. I think that any scheme that has the government getting involved in all aspects of health care is doomed to be wasteful. Some will argue that if we cover the costs of the small stuff, the preventive medicine, it will save money in the long run. This is such nonsense. Money isn't the main obstacle to people getting preventive health care. An annual check up, better diet, and excercise cost a couple of hundred bucks. It's not lack of funds that are keeping people away from the doctor, it's American's natural apathy towards their own health, which doesn't have a government solution. So, let's get rid of government plans that concentrate on the small scale spending, and pay attention to catastrophic illnesses.

The details of the plan can be worked out by people with actual facts and figures. But, one approach would be to set an arbitrary number and decide that government would pick up costs beyond that number, no questions asked in the case of life threatening illness. So, the first fifty thousand bucks of a person's illness would be the responsibility of the sicko and the insurance company. Or maybe the first 1oo grand. Or the first ten grand. A second approach would be to scale this number based on the persons income. Major illnesses shouldn't bankrupt people, but it's silly for the government to be picking up the bill for Dick Cheney's heart attacks. Trust me, Cheney can pay for his own health care. My dad, on the other hand, would probably not survive the economic hit of Cheney's health problems. So, maybe the scale should be based on a person's most recent tax return. If you earned $20k last year, the number where the government would step in would be low, maybe $5k. If you were Bill Gates, maybe the goverment wouldn't step in until you were.... well, let's be blunt. If you had a health condition serious enough to risk your wealth at Bill Gates level, the most merciful approach to your health care might be to drag you out behind the shed and hit you with a sledgehammer.

The odds of getting this passed, by the way, are precisely zero. But, thought I'd toss it on the table anyway.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Email working again

My earthlink email account was accidentally deactivated when I switched by cable internet from my old address to my new address. I had a very frustrating experience Thursday trying to reactivate it without success. But, this morning I tried again, got the right person, and had the whole thing taken care of in ten minutes. I was going to post the transcript of the first chat I had with the sucky customer service, but at this point, the good service this morning cancels the bad earthlink karma. I've gotten calls from people wondering why their emails were bouncing. If you were one of the people who tried to email me, try again. I'm back.