February 26th, 2007

UK Ninja Mix

Trip report (2 of probably 3 or 4)

So. New York. Lemme tell you about me and New York.

About twelve years ago, I was engaged to a genuinely lovely woman who, through her charisma and journalistic prowess, was invited to take an internship at the New Press. And so we packed up our lives and headed out to New York. It was a three month trip. She worked for lunch money at the New Press, I worked for not much more at a bookstore in the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center. We took the ferry to Staten Island every night and slept on the dining room floor of a friend of my family. The first short story I ever sold -- Mixing Rebbecca which I sold to Ann Vandermeer back when she was Ann Kennedy and editing The Silver Web instead of Weird Tales -- I wrote in a closet that opened on that dining room.

My signature moment for that trip was an incident in the Garment District. I was waiting for someone at a little coffee shop on 5th avenue. A group of women were walking down the street toward me, all of them obviously fashion models. I'd never seen fashion models in the flesh. They don't look right -- their bodies and heads have different proportions, they are indeed unrealistically thin, etc. They are selected not because they are beautiful, but because a camera -- which is to say an mechanical eye not quite like a human's -- sees them a certain way. In person, they aren't even like the pictures of themselves. They were actually kind of freakish. But they were also clearly and indisputably beautiful women.

That's my experience of New York. It's freakish, it's off-putting, it's ugly and it's gorgeous and transporting and beautiful. I had expected the two to somehow cancel out; the muck and filth in the gutters to take away from the cathedral-beauty of the architecture, the glitter and shine of Times Square to forgive the dead rats in the mouths of the alleys. But instead, the city was just both things at the same at the same time.

That was twelve years ago.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

There have been some obvious changes, and I was ready for those. The porn has been pushed off 42nd street. The blocks leading up to the Port Authority that I remembered as a constant harangue of grim, grimy sexuality has been sanitized past recognition. I was actually surprised to reach the station, like seeing someone I knew in a place I didn't expect them. And the Winter Gardens have blue sky to the east where the towers used to be. I was ready for those changes.

It was the other, smaller ones that surprised me. The metrocard that's replaced the subway tokens. The new terminals for the ferry. The Banana Republic that is where my old workplace was.

Losing places is something I've experienced before -- the street that I walked up to get to my girlfriend's house in High School was landscaped out of existence, the drive in theater we went to is gone -- but I have spent so much of my life in a single city that the accrued small changes have never been able to build up like they did in New York. It felt less like an amputation than erosion. The place I remembered was still there, and it was gone, changed, transformed in ways I couldn't always put my finger on.

It made me feel, not old, but changed myself. Or it made me aware of who I am now that I wasn't then; broken, eroded, built back up in a different shape with a different structure. The same, and not.

I stayed at the Beekman Hotel instead of crashing on someone's couch. I went to drinks with agents and meals with editors instead of ditching work in hopes of introducing myself to Ellen Datlow so that maybe she'd recognize my name on a manuscript. I bought a metrocard instead of a pocketful of tokens. I pissed off my knee from walking too much. I had coffee in the Winter Gardens and didn't go back in to finish my shift. I missed my wife and kid instead of meeting my girlfriend after work.

It was a lovely trip. I look forward to doing it again in another twelve years.

Next report: Who I saw, what we said, and Tom Doherty's uncanny ability to make me act like like a clueless dork.
UK Ninja Mix

New new project

For those of you what missed the announcement and wondered why the hell Les Dabel was slumming it with me, Roaring Studios in partnership with Marvel Comics (or whatever the correct legalese is for their relationship) has signed on to put out an original comic book set in the Wild Card universe.

Unlike the previous stab we took at making a Wild Card comic, this won't be an adaptation of previous stories and characters in the continuity. We're telling an all new story with some familiar characters and some original. I've signed on to do the first six-issue story line which we expect will later be concatenated as a graphic novel in six chapters.

Other folks in the consortium will likely follow up with stories of their own.

More as we progress...