Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:07 pm

On a train we never wanted to board, en route to a place we never wanted to go

First in a series

I first read this passage roughly 20 years ago, when Donald Trump was still only a crooked businessman and a short-fingered vulgarian.

Everybody else got off the train at Hell, but I figured, it’s a free country. So I commenced to make myself a mite more comfortable. I put my feet up and leaned back against the window, laid my guitar across my chest and settled in with my hat tipped down over my eyes, almost. I didn’t know what the next stop was but I knew I’d like it better than Hell.

Whoo! I never saw such a mess. All that crowd of people jammed together on the Hell platform so tight you could faint standing up. One old battle-hammed woman hollering for Jesus, most everybody else just mumbling and crying and hugging their bags and leaning into each other and waiting to be told where to go. And hot? Man, I ain’t just beating my gums there. Not as hot as the Delta, but hot enough to keep old John on the train. No, sir, I told myself, no room out there for me.

Fat old conductor man pushed on down the aisle kinda slow, waiting on me to move. I decided I’d wait on that, too.

“Hey, nigger boy.” He slapped my foot with a rolled-up newspaper. Felt like the Atlanta paper. “This ain’t no sleeping car.”

“Git up off me, man. I ain’t done nothing.”

“Listen at you. Who you think you are, boy? Think you run the railroad? You don’t look nothing like Mr. George Pullman.” The conductor tried to put his foot up on the seat and lean on his knee, but he gave up with a grunt.

I ran one finger along my guitar strings, not hard enough to make a sound but just hard enough to feel them. “I ain’t got a ticket, neither,” I bit off, “but it was your railroad’s pleasure to bring me this far, and it’s my pleasure to ride on a little further, and I don’t see what cause you got to be so astorperious about it, Mr. Fat Ass.”

He started puffing and blowing. “What? What?” He was teakettle hot. You’d think I’d done something. “What did you call me, boy?” He whipped out a strap, and I saw how it was, and I was ready.

From “Beluthahatchie,” by Nebula Award winner Andy Duncan

My friend and former colleague Andy made his literary bones with this Hugo Award-nominated story, first published in Asimov’s in 1997, about a dead blues musician who finds that Hell is the Mississippi Delta.

Like the story’s narrator, since Nov. 8 I’ve just been sitting and observing.

And like him, I see how it is, and I am ready.

In some upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about how it is, and what I think that means, and what I think being ready means. It’s only a small spoiler to point out that the narrator’s assertion that he was ready means that he had reached down to his sock, where he had a razor hidden, because metaphorically and perhaps literally, that’s where we’re headed.

More soon.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am

Andy Duncan: Seventh time’s the charm

My friend and former co-worker Andy Duncan, about whom I’ve written a time or two, is what those of us who write for a living call a real writer. I mean, yeah, we’re good enough to put food on our tables with writing in some form or fashion, but we also stare at the work of Andy and writers like him, shake our heads, and mutter, “Daaaaaamn …” Writing is a craft, and a lot of people without any special gifts can become, like me, good, workmanlike writers. Lots of writing and rewriting for 30 years, with some decent editing along the way, can, indeed, allow you to wake up one day at the age of 50 and say to yourself, “Why, yes, I am a writer.” But as far as hard work can take you, you also need a gift to break the surly bonds of Earth and go out into space, where the stars and the nebulae lie.

Andy works as hard at his writing as anyone I know, and harder than most. So do I, for that matter. But Andy has the gift.

Andy’s fiction falls into the general area of sci-fi and fantasy, but much of it is as firmly rooted in the American South and its storytelling traditions as are the work of Faulkner or Agee or O’Connor. When he writes about a blues musician in Hell, Hell is the Mississippi Delta. When he writes a ghost story, it’s set in the Depression-era studios of WBT-AM in Charlotte, with painstaking details that match up with what that studio really was like then. And when an anthology editor got in touch with him once, wondering whether he might have a story on the shelf that involved someone having sex with a ghost, he reported, “I was both proud and ashamed to admit that I had three.”

Six times my friend has been nominated for a Nebula Award, the top prize given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for outstanding work. Six times he was the bridesmaid, not the bride. But 2012 was different: His story “Close Encounters” won the Nebula Award this past weekend for Best Novelette.* What kind of company does that put him in? Well, let’s just say you’ll recognize some of these names even if you’ve never read a sci-fi or fantasy work in your life (and although I’m generally not a fan of the genre, I freely admit that far too many people haven’t). I’ll let him explain the rest of it.

Congratulations, my friend. You are, now and forever, Nebula Award-winning writer Andy Duncan. You’re also a helluva great guy, although they don’t give out cool trophies with astronomical bodies embedded in them for that, more’s the pity.

*A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words. Anything shorter than a novelette is a story. Anything longer than a novella is a novel. You’re welcome.

Monday, July 12, 2010 9:53 pm

Clearing the fence

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 9:53 pm
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My friend Andy Duncan lost the Shirley Jackson Award (novelette division) earlier this week — to Stephen King. I told him that’s like coming in second in the home-run derby to Henry Aaron: He can hold his head high, and no one will ever think either one of them used steroids.

Friday, April 16, 2010 6:56 pm

He ain’t a kid anymore, but he’s still doin’ alright

Filed under: Fun,Salute! — Lex @ 6:56 pm
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Our friend Andy Duncan’s novelette The Night Cache is a Shirley Jackson Award nominee. Woohoo, Andy!!

(What’s the difference between a novelette and a novella? Glad you asked. A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words in length. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words in length. Anything shorter is a story; anything longer is a novel. I am not sure where this convention originated, but I know the science-fiction Nebula Awards use the same designation.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009 1:13 pm

Sleeping Giant Awakes and other stories

Filed under: Woohoo! — Lex @ 1:13 pm
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Our friend Andy Duncan, a sci-fi/fantasy writer when he isn’t corrupting impressionable undergraduate minds, is, after a period of relative quiet, having something of an annus mirabilus this year:

Nick Gevers has given me the go-ahead to announce that PS Publishing plans to release my second collection, titled The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, in 2011. …

In the meantine, PS also will be publishing my new novelette, The Night Cache, as a standalone volume this winter, the 2009 Christmas gift to Postscripts subscribers — though non-subscribers can buy copies as well. The Night Cache is squarely in that fine Christmas tradition of the supernatural lesbian geocacher codebreaker romance. …

Finally, the second edition of my 2005 non-fiction book Alabama Curiosities, which made me world-famous in Alabama, is newly published by Globe Pequot Press. It includes lots of material not in the first edition. …

“The Dragaman’s Bride” is being published this fall in the Ace anthology The Dragon Book, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.

If you don’t know his work, you should go find some. This guy’s good.

Monday, April 13, 2009 2:06 pm

Rowf!

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 2:06 pm
Tags: ,

In the world of sci-fi/fantasy writing, my friend Andy Duncan is running with the big dogs. Woohoo!

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