I was teaching myself how to use iMovie the other night, and put this Desdemona teaser together.
That’s my brother Jeremy Cooney, singing “Goblin Girls,” a poem of mine (from my collection “How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes) that he set to music.
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I was teaching myself how to use iMovie the other night, and put this Desdemona teaser together.
TOMORROW IS MY DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP BOOK BIRTHDAY!
To celebrate this FRABJOUS and FANCY-PRANCIEST of OCCASIONS, we are throwing two, count them TWO, BOOK LAUNCH PARTIES!
AKA GOBLIN MASQUERADES!
The first shall be on this coming Saturday July 27th in Westerly, Rhode Island at The Savoy Bookshop and Cafe.
And then the second on Tuesday August 6th in Astoria, New York at Astoria Bookshop.
I want you to join us.
Stay with me now. I know, I know, you live in places like Virginia and Melbourne and Montreal and Northern California and Manila, and you’re all like:
“So, if you want us to come to your Goblin Masquerade so badly, Cooney, why haven’t you invented a teleporter yet?”
And all I have to say to that is that my spellcheck doesn’t even recognize ‘teleporter’ as a real word, though it’s oddly all right with ‘teleport’ for some reason.
BUT! I have been thinking of a SOLUTION!
And what I want to do is offer you, on a virtual platter (like the fruit of the Ympsie tree, like hangman’s dew in a diamond hip-flask, like a basket of darkest dwayberries on a bed of blue grave moss) is this:
A Do It Yourself 10-Stepper For Throwing
DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP!
LAUNCH PARTY AND MASQUERADE!*
GOBLIN MASQUERADE IN 10 EASY STEPS
1. Gather a few friends to Ye Olde Stately Manor/apartment/back porch.
ALTERNATELY: just light a candle and boogie down with your shadow!
2. Encourage your fabooshiest self, friends, and/or shadow to WEAR COSTUMES!
Masks! Face paint! Extra ears! Tails! Horns! Wings! Feathers! Scales! (Faux) Fur! CHITON!
Anything that says “Goblin” or “Erl-King/Queen” or “Elfkin” or “Faerie” or “Gentry” or “Seelie/Unseelie,” or heck, even “Demonspawn.”
(There are three worlds to choose from in Desdemona’s particular mythos, and seven hells beneath ’em! ALL FILLED WITH FASHIONS BEST LEFT TO YOUR IMAGINATION!)
3. Have a dedicated Selfie Backdrop (like a really big blue sheet!) (or maybe a lilac bush with the skeletal remnants of springtime blossoms) for displaying your terrifically attired person and all your friends to full advantage!
Ahem. If you wanna, you can hitch to the Desdewagon online and join the virtual masquerade with HASHTAGS! On Twitter! Insta! Facebook! Anywhere you choose!
#DesdemonaAndTheDeep #DesdemonaGoblinMasquerade #TorNovellaDesdemonaLaunch #CleverHashtagOfChoice
4. Have a copy–or MANY copies, HUNDREDS of copies!!!–of the book Desdemona and the Deep–which naturally you have pre-ordered, and which you may even have already read by Saturday July 27th or Tuesday August 6th–available and on hand for SPONTANEOUS READINGS!
Read to yourselves! Read to each other! Act it out! Adapt it into a musical concept album and perform it ALL NIGHT LONG!
(Sing “Desdemona Tattercoats” to the tune of “Alexander Hamilton!” I DARE YA!)
5. Have a playlist full of goblin songs to enjoy while you’re not taking selfies and reading uncanny literature of the “rococo romp” variety.
OH, LIKE THIS SIX AND A HALF HOUR PLAYLIST RIGHT HERE, YOU MEAN? WHY YES! I DO MEAN THAT!
I, and a whole HORDE of clever cronies on the Facebooks and Twitters have compiled it for you! Of course you can add your own! It’s COLLABORATIVE!
Might I recommend putting it on “shuffle” since we’re rather fond of the song “Tam Lin” in all its versions?
6. Provide SNACKS FROM THE UNDERGROUND! Or maybe tell people to POTLUCK THEIR OWN GOBLIN FAVORITES.
(Now, I don’t exactly know what I meant by typing that. Maybe Google will have ideas. Oh, wait! It did.)
So, there’s this “Goblin Grins and Monster Mouths” thing from Snixy Kitchen. And this Goblin Bites recipe from Taste of Home. And “Goblin Gorp” whatever that is from Genius Kitchen. And here’s a bunch of spooky snacks from the Los Angeles Times (I know, I know “Halloween” doesn’t really belong in a secondary world fantasy setting, but come on, it’s close enough for SpecFic party food, right?).
Oh, and here are some fruit options, but you know what the poet Christina Rossetti would say about eating goblin fruit . . .
7. If you don’t like any of the snacks provided, eat a pixie.
What? It’s what goblins DO. At least, some goblins do. In Desdemona’s world. One of her worlds. Sometimes.
8. Make an infernal bargain with the Goblin King. Go on. Barter for your heart’s desire. That’s what you’re really here for, right? Set the stakes high. As high as you like. Give yourself a deadline. Say, midnight. Feel your skull turn into an hourglass the minute the transaction is accepted. Feel the sand drip into your mouth. Time’s a-wastin’. You can taste it. Go now. Go on a quest. Let it inform you. Let it transform you. Be sure to succeed, for if you fail, a pack of hobgoblin hounds will tear you into thirty six separate dinners and devour you. It’s the least they can do.
9. Now, swap masks and take more selfies! Congratulations! NEW MASK = NEW GOBLIN FORM!
When Desdemona Mannering becomes a “Tattercoats” goblin (a species of the Nine-Tails genus, from the Thousandfurs family) after her journey through the Mirradarra Doorway, she changes utterly from the human she had been. What kind of goblin would you be?
What are your powers? How many pairs of horns can one person wear at the same time anyway??? What is that strange language coming out of your mouth? Why are all the moths and fireflies swarming up to form a mantle over your shoulders? And why are you suddenly wearing a crown of green flame?
10. If the night is still young, go out for tacos. In costume. Why not? The world could use a little more glittery weird. And definitely more of you and your friends merry-making for the love of life, literature, and goblin tacos. There’s always room for goblin tacos.
I recently crowd-sourced a Desdemona and the Deep launch-party Spotify playlist from friends, family, and neighbors on several social media platforms.
I ended up compiling–basically–a six and a half hour playlist for anybody interested. And I didn’t even use all the suggestions! Just the stuff that, I thought, would keep up the energy at a party!
Now, all that’s coming in a different blog. Hold onto yer pale bone hosses.
In this process, I discovered a LOT of new music and was reminded of a great deal I already loved. This, then inspired me to make a shorter (albeit not VERY short) playlist that was more like a soundtrack for my novella.
I separated the playlist out by chapters–the 17 chapters of Desdemona and the Deep–and put a few songs beneath each heading.
The link to this playlist is here, and the list of chapters follows:
1. A BENEFIT FOR THE FACTORY GIRLS WITH PHOSSY JAW
Dance While the Sky Crashes Down, Jason Webley
Factory Girl, Rolling Stones
Dope Queen Blues, Adia Victoria
Difficult For Weirdos, Robbie Williams
2. VOICES AT MIDNIGHT
Bad Bones, Steeleye Span
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, U2
3. CANDLETOWN COMPANY DISASTER! 356 SOULS LOST!
The Auchengeich Disaster, Battlefield Band
The New York Mining Disaster 1941, the BeeGees
4. LUNCHEON AT THE CHIAMBERRA
Yes, I’m a Witch, Yoko Ono
The Last Steampunk Waltz, Ghostfire
5. CHAMPAGNE AND FURS
Champagne, Lindsey Ell
Icarus, Jason Webley
6. TWILIGHT OF THE GENTRY
Bluebells, Patrick Wolf
The Elfin Knight, Jean Luc Lenoir
The Moss, Cosmo Sheldrake
Hymn to Herne, SJ Tucker
7. Orchards of Silver and of Gold
The Ragtime Goblin Man, Grant Raymond Barrett
Creature of the Wood, Heather Alexander
8. THE MIRRADARRA DOORWAY
Mushroom Men, Les Claypool
Pale White Horse, Oh Hellos
What the Water Gave Me, Florence and the Machine
Peer Gynt, Opus 23: IV.In the Hall of the Mountain King, Grieg
Sell My Soul, Jill Tracy
Erl-King, Deb Sandland
10. THE DAMSEL HOLE
Anthem for the Already Defeated, Rock Plaza Central
All Night, Sam Phillips
11. DURANCE VILE
Beautiful, Dangerous, Slash, Fergie
Demon Woman, Flight of the Concords
12. HAG OF NIGHT
Evil in the Night, Adam Lambert
Boogieman, Sarah McCoy
Devil’s Dance Floor, Flogging Molly
13. THE THREE PETALED VOW
You Should See Me in a Crown, Billie Eilish
Into the Night, Santana
14: QUEEN AT THE THRESHOLD
Cat People (Putting Out the Fire), David Bowie
Flood Water, Nitzer Ebb
15. REVERSE KATABASIS
Blind, Hercules and Love Affair
Hell, The Tiger Lillies
Hobgoblin’s Hat, Allysen Callery
16. SEVERING THE LINE
The Hell of It, Paul Williams
The Messenger, Patrick Wolf
17. MEND HER WITH RUBIES
The Song, Lisa Hannigan
Midnight Feast, James York
Daughter of the Glade, SJ Tucker
Walk Away, Eliza Carthy
With news of the New York Launch to come! But for now . . .
Come dressed in a costume and mask of your choice! Think the goblins of Labyrinth or Lord of the Rings . . . or the elves of Hellboy 2 (or Lord of the Rings). Think Jim Henson’s muppets in The Dark Crystal. Or the “bloomin’ fairies” of Legend. Use your imagination. Paint your face! Go fancy! Or dress in what’s comfortable, and just show up! All that’s cool.
Yesterday, in the Disney car to Carlos’s gig at the “Bronx is Reading” book festival, I was struck with the most FASCINATING idea for a short story.
Like, I haven’t been so weirded out by an idea since the Big Bah-Ha.
And I have to say, after two LONG years of revising a VERY LONG NOVEL and a MAXIMUM WORD COUNT NOVELLA, a new idea was like MANNA FROM ABOVE.
(I mean, I’ve written two or three short stories in that time, but all of them have been to spec, for anthologies. And one has never even seen the light of day.)
But something NEW? Just for the sake of ITSELF?
It has been, mi enjambre, so LONG.
And it’s been building up constantly in my head ever since. When I described the idea and its unfolding scenes to Carlos, not only did he start crying at one point, he was also TOTALLY IN. Already helpful, and not a word written yet. Just standing in the kitchen, drinking our coffee and tea, as new worlds build and bubble around us. Paradise enow, right?
So. Instead of revising and expanding the DARK BREAKERS 2-in-1 edition this morning (it can wait) (even though Brett Massé’s new cover art is TOTALLY BOSS!), guess what I am going to do???
That’s right. STORY, DARLING, WE ARE ON!
2:00 PM Salon 4
Latinx Authors Tear Down the Wall
Panelists: Lisa Bradley (mod), Carlos Hernandez, José Pablo Iriarte, Julia Rios, Sabrina Vourvoulias
Isolationist governments portray immigrants (and citizens perceived as foreigners) as vectors for disease, crime, and terrorism. Currently, the U.S. administration is demonizing Latinx immigrants in this fashion, and oppressing asylum-seekers from Central America. How can authors dismantle anti-immigrant myths while portraying immigrants in all their human complexity? Led by Lisa M. Bradley, Latinx writers will discuss their work regarding borders and immigration, providing historical context and exploring possibilities for future stories.
(See Clarence Young read: 2:30!)
3:00 PM Salon A
In Memoriam: Gene Wolfe
Panelists: John Clute, C.S.E. Cooney, Chris Gerwel, Elizabeth Hand (mod), Howard Waldrop
Gene Wolfe (1931-2019) was Readercon’s first guest of honor, and for good reason. His Book of the New Sun series was not so much groundbreaking as earth-shattering; his short fiction equally displayed his virtuoso talent for unsettling and disorienting the reader. He dipped into numerous genres and refused to be bound by the conventions of any. Join us to remember our friend and colleague and to explore his extraordinary body of work.
6:00 PM Sylvanus Thayer
Readers: Carlos Hernandez, C.S.E. Cooney
10:00 AM Salon 4
Panelists: Amal El-Mohtar (mod), Carlos Hernandez, Matthew Kressel, Natalie Luhrs, Kestrell Verlager
In a 2018 tweet, Amal El-Mohtar described the artificial intelligences in Martha Wells’s Murderbot series and in Jeph Jacques’s Questionable Content webcomic as “gorgeously compassionate.” This is a reversal of the long-running trope in SF of characterizing AI as cold, scheming, and murderous. Where else can readers find compassionate AI, and what makes these depictions so vital and appealing?
12:00 PM–2:00 PM Sylvanus Thayer
Workshop: From Page to Stage: Techniques, Tricks, and Improv Games to Help Writers with Public Speaking
Teachers: Martin Cahill, C.S.E. Cooney
Performers C.S.E. Cooney and Martin Cahill will help writers improve their public speaking through improv comedy exercises and theater games, showing how public speaking is rooted in confidence, trust, and drama. The workshop will include some warm-ups and techniques, as well as an opportunity to practice in front of others. Bring a sample of your work to read aloud.
3:00 PM Sylvanus Thayer
Dramatic Readings from the Ig Nobel Prizes
Panelists: Marc Abrahams (mod), C.S.E. Cooney, Rose Fox, Heath Miller, Sonya Taaffe
Highlights from Ig Nobel prize-winning studies and patents are presented in dramatic mini-readings by luminaries and experts (in some field). The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions about the research presented. Answers will be based on the expertise of the presenters, who may have a different expertise than the researchers.
11:00 AM Salon 3
Lloyd Alexander, Existentialist
Panelists: C.S.E. Cooney, Andrea Martinez Corbin, Chris Gerwel, Marissa Lingen (mod), Sonya Taaffe
Lloyd Alexander, translator of Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote an existentialist epic fantasy series. As Jesse Schotter writes on Full Stop, “The end of The High King, and Taran’s choice to remain in Prydain… salvage[s] the idea of free will within the deterministic framework of the genre.” How did existentialism influence Alexander’s other work (Time Cat, the Westmark trilogy)? What are other examples of existentialist speculative fiction epics? With the present deconstruction of prophecy-driven epics, how can writers learn from Alexander’s work?
(12: See Julia Rios read)
2:00 PM Abigail Adams
Brimstone Rhine in Concert
Performers: C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Faye Ringel
Mythic music by singer-songwriter C.S.E. Cooney, with Faye Ringel on piano and Carlos Hernandez on ukulele and cajon.
for Patty Templeton and Brett Massé
on the occasion of Gene Wolfe’s birthday
a jar of it will still taste
sweet, sealed up
in pharaoh’s tomb
they say it heals wounds
like when they buried him
in rain, and riverboats, and
you cast across the USPS–
what does it portend?
some golden immortality? or love’s
substance or accident,
I let nothing linger
some gods you take
by C. S. E. Cooney
have a half-
it brightens, also
rough edges worn
smudged prints of
follow their trail
back and back, until–
Last night Carlos said, “I’ve downloaded a new game. I’d love to share it with you. I know next to nothing about it, except that I love this game company and you get to play a female archeologist who deciphers ancient languages.”
He sounded so shy about it! Meanwhile, I’m all, “Let me read you ALL my FAVORITE BOOKS!”
..,Which has resulted in me currently reading him a chapter aloud from both Pratchett’s Night Watch and McKillip’s Riddle-Master of Hed every night.
Play a game with him? Least I can do.
The game is Heaven’s Vault, a text-based video game on a secondary world and/or science fictional planet. (Same dif, feeling-wise.) The world-building is really splendid–with different tabs for timelines following the personal, imperial, or galactic–and the choose-your-response mechanic in every scene is fun, although I keep wanting to be nice to the robot, and the choices–no matter which ones I make–indicate that the character is snarky and hates robots.
But the deciphering of ancient texts mechanic is really beautiful, and though Carlos says the interface is not very intuitive (he was moving us around) so are the graphics.
The characters move the like ghosts through the world. A deliberate choice, I think, underscoring one of the world’s mysterious structures: “Loop Philosophy,” this idea that there is no history–and therefore no need for archeologists–as time is in a continuous loop. Like a clock-face. Interesting choice for a choose your own adventure!
My flight for Chicago is boarding. Farewell.
I had the phone call last night. Carlos and I were working on our respective novels. We were making ourselves laugh. He’s been a bit sick, so he was coughing too. We both were having hot tea.
Gene Wolfe’s daughter called. Right there. Mid-paragraph. I looked at my phone today, and saw the call lasted two minutes. Two minutes. Strange.
I called my father after, to tell him. He answered–just before he had to play for Mass as Saint Anne’s in Barrington, where Gene and Rosemary used to go to church. They sat right up near the musicians, always. Papa kept saying he was sorry, sorry. He was so much looking forward to driving down with me to see him. I’d bought my ticket for the 24th. It was going to be a father-daughter road trip. Later, he texted and told me his mentor also died on Palm Sunday.
I asked Carlos–I was barely coherent–if we could listen to “Witch of the West-mer-lands” by Archie Fisher. “Of course,” he said. We sat on the couch and listened to the Stan Rogers version. Gene was the one who introduced this song to me. He’d sing it, softly, and his voice would always crack when he got to, “And wet rose she from the lake / and fast and fleet went she / one half the form of a maiden fair / with a jet-black mare’s body,” as if it were the most beautiful verse in the world. He was like that with poetry, Kipling especially. Sometimes he’d read his own work, and I’d hear that same crackle of deep emotion.
Carlos, who never got to meet Gene, but who was weeping with me, asked if he could read me something. I nodded. And he took Bone Swans off the shelf and read me Gene’s forward. It is a love letter from first to finish, in Gene’s inimitable voice. I asked Carlos to read me the first paragraph of my acknowledgements: my love letter in response. We were very good friends. He was one of my finest teachers.
He was momentous.
Anyone I ever met at any convention–my Goblin Girls, the Mythic Delirium crowd, my writing group, my poets and fellow writers–those friendships are all due him. That includes my husband, who I met a Readercon. Gene introduced me to conventions, drove me to several of them. Anyone I met through Twilight Tales, forming a large part of my Chicago Writing Community–Tina Jens, John O’Neill, Mike Penkas, Brendan Detzner, Josh Doetsch, Darci Stratton, Martel Sardina, oh, more, many more–I met them because he sent me the Twilight Tales flyer and kept telling me to go.
All my early short stories, much of my early poetry, even knowing how to submit it, even knowing that I should submit it–and keep submitting it–are due to him.
What is owed here? What is owed? No vulturous sentimentality. No deep-sink into ferocious isolation. Only a great giving back. Only a continuation of the work. That fountain of welcome and generosity and good, hard, practical, useful, beautiful advice, and that light touch of teasing, a hesitation to hurt anyone. That is only some of what I learned from him.
I talked to Gene the day before yesterday. Did he know me? I don’t know. But he knew I was his friend, and he responded with benevolence and good humor, a willingness to talk, no matter how tired he was.
I had called and called and almost gave up trying to get a hold of him. When I told him this, he laughed and said, “I’m not that hard to get a hold of.”
Perhaps not. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough. But this time I did.
Amal just taught me this word: “wajbet.” I’ve been holding onto it like a talisman all this last week. It is an Arabic word that means duties, family ties, obligations. The thing you do even when it’s hard to do it. “Wajbet,” I told myself, every time my stomach twisted and I hit re-dial.
Carlos told me, “Set alarms. Call every few hours.” (My alarms are still there on my phone: “Call Gene. Call Gene.” And there they will stay.)
Teri, his daughter, told me which hours to call. She was and is amazing; she was so diligent about reaching out to me, over all these miles, after all this time. I am so dazed and grateful.
Because of this, because of them, I called again and again–even though it is the thing I don’t do well at all. Because of them, I got to talk to him. And I feel so graced. And so grateful.
I sent Gene a letter the same day I talked to him. Now he will never read it. The thought pinches at my chest. I have this terrible, perpetual pinch, right beneath my breastbone. If I try to take deep breaths to ease it, the tears come again.
I don’t know what else to say.
I have written about our friendship before, at Ultan’s Library and at Black Gate Magazine. Gene Wolfe is the first person mentioned in my acknowledgements for Desdemona and the Deep, though he didn’t know that, and now never will. He will always be first in my acknowledgements.
I am so damned sad and sorry, so glad and grateful, and nothing feels right, and everything feels raw, and the sky is blue and beautiful, and there is birdsong and forsythia, and I am staring at a shelf of his books even as I write.
Ellen Kushner has just texted me that Notre Dame is on fire. The world is so bewildering and relentless, and I will end this here, before I spin out into metaphor.
Below, I hope you will take some joy in 20 years of pictures. Not enough. But there is enough to share.