Wodehouse submits to an Editor

In my recent illness, I have been reading large quantities or gobs of the early P. G. Wodehouse. A few years ago, Golgotha Press, a firm of whose existence I until recently remained culpably unaware, released a vast compendium of thirty-odd Wodehouse books which had fallen into the public domain, for the derisory price of a dollar. (You can find them on iTunes if you search for Wodehouse, but the collection does not appear to be available on Amazon.) Under U.S. copyright law, I am told, anything published before 1923 is fair game, and I have been dining these many days on aged roast Wodehouse.

If anybody wants to know what it was like for Wodehouse, as a short-story writer in the early years of the twentieth century, to submit his work to a magazine, the process was essentially the same as it is today. Observe the following account: [Read more…]


Another birthday today; another year older and deeper in debt. But not much deeper, thanks to the generosity of my 3.6 Loyal Readers (and other helpful souls) in recent months; for which I am profoundly grateful.

I am claiming to be eleventy-five today, on the grounds that I was claiming to be 104 eleven years ago. That claim was based on a low, mean, degraded hankering for the praise of men. I undertook to lie about my age, not in the foolish way that some people do (mostly women, according to the stereotype, and I am sad to say that my experience does not contradict it), where one lies by pretending to be younger than one is so that one will not have to confess the mortal sin of being old. No: I decided to lie in the opposite direction, the sensible direction, so that people would compliment me on how young I looked for my age.

Sure enough, after only three years of trying, I got my reward. A young lady asked me my age, and I told her I was 107. She replied, ‘Go on! You don’t look a day over 104.’ And there was much rejoicing, but somehow not as much as I had been hoping for.

Alas, I no longer receive or merit that kind of flattery. Nowadays I fear that I resemble the character described by P. G. Wodehouse:

He was either a man of about a hundred and fifty who was rather young for his years, or a man of about a hundred and ten who had been aged by trouble.

But there we are. I am 115 today, according to my official calculations; and if anyone objects, I can defend my figures using the finest Whale Math, as practised by the publishing industry. Twice two is 11, and 5 from 9 leaves 34; and when 900 people sign the ‘Authors United’ petition demanding that Evil Amazon give poor defenceless Hachette Livre back its lollipop, those 900 are more people than the 9,000 or so who signed the counter-petition in support of Amazon and criticizing Hachette. I wish I had known about Whale Math when I was young, all those impossible centuries and aeons ago. Then I would have taken a degree in it, instead of squandering my talents on a worthless fribble like my doctorate in Non-Cognitive Philosophy.

But this life is a vale of tears, so it is, and we seldom do the right thing in it, whether we can count or not.

Gwladys and the Ghraem’lan

This essai follows ‘Quakers in Spain’, and like it, is a revised and expanded version of a piece I wrote and put up on LiveJournal in May, 2006.


If prose style in fantasy is fraught with peril, naming is a plain old-fashioned minefield. Fantasy writers have a tendency to throw together names from any and all sources that strike their fancy, without thinking how such disparate words came to be in the same language together, or even in the same world. Writers who are very good at other aspects of their craft can still inexplicably fall down in this one area. I am sorry to make a bad example of my friend Jonathan Moeller, but when I first began to read his Demonsouled series, and the first two characters I met were called Mazael and Gerald, I was thrown out of the story long enough to cry aloud to the unheeding night: ‘Mazael is good; Mazael is right and proper. There ought to be a fantasy hero named Mazael, and now, thank God, there is one. But why on earth is he hanging out with someone whose name is a foreign monstrosity like Gerald?’ In Le Guin’s terms, Mazael is from Elfland and Gerald is from Poughkeepsie, and there needs to be some explanation of how they ever came to meet.

There are two bad ways of coming up with fantasy names; or rather, of the many bad ways that one could devise, two are much more popular than the rest. [Read more…]