RIP Lucius Shepard

The Jaguar HunterI’ve just heard the news that Lucius Shepard died. It’s terrible as it is when someone dies, there is an added twist of pain or anxiety or something when it happens to be a person whose life has touched yours, especially when your experience of them is hidden somewhere in the past.

When I was much younger–a teenager, if you must know–I read a great deal of fantasy and science fiction, and one of the authors I admired was Lucius Shepard. I didn’t admire him enough to read everything he wrote, or to follow his progress much beyond my teenage years, but that probably doesn’t mean very much. I abandoned most of the writers I enjoyed as a young person for reasons I’ve never really been about to explain myself.

Later on, when I made myself into a book designer, I spent some time working for the independent publisher Four Walls Eight Windows, and as such I found myself with a project by none other than this writer I’d admired. They were adding a previously uncollected story to The Jaguar Hunter, and wanted the story title and the text itself to match the rest of the book—and that’s where I came in.

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I remember doing the typeface research for this book… this was the sort of project that was always a lot of fun, digging through type libraries for clues. Of course it’s even easier now, and I kind of miss the sleuthing it took to get just the right face.

Though it’s kind of hard to tell without actually holding the physical book, I’ve been looking at previews of those pages online, and I have to say I think I did a decent job. (I don’t remember if the publisher ever sent me a copy of the book. Usually they did, but I just don’t remember getting this one.)

I’m saddened by the news of Lucius Shepard’s death, but I’m glad that I got to contribute just one tiny iota of consistency to his impressive career.

Lucius Shepard at Wikipedia



An excerpt from You Are a Dog.



You try to stay out of the wastebasket. You know that you are supposed to stay out of the wastebasket, and you have made a rule for yourself never to take anything from the wastebasket. There is nothing that is strictly yours in the wastebasket, and the wastebasket is not put in the room to interest you. The things in the wastebasket will be carried outside and dumped into a larger wastebasket and then they will be removed from the premises on a regular schedule by a giant truck with a huge arm that apparently punishes the large wastebasket for being so full by flinging the wastebasket into the air, then slamming it back to earth again. You bark harder and louder at this truck every week, but it continues to come.

Sometimes, once in awhile, there will be an item so irresistible and exotic in the wastebasket that you will ignore your rule regarding removal of items from the wastebasket. You do not blame your people for placing such an enticing item into the wastebasket, but they really should have known better. They can’t truly mean to throw this item away, can they?

The Bath

An excerpt from You Are a Dog.

The Bath

Dog in Bath via Ron and Joe

You don’t bathe yourself. Others bathe you. When you are bathed, both before and afterwards, you get a dog biscuit. Just before you are bathed, you run away from those who would bathe you. They do not even need to go into the bathroom for you to know you are about to be bathed. They do not even need to get the shampoo out from underneath the sink. You know. And you hide. And when they call you from the bathroom door, you will come, but you will keep your head low, and you will approach them cautiously, as if readying for an ambush.

Post Bath

What on earth is that smell? You don’t want to ever smell that smell again but there is that smell and you are almost positive that it is very nearby, very close to where you are currently standing, now running, trying to escape the smell. Oh. Is it coming from you? It smells like the kitchen smells sometimes when they won’t let you into the kitchen. It smells like the place you hate, though you can’t remember what the place is and you don’t know if you ever smelled this smell in that place, but there is that smell and it seems to be coming from your very own body, from just under your hind legs somewhere. When you seek out the smell and try to lick the smell away, instead you get the flavor of poison. This smell is poison and it is on you. You have to get it off of you. And it is on your tail. And on your back, and it seems to be coming from everywhere on your body and you have to get it off, and you go to the door and you scrape at the door, which is supposed to tell them that you need for them to open it, but they so very rarely open it quickly enough that you’re sure there must be another way, so you turn circles on the linoleum every time they come close, but it seems they somehow don’t notice you there, or don’t know what it means when you scrape at the door and turn circles. “I’m not going to let you out,” they say. “You’ll just go out there and roll in the dirt,” You follow them into the next room and sit near them and chew on your body hoping to get that odor, that taste, that poison off of your body. It must be eating away at your skin. It must be destroying you.

It is nearly forever before they let you out. Nearly forever. And when they let you out you run to the grass and you relieve yourself and then you find a place in the grass and you roll onto your back and you roll onto your back and you roll and you roll as if trying to remove your own fur, your own skin. This is very nearly what you are trying to do if removing your own skin would remove the odor faster. This might be an option.

Then you go to the garden. There are expanses of dirt in the garden that you can roll in and pick up the odor of bird and cat and worm and decay. These odors will kill the poison, you think, and you roll in these odors until the One Who Bathes You puts his head out the back door and screams, “Stop rolling in the damned dirt, would you?” There is anxiety in his voice and he must understand now about the poison. He must fear for your life, so you roll again. He screams again. “Get the hell in here,” he screams. He must have something for you that will save you. He must know some way to kill the poison on your body, so you run into the house. But he doesn’t do anything. He ignores you again. You follow him from room to room. He pours liquid into a cup and picks up a newspaper and sits in his chair. You sit near him and watch. You wait for the antidote. None comes.  

You will wait. You will wait until evening. You will go outside again in the evening, if you haven’t died yet from the poison, and you will roll in the garden. This is when the odor of decay is most intense anyway. In the meantime, you will lick your haunches, praying that it will not kill you.

Illustration courtesy Ron and Joe.

Puppy: An Excerpt from You Are a Dog

Because I’m participating in the Twitter Fiction Festival as @YouAreaDog and revisiting my whole dog self, I’m also going to post a few excerpts from my book—You Are a Dog—here on my blog (did I miss an opportunity to call this “You Are a Blog”?). Not long, life-changing excerpts. Just good punchy ones you can read on the bus. So here’s the first.


You want to play you want to play you want to play you want to play you want to sleep. You eat. You want to play you want to play you want to play you want to play you want to sleep. You eat. He takes you outside. You respond to this. You smell what it is you have to smell. You don’t know yet what it is you have to smell, but you know that you have to smell it. You have to relieve yourself so you do that. What a nice big green place to explore. What a nice big green place to smell.

The back steps are giant. He urges you up the back steps. The back steps are giant and nearly impossible. But you want to play so you try and you try and you try and eventually he picks you up and takes you inside and you want to play you want to play you want to play you want to play you want to sleep.

You sleep. You dream of your mother.

The Bold Italic Logo is Neither

I do not understand why the logo for The Bold Italic is neither bold nor italic. Is it supposed to be ironic?

(Admittedly, I didn’t know what The Bold Italic was until I saw their t-shirt, which struck me because it just wasn’t italic. I suppose you could make a case for it being bold… but I’m not going to make that case because it looks to me to be calligraphy or a calligraphic font which I bet a thousand dollars [not really] doesn’t have more than the one weight, and I’m clearly overthinking this.)