Names of the Lion

The 10th century poet of Aleppo, Ibn Khalawayh, wrote a book with 400 names of the lion in it. Here are some:

Whose coat is yellow, stained with red
Whose head and neck are big for his body
Whose face expresses great displeasure
Whose eyes are bloodshot
Whose speech is uncouth
Whose gut sloshes when he walks
Whose food has bones in it
Who eats until he’s sick of food
Who looks for trouble in the night
Whose foe is outraged in the dust
Whose prey is turned inside out
Who disregards the rights of others
Who hates frustration
Who doesn’t care what happens

Reminds you of that famous passage in Borges, doesn’t it? Was Ibn Khalawayh, like Borges, writing fiction? Did medieval Arabic really have 400 names for lions?

Here is a recent (and perhaps the only?) translation, by David Larsen:


Files of the lost

When I find something interesting in a magazine, I tear it out, put it in a folder, and file it away for future reference, stuck in one of many bookcases. I then forget where I put it, and even forget that I ever saw it. I find it, years or decades later. Sometimes it is still interesting, and I put it back where it was and forget it again. Sometimes it no longer has relevance, and I throw it out.

This is not age-related. I have been doing it my entire life. It is not senility. It is a cultural trait. Somewhere on earth, I feel, there must be others who behave this way. I hope I can find them someday, and enjoy being one with my own people at last.

Tea Review

Lung Ching, ‘Dragonwell’

Lung Ching, ‘Dragonwell’. Upton No. ZG71. 2.2 grams steeped at 160 ℉ for 2 min.

Impression: Large light whole green leaves, flat, as if they’d been pressed in a flower press. Well sorted, no fannings or dust. Musty scent. Very pale green-amber liquor. Scent of brewed tea is savory and sweet, almost perfume-like. Taste: some fruity character, some vegetal quality, a little musty, woody quality. Not much mouth-feel. Mildly astringent. Quite pleasant

Lung Ching (there are different romanizations of the Chinese) is a famous tea, found consistently on lists of “Ten Famous Chinese Teas” (of which there are many). Dr. K.S. Tom, in Echoes from Old China, says that Lung Ching is the finest of all Chinese Teas. Others will differ, but it is certainly a fine and famous tea, and if you have any interest in tea, you owe it to yourself to try it. The name ‘Dragonwell’ is said to come from a well near where the tea was originally grown, in which water swirls around in a manner that suggests the coils of a dragon.

Tea Review

Tea Bank Estate, Ceylon FBOPF EX SP

“Tea Bank Estate, Ceylon FBOPF EX SP” Upton No. TC23. 2.2 grams steeped for 5 minutes at 212℉. Impression: dark BOP-size bits, see photo. Dry tea has scents of wood, spice and fruit. Brewed tea scent is flowery, lily-like. Taste: typical black tea flavor, slight woodiness, but without other marked notes. Not harsh. Minimal finish. Moderately astringent.

This Ceylon tea is unusual in its usualness. Most black teas have the typical black tea taste, plus other flavor notes. Except for a slight woodiness, this tea has no special flavor notes. An interesting tea, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Tea Review

Hattialli Estate, Assam GBOP1 SPL

Upton No. TA14. 2.0 grams steeped for 4 minutes at 212℉. Impression: dark brown BOP size fragments, see photo. Dry tea smells slightly spicy, typical dry black tea scent. Brewed tea scent is sweet, woodsy, faint traces of tobacco. Taste: Bitter, somewhat harsh, brackish, tobacco tastes. Not much of the malty tastes Assams are famed for. Moderately astringent.

Drinkable, but not my favorite, and not very Assam-like.

New short story, “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life,” now in F&SF

My short story, “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life,” is in the current, May-June 2017, issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, available now.


If it’s not at your bookstore or newsstand yet, you can buy a physical or ebook copy here:

Paper copies and subscriptions:

Amazon US (Kindle edition):
Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

“There’s a certain voice telling me, move on, the next one will be better.”

“Every painting I’ve produced falls short of my expectations. They are my children, but they’re all juvenile delinquents. I’m not proud of them. There’s an expectation in my head when I look at the empty space, and when I start to do the drawing. That’s fine. In the drawing stage, I still have the perfect image in my mind. At around 75% completion, I start to notice the perfect painting I had in my mind turns to disappointment. I just have to quit, and move on to the next one. There’s a certain voice telling me, move on, the next one will be better.”

— Kinuko Craft, in an interview in the April 2017 issue of Locus.

Public Policy

Stop setting people in the sky as stars!

Gods rewarding people by setting them in the sky as stars is a terrible idea. Would you like to be stuck up in the sky with nothing to do? I think not. Poor Eärendil had to sail the “cold and pathless voids” every single day, including Federal holidays, only with the consolation that elven housewife Elwing would turn into a bird and fly up to greet him as he pulled into the driveway.

Or take Amalthaea, a goat who suckled Zeus. For that tender act, Zeus stuck her up among the stars. What is a goat supposed to do among the stars? I’m sure she cried her eyes out. She’d probably prefer to be on some grassy hillside, eating thistles and yakking it up with all the other goats.

Or Callisto, a nymph seduced by Jupiter cosplaying as Diana. (I want to be sympathetic with Callisto, but didn’t she ever wonder why Diana had a penis? Callisto doesn’t seem to have been the sharpest nymph in drawer.) Diana changed her into a bear, and Jupiter set her in the sky, along with her kid, another bear. So now the poor girl’s a bunch of stars in the shape of a bear, she’s eternally separated from both her lovers, Jupiter and Diana, and can’t even chill with her kid, because Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are on opposite sides of the sky.

Look, this putting people into the sky as stars has got to stop. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It looks a bit too much like gods getting inconvenient people out of their lives by kicking them upstairs.

Tea Review

Celestial Tribute China Pu-Erh

Upton ZH60. 2.3 grams steeped for 3 minutes at 200℉. Impression: medium brown, broken pekoe size. Dry tea smells musky, like leaf mould, like an overturned compost pile. Brewed tea is deep red-brown, with scent similar to dry. Taste: musky, woodsy, with unpleasnt compost-like notes, little body, not sweet. Not astringent.

A sample ordered a year ago, finally got around to trying it. I mightn’t have bothered. This is a ripe pu-erh. I like some raw pu-erhs, but have never liked a ripe one. Ripe pu-erh processing amounts to composting tea leaves in a heap, and the taste is what would expect of composted tea leaves. Chacun à son goût, as my mom used to say (who actually spoke French, rather than having to fake it, as I do), and there is a ripe pu-erh cult that adores the stuff and pays larcenous prices for it, but I am not a member.

Tea Review

Season’s Pick, Young Hyson

Upton ZG02. 2.2 grams steeped for 3 minutes at 180℉. Tea comes as leaf segments of about 1/2-1 inch, each rolled into a tiny tube. Dry tea has vegetal, spicy, fruity scents, with a trace of mustiness. Brewed tea scent is sweet, spicy, floral. Taste: brackish, woody. Trace of tobacco? No body, faintly sweet finish. Not astringent.

An average, undistinguished green tea. Hyson is a well-known variety. I received this tea as a free sample with my last Upton order. ‘Season’s Pick’ is an Upton marketing segment. Upton sells a limited stock of inexpensive teas in kilograms to institutional customers, and also makes those teas available in 200 g quantities (still quite a lot of tea) to individual customers at a price of about 5 cents per cup. A bargain, if you like the tea.