Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

Last week, I saw a bluebird! It was an overcast day, but the bird almost glowed, a shade totally different than the color of bluejays. That’s when I knew spring would come. And now it has: I left for St. Louis on Wednesday, when the ground and sky were dirty gray and chalky brown, and returned this morning to green grass, blue skies, and buds everywhere.

The talk at St. Louis went well. It was my favorite format of all time, a craft-centered Q&A, with me on a cordless mic and a giant whiteboard (which I did not take advantage of). The hour went by incredibly fast; afterward I signed thirty or so books.

Also in St. Louis, the car’s transmission gave out. There was some flailing: tow trucks and overnight parts shipments, a loaner I could have stuffed my own car into the back of, an overnight drive to Columbia and back, so that I could be soothed by Barbara’s cookies and fondue. The final bill was $5500, which was horrid, especially so close to my unpaid summer, but it won’t kill me, and now the car’s entire drive train has been replaced.

I read and watched a bunch of things at Barbara’s. She always has interesting graphic novels, so I read through the first couple of volumes of Trees (Warren Ellis and Jason Howard), Arcadia (Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer), and the start of Monstress (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda). I was familiar with Ellis and Liu; the rest were unfamiliar to me. I loved the art, the concepts, and the characters in Monstress, but I think I will not be able to read it if it goes too long: I think it would break my heart.

I also have been reading old mysteries, and just finished Robert Van Gulik’s The Chinese Maze Murders. He followed an odd path to writing these books: he was a Chinese scholar who in the 1940s translated one of the classic 18th-century Chinese detective novels, Dee Goong An. He wrote other mysteries featuring the detective, Judge Dee, but until 1957, they were published only in Japanese and Chinese. At least in part, he wrote the books because he was hoping to encourage Chinese crime-fiction writers to draw from their nation’s deep, deep well of popular literature and tell modernized versions of old stories. As for the story itself, it’s lively and well-written, and pleasantly twisty.