I’ve been listening to Escape Pod for a while (although my reluctance to take walks whilst the daystar is holding its cruel summer sway has led to a podcast backlog) and it is a consistently excellent podcast. I am extremely glad to have my story there, and I look forward to hearing what they do with it!
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I should find out in December, when my story will be reprinted in Poland’s anthology Kroki w nieznane (Steps Into the Unknown), edited by Mirosław Obarski.
This will be my second translation overall, and the first time one of my stories has been invited to a reprint anthology in any language. I’m very pleased, especially because the anthology has an interesting background and a history of very high-powered authors in its pages.
I’m so happy to see my stories travel around the world!
In case any particularly sensitive information-brains have noticed a downtick in my posting rate, I thought I’d let the blog readership know I’ve been called out of town. Back to Grants Pass, in fact. Nothing serious, but I’m far, far off my normal routine and haven’t been working down the list of blog topics upon which I am burning to opine.
I may be moved to rant about the amount of unwanted junk mail my grandma gets from a political party she abandoned twenty years ago, but that wasn’t previously on the topic list!
(And for those of you who are also Twitter readers: I shall try not to tweet about Scrabble too much. Really, I shall be trying. Even if you can’t tell.)
The October/November double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction has been out to subscribers for a few weeks, and now it is available at bookstores and newsstands around the United States! My story “The Termite Queen of Tallulah County” appears in this issue, as well as ten other stories, novelettes and novellas from authors listed here.
Getting a paper copy: Traditional newsstands often carry Asimov’s. Many Barnes & Noble and Borders locations carry Asimov’s, but it’s best to call ahead if you’ve not seen it at that particular store before.
Portlanders allergic to big-box stores can head down to Rich’s Cigar Store, which carries Asimov’s in their extensive magazine collection. The main store on SW Alder has the most copies. Also, the main store will ship magazines to out-of-town customers — call them up!
Many thanks to all who’ve expressed interest in this story, and to my early readers who helped it take form. Also, thanks to my grandma, for having termite trouble!
Update, 9/12/2010: The Sony eBook store now has October/November’s issue available.
Update, 9/17/2010: Fictionwise has October/November available in several digital formats as well.
This post contains a slight spoiler for Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio. If you haven’t already read this webcomic, press that link (it’ll take you to the beginning) and do. I’ll wait. Girl Genius was steampunk before steampunk sold out!
This post also contains a spoiler for the Mage Wind Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. But if you were going to read that, you probably already have.
Oh, and a wee spoiler for Buffy Season 1.
I hereby predict this post’s length will only exceed its spoiler warnings’ by a small margin.
I was reading the latest installment of Girl Genius when it struck me that one plot point in that fine comic is familiar from another story: the evil sorcerous (wyrd scientist?) ancestor who can possess his or her present-day progeny. This was used to great effect in Mercedes Lackey’s Mage Wind trilogy. When the good guys and I found out that the evil mage we were up against had slain the Last (and most powerful) Herald-Mage in a previous incarnation, we thought all was lost. It was a pretty effective way of increasing the creep-factor on an already very creepy foe. In Girl Genius it operates a little differently and over only one generation, but it’s the same general idea. In Buffy, too, a witchly mama did once switch bodies with her child.
I wonder if I’m overlooking (or haven’t read) other examples of this trope in fantasy. In sci-fi, I think the equivalent would be making clones of yourself in order to prolong your life, whatever the clones think — which has definitely been done. I think the fantasy version is more intriguing, and here’s why:
It’s a pop-psych truism that people fear becoming their parents. This trope hooks right into that fear, as well as another potentially unhealthy dynamic: the parents that want their children to be carbon-copies of them. Sure, it’s icky that your pediatric neurosurgeon dad wants you to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. But it would be even ickier if he wanted to steal your body and do his own pediatric neurosurgery with it, destroying or sidelining your spirit and desires, robbing you of your free will and your natural human span. (This is the subtext that the Buffy episode makes into text.)
As if that weren’t enough psychoanalytic reason for this trope to send a shiver up the fantasy fan’s spine, the multi-generational version offers a healthy dollop of the “sins of the father” thing that’s so popular in Judeo-Christian circles. Sure, as people are so fond of pointing out, they didn’t commit genocide, or enslave anyone, or cut down the oak forests of Ireland, or what-have-you. In a fantasy setting, however, your link with those pasts are not theoretical. In any world with sympathetic magic, blood does tell.
I am so very pleased to announce that I have sold another story to Asimov’s Science Fiction! Asimov’s has been dear to my heart for many years, and I am incredibly proud to have had four stories accepted there.
This story is called “Apocalypse Daily”. Many thanks to those who gave it a read, and to my cousin Sylvia who helped me with some vocab.
I was thinking, since of course I can’t offer you anything so concrete as a date of release or an issue, that I’d emulate Mary Robinette Kowal and offer you a teaser from the beginning of the story instead.
“How shall I end the world today?” Katrina Vang asked the ceiling. The ceiling didn’t respond, and her cat offered only a petulant mew.
“What kind of question is that to ask a poor dumb animal?” Natalie said from the doorway, and Katrina blinked to make sure she was actually awake. Right, her sister was supposed to be there. Sleeping on the couch due to a sudden lack of job and apartment.
“Traddles woke me up by sticking his paw in my eye socket. He owes me.”
“Still, you can’t ask the cat to do your job for you. End the world yourself.”
A while back, Ryan mentioned to me that he may remove the capacity to comment from his blog, wonko.com. This rocked my world. No comments? But blogs have comments! It’s a universal constant! Okay, so I exaggerated there. Sure, I’ve seen comments-disabled posts, often on touchy or personal matters, on otherwise comment-enabled blogs. And I’ve visited a few blogs with no comment system. It tends to have a more…austere feeling. Like a museum, rather than a tearoom. Comments invite you to stay a while and have a scone. No comments? You are invited to move along to the next exhibit.
Ryan tends to think things through, so he had plenty of arguments against the necessity of comments for his blog. His blog is increasingly about technical matters. I pointed out that people like to discuss these matters, and he pointed out that they are welcome to do so by e-mail or on twitter. If their comment is longer than 140 characters, he pointed out, they’re welcome to post it on their own blog and send him a link. Obviously, he has a point.
Different blog spaces carry different necessities. I read a fair amount of social justice blogs, like Racialicious and Feministe. Part of their purpose is discussion — lively at times — and to provide a space dedicated to hashing out issues, often nominally or actually “safe” for those participating. Many major blogs of this type even have “open threads” from time to time, where the management offers no guidance on what the commentariat should mull. Obviously, these blogs are part forum.
But my blog isn’t like that. I am glad it’s not. Writing a social justice blog means setting yourself up as an authority and giving yourself a certain responsibility to keep up with and comment on current events. That’s admirable, but it’s not the path I’ve chosen in life. I’ve chosen to be a fiction writer, which means a certain amount of dreamy detachment is part, parcel, perquisite and peril of my vocation. Some of my blog posts ask for audience participation, but some of them don’t.
I can see some arguments against comments in general. Where the commentariat is largely people one knows, there is a sort of social pressure. If I post good news, do you have to publicly fête me? I like congratulations as much as the next person, but I don’t want to make anyone feel they must pipe up. (I’m the sort of person who tends to send off-list congratulations to on-list good news, so obviously I’m a little weird about the dynamic of clapping people on the back in front of a crowd.) In other cases, I’ve heard people talk about the social pressure of commenting – someone you don’t know or barely know comments on your blog, so you feel you have to comment on theirs.
This brings me back to the responsibilities of blogging: I don’t want to ever be in a position where I have to blog about something. If something dreadful happens in the world – which happens all too often – I usually feel that my perspective on it is redundant, if not useless. I may feel stunned and wordless. Political bloggers and social justice bloggers seem to have a socially mandated duty to speak on current events. I never want to be there. Neither do I want to be committed to post everything of a certain sort in my own life — every time I make a pie, for instance (I guarantee you, while it makes useful filler here and there, that I don’t post every pie I make!). There’s too much speaking for speaking’s sake in the world. That isn’t a call for seriousness, by any means: anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am chock-full of nonsense. What I am advocating is sincerity. Don’t blog if you don’t feel it. Don’t comment if you don’t want to (and if you do want to, don’t feel constrained!)
And if you do want to respond to something, I hope you have the space or make the space. Ryan’s point that would-be commenters can post on their own blogs is well taken. Even in the forum-like bustle of large social justice sites, people take a step back into their own spaces and respond there. A long comment may not get much attention when it’s attached to someone else’s work. On your own blog, it has the chance to breathe, to be read on its own merits and for its own sake. Much of what we want to say in the world is a response: to someone else’s speech, yes, or to our own lives, our own experiences, to nature or culture. Maybe it would be silly to start a blog just because you wanted to comment on someone’s post and comments were locked. But maybe it will happen again, and again. Maybe you should have, if not a blog, a text document on your own computer. Even if you don’t need or want anyone else to hear, hearing yourself is vital and healthy.
Maybe I’ll close down comments on a post here and there. I experimented with this on the most recent update on my upcoming story. Just the facts, ma’am, and no meaty topic for discussion. But upon reflection, I’ll be keeping comments open on most posts here. I like the idea of putting out tea and biscuits for all comers.
This blog’s purpose has shifted over the years. When I began, I hoped to share a few silly anecdotes, but mostly give myself room to write and hear myself. I needed a place for words and creativity in a life that didn’t otherwise hold that space. Now my life fully inhabits those spaces, and the blog serves to share — my news, my nonsense, things that make me laugh, delight me, or make me think. It’s my blog, but I need to believe you’re a part of it. I’ll definitely be keeping comments, but I’m glad to have considered the question. Rethinking and questioning keeps blogs, as well as people, healthy.
Nest by the late Louise Bourgeois, at SFMoMA
I’m not a summer person. It’s the heat, the unaccustomed dryness. It’s the contrast with the cloudier, rainier summers I remember or imagine from my youth. But these hot temperatures, these gentle breaths of air, these verdant trees stretching out their branches to reach something – each other, the eaves of a house, the railing of a stair – have made an army of creatures in my environs very, very happy.
You notice it first through the kitchen window: a row of lovely spirals bobbing over the lace-leaf maple. Then there are the front stairs, shaded by a lilac tree — a succession of webs. I leave my house now waving my hands like an aspiring zombie, flailing my keys or mail, or bobbing my head from side to side to locate the gem of a spider floating in midair. I trust the neighbors to understand. Once, past the stairs, striding confidently into the wide, unspider-spannable world, I took a web to the face. I got to the car to find spiders busy on the mirror and windshield-wipers.
Leaving the house might seem to be the trouble – the screen door in the back stuck to its frame by an empty egg sac, the large spider that hit my head like a pebble when I stepped through the front door last week – but indoors we find little refuge. I was scrubbing my hair one day in my basement bathroom when I noticed a tiny spider, the color of wilted celery, busy building his first web in the frame of a window above my shower. At the bottom of the sill, another. Another two setting up shop at the top of the shower stall. Another investigating my back brush. This was positively friendly compared to the day when I was drying off and a wolf spider with a silver-dollar leg-radius dropped out of my towel and skittered for the safety under the laundry machines.
I try, gazing out of my window at the row of dessicated egg sacs lining the undersides of the eaves like reversed icicles, to remember that spiders are here to help me, too. I try to think of these lines of white husks as defense: against wasp nests, against the swarming air power of mosquitoes. I do try.
Then I see another spider on the wall and call the cat, who comes bounding. It may be the tone in my voice that tells her it’s time to hunt, but I suspect she has learned the creepetty-crawletty little word: SPIDER.
In King Lear, Act II, scene 4, you can find one of my favorite quotable morsels of Shakespeare. A friend of mine recently blogged about truncations of Shakespeare that change the meaning, so I’ve been wondering if my delight in this little line is a similar sin. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll put the full text of the speech, with my favorite bit in bold. I’m keeping my delight, though. I can’t help it.
[Having found his follower in the stocks, Lear is now also shorn of his retinue by his daughters.]
O, reason not the need: our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s: thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,—
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
If it be you that stir these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall—I will do such things,—
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep
No, I’ll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!
Even in context, the bold line is, I’d maintain, funny. I snicker when I hear it said onstage. It’s also very unfunny — Lear has, after all, lost his power and is now losing his faculties. That’s terrifying and, for those lucky enough to grow old, inevitable. The form of the speech underlines this reading: it starts out rhetorically perfect and personally sharp – the stab at his daughters’ necklines is great. But by this point in the speech he can no longer name his threats. And of course, if he could, he would have no power to carry them out. His inability to name his revenge may be part of his failing mental powers, but also perhaps a realization or reflection of his relinquished secular powers.
For the audience, who are not failing monarchs, these words still have resonance: this is an all too familiar sensation – that feeling of being so angry that any coherent expression of it is beyond you. “You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!” he says, in the first break in his fluency. That feeling is, if not universal, then incredibly accessible. That gives it a rueful humor, makes it a little sweet amidst all this bitterness.
I can’t help but also think of it as a rather writerly shorthand. “[Insert awful threats here]”, if you will. The truly fanciful might imagine Shakespeare running out of polemical gas here, scribbling a placeholder, then realizing how perfectly that would work in Lear’s fury.
And lastly, of course, it’s just damn funny. Because believe me, when I finally think of what I’m going to do, it’ll be awesome. It shall be the terror of the earth.
So, since I started using The Twitter, I haven’t posted a lot of extremely short bloggets. That’s why I haven’t blogged about Inception: I didn’t really have anything more to say than I put in this tweet:
Apart from bits of expo-rich clunky dialogue (& mild Zimmer) Inception was FANTASTIC. Best movie I’ve seen in a while. Don’t read, just go!
I didn’t want to give you spoilers. Or information of any sort. I went in totally without knowledge (I knew it was sci-fi, who directed and who starred. That was it.) and that felt perfect.
But I felt like it was worth reiterating in a shockingly content-free way for my blog readers who may not be on Twitter: Inception. Very good. So good I wondered while still in the foyer of the theatre whether there should be a cooling-off period or I should just add it to my list of favorite movies right away. So good Kyle and I spent 13 loooong pages of instant messages discussing and praising it the other day. So good I don’t really care too much that Hans Zimmer did the soundtrack (on first watching. It may really bother me on second watching, we’ll see.)
So please, do as I say: read nothing about the plot or premise, just go see the movie. If you like that sort of thing. And by that sort of thing, I mean Christopher Nolan, science fiction, or movies that are awesome.