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First Ever Chapbook: The Lonely Mecha-Dragon

Wednesday November 19, 2008 @ 12:27 AM (UTC)

Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered…okay, mostly through printing problems and logistical errors, including some on my part (Captain’s Log: must…tell…artist…project due date!), I have produced my first ever chapbook. Well, once I stitched one together in a Book Arts class my pal Julie Madsen taught, but only a real completionist is going to argue that counts.

My first chapbook, brought into existence for the occasion of Orycon 30, consists of the (hopefully) humorous story The Lonely Mecha-Dragon, briefly published on this website and now polished into chapbook form. Most notably, it now has cover art by my fabulous friend Amanda Van Howe, who came through under duress with a lovely, classic mecha-dragon. Classic except for being mecha, that is! She is a very gifted illustrator and artiste and I feel very lucky.

The Lonely Mecha-Dragon, by Felicity Shoulders under the auspices of (coughherselfcough) Paracosmonaut Press, is a limited edition of 100, hand-numbered by the author! I will also sign them if given the slightest provocation. How can you get them? Well, first of all, by being named in the “Thanks” section (there go five or six of one-hundred), second of all, by coming to Orycon and paying the low, low Orycon price, and third of all…yet to be determined. Watch this space. But not for too long, you might get pixel-burn on your eyes.

What is historical fiction?

Thursday November 13, 2008 @ 10:50 PM (UTC)

I have this problem: I like confusing genre boundaries, but I like putting books in boxes. Online, they call them shelves. It’s easier with tags, but shelves have to justify their existence: it’s silly to create a shelf for just one item. So, I was celebrating the inauguration of my somewhat snottily-named “literary-is-a-genre” shelf just now by adding previously “genreless” pieces of fiction to it, and I immediately ran into trouble. I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek begins in 1950’s Chicago, and continues into the 1960’s or so. It’s definitely literary fiction, but isn’t it historical as well? Why didn’t I have it shelved that way? I wouldn’t shelve The Blind Assassin that way, though it goes way farther back, because it proceeds to the era of its writing. Dybek’s shnovel does not. Does that make it historical fiction?

Is it a requirement that historical fiction be set in a sufficiently remote era? The 1950’s are next-door to World War II, which boasts any amount of historical fiction. Are novels set in the 1960’s historical fiction? The 1980’s? Does the era have to inform the story (how can it not?) or is the requirement that the author inform the reader about the era? Is The Things They Carried historical fiction, because it was about the Vietnam War but published in 1990? Is it not historical fiction because it depicts a period and place the author did live through? Does the magnitude of events depicted (their historicity) affect whether something is historical fiction? Does the age of the narrator? (I’ve been considering the idea that my internal genre-o-meter reads I Sailed with Magellan as non-historical because the 1950s protagonist is a child, thus implying an older narrator in a later time-period. If he were a child protagonist in the 1850’s, thus rendering his imagined adult self ‘historical’ as well, would it twitch the genre-o-meter in a different way?)

I have thoroughly confused myself, and should go to sleep. How about you? Got clarity?

Orycon 30 appearance

Monday November 10, 2008 @ 12:58 PM (UTC)

As my literary godmother predicted, appearing at a convention proved to be a less remote possibility than I had thought. Time to rejigger the Fame-o-Meter, I guess! I made some inquiries about attending Orycon 30 in a professional capacity, and voila! I’m on the schedule. Orycon 30 is November 21-23 in downtown Portland.

Orycon 28 was the first (and thus far only) sci-fi con I ever attended, as a guest of one of my other good fairies, the scintillating Leslie What. It was a blast, dampened only by the necessity of making coffee drinks for $8.50 an hour miles away during some of the festivities. Well, that and the parking ticket, but I underwent that parking ticket knowingly in order to stay around awesome people for another half an hour! Orycon 28 was a grand old time, and I look forward to Orycon 30 with great excitement. And a little trepidation, but I tell myself not to worry. After all, it’s mostly talking to people, and I talk to people every day. Sometimes I even talk to cats!

Anyway, I’ll be on four panels and host one round-table conversation (schedule here.) Wish me luck, and perhaps I’ll see you there!

New word: the love affair

Thursday November 06, 2008 @ 10:45 PM (UTC)

Truly, English is beautiful for its rich and varied scope, from the profane to the obscure, the lyrical to the particular.

Today, exploring the online Oxford English Dictionary because, thanks to Multnomah County Libraries, I can, I came across this utter gem: liripoop.

Let me say that again: liripoop. Better still, I own one and have been in discussions about what to call it. This sadly incomplete entry on Wikipedia should give you an idea (the OED lists liripipe and liripoop as the most prevalent spellings.) I wore one of these around my neck (and a mortarboard on my head) at my MFA Commencement. We were all unsure what to call it. People seemed to tell us it was a ‘hood’ despite its evolution towards the vestigial. “Why is it that bizarre shape?” people asked. No one could say. But now, thanks to the OED, I know.

And I also know that by being “furnished with a liripipe” I have become…liripipionated.


Monday November 03, 2008 @ 09:04 AM (UTC)

Howdy folks. Just letting you know that, after my big move, I’m now going to be moving in with my grandma for some weeks – she broke her hip but has rampaged through her physical therapy and just needs someone to help her out at home whilst she finishes healing. So I’m off to do the bending-and-twisting-at-the-waist parts of life for her. There should also be much Scrabble, and a lot of time for writing, so, hundreds of miles away from my boxes crying to be unpacked, perhaps I shall blog more diligently. Stay tuned!

Book organizing

Tuesday October 21, 2008 @ 09:55 PM (UTC)

*dusts off website* *evicts family of pigeons roosting in blog software*

Greetings from Portland, where two industrious humans and one cat (slightly less lazy than usual) are unpacking and reassembling their home. Also trying to keep at least part of it from disappearing under the resultant layers of empty cardboard and crumpled newsprint, but that’s another story. The big story here is that for the first time in recorded history, Ryan has more books on shelves than I do. Yes, the man who was storing his books largely in artistically arranged stacks (don’t knock it, I’ve seen it done very beautifully by the French) has an entire bookcase full of the beggars. Whereas the woman who used LibraryThing to tag her books with the number of the box they were packed in…has 14 in a tiny Target bookshelf. Ooh, and the Millennium Edition of Lord of the Rings sitting flat on another shelf.

So book-arranging has been under discussion. Ryan, in the course of getting other people to go to Ikea to buy this now-full bookcase, made it clear that my books should stay away from his books (like beets from mashed potatoes) because our systems are different. I like mine alphabetized by author, and he recoils in horror from this idea (like the average human from beets). His mom (in the ‘other people’ going to Ikea) says she does hers by topic, then by size within topic. Ryan said this sounded about like what he does, though he conceded my point that having books by the same author together made sense. However, so far, looking at his bookcase, I don’t see that author-grouping occurring much. Here are the Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels next to a glossary for the Aubrey-Maturin novels…good call. On the next shelf, two non-Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian together, next to two Jonathan Lethem books, next to a Brust novel which isn’t next to any other Brust novels. Well, it’s a stand-alone, isn’t it? But still in the Dragaeraverse…then there are the random sprinklings of Heinlein. I don’t really get it. You’ll have to ask him. But it appears that taller books are on the sides, which I guess is pleasing to the eye.

Which is (at last! Your patience is rewarded!) the point of this blog post. I had never thought of using book size as the organizing precept within each shelf of my library. When Ruth first said the words, I had to blink to reorder my universe, as if she’d said she organized her books by color (which I hear used to be pretty common). It made me wonder if my system seems as odd to others. Here is how I organize my books:

  • One shelf of ‘fawncy’ books (collector’s editions, rare-ish editions, leather-bound, otherwise pretty). I’ve kicked a few borderline books off this shelf when it got too crowded. Points for being beloved as well as beautiful, or for sentimental value. This shelf’s arranged to look nice, with a preponderance of slipcovered editions on one end.

  • The rest of my fiction books, regardless of target audience age, alphabetically by author, then by title except within series.

  • Fiction anthologies, themed then general, alphabetical by title.

  • Poetry books, alphabetical by author.

  • Poetry anthologies. I don’t really have enough to have a rubric. Don’t hurt me, poets!

  • Nonfiction. Ah, this is the question. Right now, it’s alphabetical by author. But doesn’t topic make more sense? I used topic originally, so there must have been some good reason why I changed. When in doubt, consider libraries. They use topic for non-fiction. But then I end up trying to decide whether to put pterosaurs before or after dinosaurs in the paleo section, and which possible segue book to use. Maybe I should get a labelmaker and use the Library of Congress system.

  • Exceptions: oversize/art books, bottom shelf. When I had franchised novels, I put them all together alphabetically by franchise (under ‘S’. Yes. I mean those. Those, too.)

Obviously, I’m open to changing how I shelve nonfiction. I am also still struggling with the question of drama, which in my case is 90% Shakespeare (the Shakespeare:drama ratio is even higher than the paleontology:nonfiction ratio. I have at least two complete works and massive piles of individual plays.) I have been shelving it as fiction, but perhaps it needs its own section, cuddling up to poetry, since it is, after all, largely Shakespeare.

This entire system was implemented in high school. Before that, I used a system of vague feelings. I read constantly, and reread constantly, and relied on my long searching browsings of the shelves (to decide what to reread next) to refresh my impressions of the current state of the shelves. So, if I had a sudden desire for a specific book — say The Midnight Folk – I would stand in some fairly clear patch of my bedroom floor – possibly balancing awkwardly, if the clear patches were far apart – and summon the physical memory of the book, the picture on the front, the color of the spine, until I remembered where I’d last seen it. This was possibly good for the mental muscles and may count as meditation, but it was an odd book-organization system.

How about you? How do you organize your books? And if you are Ruth or Ryan and I have grossly misstated your system, feel free to abuse and disabuse.

Are they gone?

Wednesday October 15, 2008 @ 09:20 AM (UTC)

Qubit took refuge from the movers and emerged cautiously onto a world transformed:

Qubit emerges from hiding

Reminder: The Midnight Folk have arrived!

Tuesday October 14, 2008 @ 07:27 AM (UTC)

Anyone who was intrigued by my previous post about neglected magical classic The Midnight Folk might want to charge over to Powell’s and buy it now! The American reissue came out today.

New word: the rereading!

Thursday October 09, 2008 @ 04:41 PM (UTC)

Another one from the Aubrey-Maturin files. Did I let this one slide by me the first three times I read that Bonden brought Maturin that coffee? It’s too obscure for Merriam-Webster, but as we’ve established, the Wiktionary loves Patrick O’Brian.

roborative: “giving strength; invigorating.”

I love you, Maturin, but I’m saving this word for next time I want to win a pompous-off.

Suspect bodies

Wednesday October 08, 2008 @ 12:59 PM (UTC)

Here I go again, talking about abortion. I know, this isn’t that kind of blog, right? You came here for stories, vocab, English Major stuff, and this is what you get? This is important, though, too important not to talk about. This election is crucial for many reasons, and maybe reproductive rights aren’t at the top of most people’s lists at this point. But I recently did a bunch of reading on the Supreme Court, so it’s quite present in my mind. Also, I’m female and of reproductive age, so it behooves me to pay attention.

The next President of the United States will likely get to make more than one appointment to an already closely split Supreme Court. Many states have ‘trigger laws’, abortion bans that will automatically become law if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. Recently a ban was upheld by the Supreme Court that used non-medical language to vaguely define banned abortion procedures. Language in Justice Kennedy’s opinion took a paternalistic stance towards female U.S. citizens. This election holds the promise, for opponents of reproductive rights, to finally end the siege and bring the undermined ramparts down.

But as we’ve seen recently in non-metaphorical wars, conquest does not guarantee peace or good governance. What is the roadmap for a post-Roe country? Let’s take a look at one of our potential Commanders-in-Chief on the topic.

This is a video clip from Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin on CBS Evening News. Transcribed by me:

COURIC: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?

PALIN: I am pro-life, and I’m unapologetic about my position there on pro-life, and I understand good people on both sides of the abortion debate. Now, I would counsel to choose life, I would like to see a culture of life in this country, but I would also like to see taking it one step further, not just saying “I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country” but I want then those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal for them to be supported, for adoptions to be made easier.

COURIC: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl—

PALIN: if—

COURIC:—who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion.

PALIN: I’m saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in.

I’ve been struck when Palin is asked about her views on abortion rights – which are more restrictive than many of her fellows’ – by her recurring use of the word ‘choice’. Even when the question is clearly about overturning Roe vs. Wade or making abortion illegal, not about actions in the current, “right to choose” environment, she says “choose.” To me, this is one indication that she, like many anti-abortion-rights activists, hasn’t fully thought out her position. Perhaps she’s been coached to use these softer terms, but just so we’re clear, she is in favor of abortion being illegal, without rape or incest exemptions (video from 2006 gubernatorial race. Incidentally, it also makes clear that she considers a teenager’s parents sovereign over any pregnancy that teen has.)

More striking is the rest of that paragraph from the interview with Couric, available in the unedited transcript of the interview.

Palin: I’m saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you’re asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That’s nothing I would ever support.

This question of sentencing is one that often seems to have been neglected by anti-reproductive-choice activists. In this video, demonstrators outside an Illinois clinic are asked what sentence women should receive for having an abortion. Activists who say they’ve been with the movement for two years, for five years, admit to never having considered the question at all. All of them say abortion should be illegal, that it’s killing a human being, but only one agrees that jail time should be part of the sentence. Is it murder, or not? If it’s murder, why shouldn’t women who seek or undergo abortion be imprisoned?

These kinds of inconsistencies should give even those personally against abortion pause. The consequences have not been thought out. In a podcast I listened to the other day, a writer being interviewed (Timothy Zahn, if memory serves) said that part of a science fiction writer’s job is thinking out the consequences of things. So I’m doing my job here.

Everything depends on where the objective line is drawn in this highly subjective arena. Roe vs. Wade uses trimesters, which are arbitrary, but laudibly objective. Palin’s position – no abortion even for rape and incest cases – draws the objective line around abortion, any abortion, ever. Which makes every young woman of fertile age a suspect. It makes it not only possible, but necessary for police to investigate every known miscarriage – even if the woman swears she wanted the baby and is devastated. It allows situations like this:

(From Linda Hirshman’s excellent article in the Washington Post:) In the 1980s, when abortion was severely limited in then-West Germany, border guards sometimes required German women returning from foreign trips to undergo vaginal examinations to make sure that they hadn’t illegally terminated a pregnancy while they were abroad. According to news stories and other accounts, the guards would stop young women and ask them about drugs, then look for evidence of abortion, such as sanitary pads or nightgowns, in their cars, and eventually force them to undergo a medical examination — as West German law empowered them to do.

That’s West Germany, not the secret police-infested East Germany. The removal of this one choice, this one freedom, cascades into other freedoms. Even rape and incest exceptions are coercive: the proposed South Dakota ban would require a rape or incest victim to report the crime (regardless of her age, home situation, and the social backlash that might accompany the report) and provide DNA samples in order to get an abortion.

To my trade, then, the pondering of consequences. Imagine an America where abortion is banned outright. Imagine a young woman returning from abroad. She has been to Europe, to Japan, even to Mexico City. Her mother is with her, or her friend, or her husband. Or she is alone. The guard has chosen her carry-on for further attention. “Why did you bring slippers for such a short trip to Japan?” or perhaps “You must have thought far ahead to bring these pads with you, instead of buying them in France. Heavy-duty.” Perhaps she has already been profiled and an excuse will certainly be found. The guard asks her to come along to see the doctor.

“Is the doctor a man or a woman?” protests the mother. “It’s against our religion…” Or the husband, trying to assert an authority even he knows is tenuous, blusters, “Is this really necessary? She’s a married woman. We took a short trip.” The female friend steps forward and loops her arm around the suspect. “We’re lesbians, okay? Why the hell would she need an abortion?” The woman alone whispers, “Please, don’t make me do this. I have PTSD.”

To all these, the guard says, “I’ve heard that before. Sorry, miss. We’re going to need to take a closer look.”

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating, or trying to scare you. I am trying to scare you. Because I myself am scared. But this is not some extreme scenario created for propaganda purposes. This is something that has happened, in a democratic nation. In an America where you may already have to choose between having security scan through your clothing and a pat-down in order to travel, how far-fetched is this? If the objective line is drawn around all abortion, if abortion is considered murder, then a sacrifice of civil liberties like this one is not a nightmare scenario, it’s a logical step.

If no abortion is legal, the female body is suspect. It will not matter if she has been raped. It will not matter if she has never had sex. It will not matter if she is ardently opposed to abortion, if she voted for McCain/Palin, if her religious beliefs agree with theirs. Because she could be lying…if women will self-mutilate or drink poison to obtain an abortion, what is a little lie? Her body does not belong to her. It belongs to the state, to the law, to the good of the community.

I think we’ve been afraid to discuss abortion for too long in this country, with our friends, within our families. It avoids hurt feelings, avoids painful confessions, avoids bringing the epithets of a violent and vituperative debate into our living rooms. But it also allows people to duck the hard questions, to vote their personal feelings rather than consider the policy consequences. I believe strongly and passionately in the right of every person to make her own decision about when life begins, and what is right, and to govern her life and body with those beliefs. If you are less certain, reader, that you trust women to make these philosophical, religious and ethical decisions, please consider whether you are prepared to turn those decisions over to the government, body and soul. That is one of the decisions on the ballot this year.

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter
Majority opinion, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey
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