Posts tagged with "real life" - Faerye Net 2012-12-08T12:17:00+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Say Something True 2012-12-08T12:17:00+00:00 2012-12-08T13:29:38+00:00 <blockquote>&#8220;By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world.” <em>- Umberto Eco</em></blockquote> <blockquote>&#8220;I shall not murder<br /> The mankind of her going with a grave truth&#8221; <em>- Dylan Thomas</em></blockquote> <p>I don&#8217;t know who will read this, or if I&#8217;ll let anyone. So I don&#8217;t know who I&#8217;m writing for. Just to have written? Writing is so important to me that not to have written is a particular form of silence. And here, of cowardice. A surrender to that anxiety Eco speaks of &#8212; it&#8217;s worse when no one can write the narrative for you to read, when you have to make the meaning yourself.</p> <p>I lost someone a year ago today. I haven&#8217;t talked about it&#8230;anywhere on the internet, really. I don&#8217;t feel like I own her story. Who owns the stories of the dead? I don&#8217;t think I have the skill to say any of the things I feel in a way that is too true to be trite. I don&#8217;t want to use her as a vehicle for my own self-aggrandizement, or fall into the easy tropes of illness and grief to save myself the trouble: she hated those tropes. She hated being forced into someone else&#8217;s story by illness, as if the illness got to rewrite who she was. I don&#8217;t want to force what she and those we loved suffered and have suffered since into a piece of pain porn. I don&#8217;t own her survivor&#8217;s story, either.</p> <p>But on the other hand, I do own my own story. I own what she meant to me, and my memories of her. I own my mistakes and my learning. So I&#8217;ll take a stab, and maybe I&#8217;ll just show it to my family and my chosen family. Or maybe I&#8217;ll set it loose on the web, one way to insist that she was here, and it mattered.</p> <p>I met Ace in college; she went to the art school nearby. We met through the man who would become my chosen &#8220;brother&#8221;, and her partner. She was tall, rosy, and bold. Weary only when she genuinely was, not in that cynical way: given to genuine enthusiasms &#8212; who cared what the fuck other people thought?</p> <p>I didn&#8217;t like her. I didn&#8217;t understand her. I was deeply enmeshed in the constant and futile fight to control what others thought of me. Nothing so profoundly nettles a person like that than someone who seems not to give a fuck. She did what she did with a whole heart: ironically, one of the things she did was take to me immediately. She told me years later that she found me vivid and delightful the instant we met. Of course she didn&#8217;t hide it &#8212; why would she, except that it&#8217;s not what people do, being unabashedly charmed by new acquaintances? It undoubtedly made me more standoffish. My cowardly way of not caring what the world of non-geeks and cruel Muggles thought was to try to remain out of their notice. She was wild. She was a lit flame I was afraid to stand beside.</p> <p>I barely saw her, through college and after, until we both ended up in Northern California, for the reasons you do: my partner&#8217;s job, her partner&#8217;s graduate program. I was profoundly lonely, every friendship I had save one suddenly long-distance. That one, luckily, was with my dear &#8220;brother&#8221; Mike, and she was with him.</p> <p>I didn&#8217;t understand her, still, but suddenly I was ready to learn. I was older, I hope wiser, a bruised and jaded grad student being taught to turn an open eye and a listening heart to the world. Ace was surprising, exhilarating: she brought a horrible eighties leather jacket home from the thrift store and remade it fearlessly on the spot with heavy shears and safety pins. She smiled easily and widely. All of us liked to make things, but Ace in particular always had a project in progress. She made <a href="" target="links">subversive photo-art about gender roles</a> and raged about her consuming hatred for Bratz fashion dolls. She and I would compare tales of woe from our crappy retail jobs. I wasn&#8217;t taking amazing care of myself, and she and Mike adapted to the fact that when I came to see them at 4, after a shift at Starbucks, I would always have forgotten to eat since breakfast &#8212; they&#8217;d just plan me a meal. Ace was cuddly, completely unafraid of being silly and kiddish and affectionate with her friends. She was one of those rare listeners who makes you feel that you&#8217;re not only heard, but profoundly and unconditionally accepted: that you&#8217;ve poured out your heart and she&#8217;s caught it and kept it still and safe.</p> <p>I had learned who she was and why she was precious by the time she got sick, and I loved her. I did what I could. Time wore on, and I moved home to Oregon and she had a couple years&#8217; respite. When she got sick again, I found that &#8220;what I could do&#8221; had dwindled, and what was left seemed, on the surface, petty. I could be there, physically; I could be silly with her and with Mike, be cuddly and childish and present. And although it seemed like very little, I have never felt so profoundly needed in my life. It was terribly hard to leave them each time. I found myself, too, asking Ace for advice, talking to her about my own quandaries, which felt terribly selfish until I realized she loved it. Of course. I loved being any sort of help to her, and she loved helping me back.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t want to make my Ace, so three-dimensional I can still feel the curve of her spine under my hands, into a paper saint. She was intensely human, and she had flaws like anyone else. She could sulk like a champion on occasion. She sometimes put comfort or instinct above the letter of doctor&#8217;s advice. She was hard on herself and sometimes too kind to tell you the whole truth about yourself. And as I try to list these flaws, as I try to tell you she was a human, who had &#8216;vices&#8217; and made &#8216;mistakes&#8217;, I don&#8217;t even care or see them as flaws, they were just her, and I wish she were here to whine, or smoke like a chimney, or whatever. I want her here to tell dirty jokes and listen to my creative plans with way more attentiveness than they possibly deserve. She wove me a purse out of cassette tape, and fed me when I was hungry, and gave me goggles so I&#8217;d survive the apocalypse, and taught me to wear makeup in bold wild colors I loved, and asked me hard questions, and held me when I cried. I want her in the world, she made it better.</p> <p>She was one of the most <em>alive</em> people I&#8217;ve ever met, elemental, hungry, vibrant, and she&#8217;s gone. I learned so much from her, from loving her, and even from losing her. But &#8216;I learned so much from her&#8217; is a cliché that we use to smooth over a wound, and I don&#8217;t want to do that, to lie about the wound that&#8217;s very real, for all of us that loved her. Nothing I learned was worth losing her, or what she went through. I can&#8217;t live my life in any way that makes it okay that she&#8217;s not in it.</p> <p>I did learn from her. Her audacity and authenticity, her unconcern about the opinions of all and sundry. I learned that the simple, silly things may be all you have in the end: the presence and closeness of people who love you. I learned that it&#8217;s beyond foolish to hide your love, friendship and admiration because of pride or cowardice. I&#8217;m a braver, happier woman because Ace was in my life.</p> <p>And most of you? She didn&#8217;t get to be in yours. I&#8217;m writing this in part because no one who hasn&#8217;t met her gets to, now. I can&#8217;t change that with wishing or writing, but I can at least yell that she existed. She&#8217;s gone but we&#8217;re still here, Mike&#8217;s still here, I&#8217;m still here. I&#8217;m trying to make something out of that &#8212; a story, or a dedication. And despite what movies say, it&#8217;s not suddenly easy to be amazing and bright and remarkable yourself when you realize, as if you&#8217;d somehow never thought it before, that life is precious; when you have a memory to live up to or honor. You still have to do all the hard work of creating and traveling and adventuring and living. I don&#8217;t get a montage, I have to make a life. It&#8217;s been a year without her, and I&#8217;m not magically the woman I want to be. I am and will always be a work in progress. She was, too.</p> <p>I miss you, Ace, and I&#8217;m grateful that I knew you.</p> The 5 Stages of Street Harassment 2012-07-18T21:08:58+00:00 2012-07-18T21:09:40+00:00 <p><strong>1. Denial.</strong> Wait, did someone just say &#8220;<span class="caps">PROSTITUTE</span>!&#8221;? Was that the word? Was it that guy? Was it to me? No, surely I misheard. Let me just listen to the extremely disturbing replay in my head a bit, I&#8217;m sure it wasn&#8217;t that. Or to me. Shit, it really was.</p> <p><strong>2. Fleeing.</strong> Doooon&#8217;t look over your shoulder, fast fast walky walky fast, car around the corner, no one following me, it&#8217;s just nerves anyway. It&#8217;s a beautiful day, you&#8217;re no less safe just because someone reminded you it&#8217;s an ugly world.</p> <p><strong>3. Victim-blaming.</strong> Holy shit, is my bra showing? No, it isn&#8217;t. Also, what the what, Felicity, you&#8217;re a feminist. Cut that out. It&#8217;s about him, not you. [Ed: I bet you want to know what I was wearing. I would too. Because it&#8217;s how we make sense out of this crap, and unfortunately, shift the blame.]</p> <p><strong>4. Stubbornness.</strong> Stop, stop, <em>stop</em> looking in the mirror and checking your outfit for sluttiness, Felicity. You&#8217;re a feminist. You know that this is about that dude and his feelings about women, and the Patriarchy and its inability to allow women to just <em>be</em>, summer clothes and all, without carrying the signification of &#8220;<span class="caps">SEX</span>&#8221; around their necks like a burden and target. That guy is an enforcer. A creepy, crunkle-faced enforcer who wants you to be ashamed of wearing a tank top on a sunny day. He doesn&#8217;t get to win.</p> <p><strong>5. Blog fodder.</strong> Just another lovely reminder, folks! Patriarchy Makes Every Day Special!</p> Superreaders 2011-07-20T16:28:37+00:00 2011-07-20T16:32:34+00:00 <p>My mother, I told a fellow author once, is the kind of reader you want. One time I recommended <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780547085753'><em>The Hearts of Horses</em></a> by <a href="" target="links">Molly Gloss</a> to my mom &mdash; actually, I may have bought it for her as a present. Either way, she loved it. She bought several more hardback copies to give as birthday presents, and I am pretty sure once the trade paperback was out, she bought <em>two</em> extras to lend out to friends. I stress the two because buying one extra copy of a book she owns and loves is fairly ordinary for my mom. She sticks her return address labels on the extra copies and presses them into the hands of the friends and quilters with which her life abounds.</p> <p>One library copy of your book, I&#8217;ve been told, translates to some number of readers &#8212; and those readers may in turn recommend your book, buy their own copy, or buy it as a gift. My mom, I&#8217;m convinced, is even better than a library, if she loves your book. In the case of <em>Hearts of Horses</em>, she probably bought at least five copies herself, and spurred some unknown quantity of other purchases.</p> <p>I used to think of this specifically as something my mother does, until the other day I was talking books with my friend Dan. I know Dan reads ravenously and always has, and he is free with his recommendations. But as he pressed a <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780825462900'>historical murder mystery</a> into my hands, I protested, &#8220;My to-read list is over 250 books long! If you give this to me, you&#8217;re not likely to get it back.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Oh, I don&#8217;t count on getting any book back that I lend out,&#8221; he said. &#8220;If I was worried, I&#8217;d buy a second copy to lend.&#8221; Suddenly, I realized: Dan is constantly extolling his favorite books. He lends books like you&#8217;re doing him a favor by taking them off his hands. I&#8217;m pretty sure he drove his friends&#8217; reading as early as middle school (although I didn&#8217;t know him then, so it&#8217;s merest hearsay.) Dan is like my mom. Perhaps like <a href="" target="links">my friend Jan</a>, the English teacher with the vast bookshelf of lending books for her students &#8212; books she buys herself. They&#8217;re <em>superreaders</em>.</p> <p>This is not meant to impute miraculous powers. While I imagine it&#8217;s easier to consume large stacks of literature and promote the chosen few if you read quickly, superspeed is not the defining characteristic: not being content simply to read and enjoy is. These people are boosters, and part of their enjoyment of reading is sharing it. These are the people who will drive the sort of social recommending model I envisioned in <a href="" target="links">&#8220;The Future of Genre&#8221;</a>. They&#8217;re tastemakers, pushers, book evangelists.</p> <p>Who do you know that takes their love of reading out of the page and into the world? Are you a superreader?</p> Busy bees 2011-04-03T08:54:43+00:00 2011-04-03T08:54:55+00:00 <p>This is just a note to explain my sudden transition from prolixity to paucity here on the blog: we have found out we need to find a new rental house sooner than expected. With all manner of business coming up, and the <a href="" target="links">Nebulas besides</a>, we&#8217;ve been very focused on getting this dealt with as soon as possible. And we&#8217;ve been successful! We signed a lease on a new house and will be moving this week. Quite the whirlwind.</p> <p>I hope to be back here bending your ear with more unsolicited advice and rambling musings soon enough.</p> A little ambition is a dangerous thing 2011-03-24T15:33:47+00:00 2011-03-24T16:35:00+00:00 <center><img src="" width="236" height="500" alt="8-year-old gaming sketch" /></a><br /> <em>A drawing I did of an Exalted character c. 2003. &#8220;Good enough&#8221; for what?</em></center> <p>I&#8217;ve never thought much of myself as an artist. All right, that&#8217;s a lie: as a child, I thought I was pretty awesome. But I was also pretty sure I would someday find a magic sword in a stone, so take my cherished beliefs with all the salt you like. And even then, I could tell that I didn&#8217;t have an overpowering natural gift: it took a lot of work for me to get a drawing up to second-place snuff, when the first-place kid tossed his off in no time. I admit, this may have discouraged me. While my mom, herself dissuaded from trying at art at a young age, forbade me to say I was &#8220;bad at drawing&#8221;, I decided to be cheerfully &#8220;mediocre at drawing&#8221; or at best &#8220;okay at drawing&#8221;.</p> <p>In my adult life, I mostly use the &#8220;okay&#8221; drawing skills I nursed through Drawing classes and Scientific Illustration activity to draw my <a href="" target="links">roleplaying game</a> characters. (It&#8217;s okay, if you were on this website you would have worked out that I&#8217;m a giant dork eventually.) My spotty skills are enough, usually, to falter out a much-corrected portrait of my character that satisfies me. The clothes are usually just right. Often I am pleased with the face. The pose is almost always awkward.</p> <p>I made the dreadful mistake of showing these things to my friend <a href="" target="links">Lee Moyer</a>. Lee is an immensely talented and prolific professional artist and illustrator. Very professional. I can&#8217;t remember why I committed the mad act of showing him my sketchbook, but probably because we were going to <a href="" target="links">Ambercon</a> together, and he would inevitably see me scribbling at some point. Might as well preemptively show him the whole ugly mess, I must have thought.</p> <p>Well, he didn&#8217;t cry out in horror, and to my knowledge he didn&#8217;t lose sanity points. Instead, he did the next-worst thing: he encouraged me. He told me that with more discipline, I could draw well. He told me that with better tools, I could draw more quickly. Somehow I&#8217;d managed to get my innate ambition and perfectionism to overlook this one area, but now it has noticed art again, and all may well be lost. Because if I <em>can</em> do well at something, then of course I had jolly well better. All these years, I&#8217;ve been trying to make the individual drawing better without working on my overall skills, without spending time preparing, working things out, or getting references. The end results may have been within my bounds of satisfaction, but they could have been much better much faster if I&#8217;d been willing to work on my drawing as a whole and give the activity a little more time.</p> <p>Now that I am ambitious about drawing again, it&#8217;s hard to believe I managed not to be for so long. I try to imagine someone with just an ounce of talent telling me, &#8220;It&#8217;s okay, I don&#8217;t need to get better at writing: I only use it for my <span class="caps">RPG</span> character journals.&#8221; Why wouldn&#8217;t you get better at something if you could? Why do something if it&#8217;s not worth practicing? What was I thinking?</p> <p>And what am I in for now? (One thing&#8217;s almost certain: you will be seeing a lot more &#8220;cross-training&#8221; posts about the similarities between writing and visual art.)</p> Robot Christmas 2010-12-25T14:04:43+00:00 2010-12-25T14:05:04+00:00 <p>Our household has taken a bold leap into the future: <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> got me a <a href="" target="links">Roomba</a> for Christmas. While I insist I&#8217;m not sure I&#8217;m ready for the ethical conundrums of robot ownership, I also admit that those questions don&#8217;t really apply to a vacuum whose intellectual capacity is less than that of a <a href="" target="links">mouse droid</a>.</p> <p>A much greater quandary attends the gift Ryan received from <a href="" target="links">his mom</a>, an <a href="" target="links">aerial drone</a> you control with your iPhone. I maintain that this is patently <em>not</em> a robot, because it&#8217;s not autonomous. However, I was soon contradicted by the drone starting and taking off by itself when Ryan switched away from the control app. I am now convinced we&#8217;ve invited a primitive <a href="" target="links">agent of Skynet</a> into our home.</p> <p>I hope the Roomba is on our side.</p> Today I "finished" my novel 2010-12-15T22:00:20+00:00 2010-12-15T22:02:35+00:00 <p>I also &#8220;finished&#8221; my novel, for the record, last year at about this time in longhand, and some time later on the computer. But I wouldn&#8217;t let anyone read it, so the sense of &#8220;finished&#8221; which applied &#8212; has beginning, middle and end &#8212; was pretty farcical. Also, I later determined I&#8217;d chickened out on the ending and needed a new one. This &#8220;finishing&#8221; is a big, thorough revision &#8212; not the first, but the most thoroughgoing &#8212; with giant chunks of new material and a new end. It&#8217;s a whole thing, which someone is allowed to read. That&#8217;s today&#8217;s definition of &#8220;finish&#8221;.</p> <p>This is the reason I hesitate to say anything about the state of the novel in public &#8212; or at least on the internet, which is like in public but louder and more persistent &#8212; the state is not determined. I know that what I have now is not what I&#8217;ll eventually send out. (Beta readers, start your red pencils! Yes, I know none of you probably use red pencils, and one of you at least probably doesn&#8217;t own one.) I know it will require more work. But getting it to this point, the point where I feel comfortable asking anyone, even Ryan, to read the whole thing and tell me what he thinks, was a job of work. Being here is a great and dizzy relief.</p> <p>And how easy it was, now that it&#8217;s behind me! All that brain-mashing and despair, and really, it wasn&#8217;t so hard. All I had to do was <em>write</em> it! This must be the writer&#8217;s version of the endorphin rush that makes you forget the pains of childbirth. This is how we end up having more novels, and forgetting the horrible developmental stages we thought would never end. Just check back with me when the manuscript is in its Terrible Twos, when all the beta readers tell me how much they hate it. Then we&#8217;ll see who airily speaks of knocking out another novel or three!</p> Contrariwise 2010-12-06T20:43:38+00:00 2010-12-06T20:45:04+00:00 <p>Once, when I had a day job that often made me froth and rage with incandescent despair, I noticed that the more I raged, the more cheerfully I answered the phone. This went unnoticed by any save my sister, who once called and heard me sing out in saccharine tones, &#8220;Good afternoon, Day Job Incorporated! How may I <em>help</em> you?&#8221; and said in stricken tones, &#8220;Dear <span class="caps">GOD</span>, what is <span class="caps">WRONG</span>?&#8221;</p> <p>In a similar vein, today I toiled my way to the grocery store through endless streams of totally unreasonable traffic. I avoided collisions with people driving irrationally and with 2&quot; dowels sticking yards out of pickup trucks into the parking lot, and found that my heart was full of aggravation with my fellow man. In fact, to quote our friend Ishmael (with the exception that it was a crisp chill December within and without my soul), I did feel that it required &#8220;a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people&#8217;s hats off&#8230;&#8221; If not their heads. I avoided making eye contact, for fear of accidentally killing people with mind-daggers, and felt that if I were to inadvertently open my mouth, a sheet of baleful green fire might emerge, or at least that noise the monster made in <em><span class="caps">LOST</span></em>.</p> <p>In this condition I gathered my vegetables and slinked to the register with my raw poultry. The cashier, a rosy-cheeked lad I had never before seen, asked me for my co-op membership card, and I, coiled in around my core of misanthropy and wrath&#8230;said, &#8220;Oh yes, here it is,&#8221; in a voice precisely one millimeter tall.</p> <p>I&#8217;m amazed he could even hear me. Note to self for future writing reference: humans can be <em>awfully</em> contrarian.</p> Thanksgivering 2010-11-29T13:35:34+00:00 2010-11-29T13:35:49+00:00 <p>I only made four pies this year! I am such a slacker. Although I note that since we had our Thanksgiving gathering on Saturday rather than Thursday, my not posting the pie pics prior should not be proposed as part and parcel of my procrastination.</p> <center><a href="" title="Felicity's maple custard pie by Ryan Grove, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="346" alt="Felicity's maple custard pie" /></a><br /> <em>Maple Custard Pie, photographed by <a href="">Ryan</a>. Pumpkin in background. Pecan lurks.</em></center> <p>As ever, the maple custard pie comes to us via Ken Haedrich&#8217;s <a href=" pie" target="links"><em>Pie: 300 Tried-And-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie</em></a>. Long may it reign!</p> Dreaming up books 2010-11-24T14:53:59+00:00 2010-11-24T14:54:41+00:00 <p>For the second time in recent months, I&#8217;ve woken up from a dream that I rapidly realized could be a novel idea. I scrambled out of bed and found my writing notebook and started scribbling notes. This is still a really weird sensation for me &#8212; I&#8217;m used to dreams where everything Makes Perfect Sense that, upon waking examination, Doesn&#8217;t. But these have a few plot threads which do make sense, and a bunch of images or characters I find really compelling. In this dream, I had the advantage of seeing it as an unfolding fiction while I was in it, and having a spectator along (my mom, I think?) to whom I had to explain world elements.</p> <p>I have no good explanation for this, and I&#8217;m almost ashamed to talk about it publicly. I know it&#8217;s my own brain, and I put all the stuff into that subconscious soup that&#8217;s now bubbling to the surface, but it feels too easy. It&#8217;s like cheating. It&#8217;s like a gift.</p> <p>On the other hand, maybe it&#8217;s less of a gift and more of a nag. Maybe my self-conscious wants me to write faster, and won&#8217;t stop putting the spurs to me until I pick up the pace&#8230;.</p>