Tuesday, June 29, 2004
We got a late start today, but it was intentional. After yesterday, we needed to take the morning easier. This afternoon, after lunch, we headed back to Providence to the Athenaeum. Located at 251 Benefit Street, it's the fourth oldest library in America (1838, though its roots go back to 1753) and has been used by Poe, Audubon, Longfellow, Emerson, and, of course, Lovecraft. We spent two hours in the reading room, down on the lower floor, letting the afternoon slip away while we prowled the stacks. Though the Athenaeum stopped adding to its card catalog in 1998, it still feels like a real library, and there's not a frelling flourescent light in sight. I skimmed through books on New England history and martime disasters and such and made notes for Daughter of Hounds, but mostly I just enjoyed being in such a quiet, book-filled space. As Spooky said, it feels good to be somewhere that's been around for a long time.
We left the Athenaeum about five o'clock, and walked north along Benefit past the Rhode Island School of Design until we reached 187 Benefit, which was once a funeral parlour. This is where Lovecraft's body was taken after his death; these days it's part of the School of Design. Then we walked east up the painfully steep South Court Street before heading back south to the spot where we'd parked the car on Brown Street. The sun was slipping behind the skyline, and the air was cool and sweet and smelled of growing things. I could so easily fall in love with this place. No, I have fallen in love with Providence; it's only the long, cold winters that I fear.
Next we went to 10 Barnes Street, where HPL lived from 1926 until 1933. This is the house where he wrote his most accomplished stories, including "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," "At the Mountains of Madness," and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." I don't think the building has changed much in the last three-quarters of a century, in form or function. It still rents one and two bedroom apartments. We took a few photographs, then headed for Woonsocket, about ten miles northwest of Benefit Street.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Woonsocket. I only went because the name means "a place of deep descent" in Algonquin. We took 122 from Providence, and though the land rose to wooded hills, we could see little for the leprous carpet of strip malls and fast-food joints along the roadside. But then we reached Woonsocket, and here was the sort of town I'd always pictured when imagining spooky, old New England towns stranded in modernity. Built along the winding banks of the Blackstone River, its a fine collection of mills (most now abandoned or converted to other uses), cemeteries, and churches. We crossed the river and visited St. Paul Cemetery first, which is predominantly Irish. I've always been impressed at how old cemeteries have distinct personalities. St. Paul's, for example, is rather homely and straightforward. I imagine mostly millworkers are buried here. But then we went to Oak Grove Cememtery, a smaller, almost entirely English cememtery. Hidden atop a densely forested hill above the river, it was secretive and a little creepy (it was getting dark by this time). Next we visited the Sacred Blood Cemetery (or Cimetiere du Precieux Sang, as the wrought-iron archway at its entrance declared), a predominantly French Canadian cemetery, which was haughty, regardless of the grit and soot about it. It wasn't the least bit creepy, despite the advancing night, perhaps because it seemed so very full of itself. Lastly, we went to Union Cemetery (across from a Quaker meeting house), which seemed dominated by no particular nationality. It just felt peaceful, and we examined some of the older (18th century) gravestones as the half-moon rose above the trees. We're going to try to get back to Woonsocket before we leave, as I think it will have some important role in the novel, and there's much I need to learn and see.
It's late, and I'm tired, and I wish I were expressing myself better. Someone's going to get pissed about that last paragraph, someone Irish, or French Canadian, or English, or Quaker, or all of the above. We didn't have time to see the Jewish cemetery, so at least i know that it won't be someone Jewish.
Travel is never easy for me. This trip is no exception. But it is proving very wonderful, nonetheless.
P.S. -- I've not yet had time to see Fahrenheit 9/11, but I am more than a little annoyed at people complaining because Michael Moore's intent is to convince the audience. Well, duh. Yes, he's editorializing, and no, he isn't being impartial. That's the point.
When I was younger, I thought nothing of clamboring about on precarious rockfaces and in quarries. I was studying to be a paleontologist, so it's what I did. But I've spent the last twelve years or so sitting on my butt writing, and I was truly very pleasantly surprised yesterday to learn how much agility I've retained. We drove back out to Beavertail, because I didn't get nearly enough of it the first time, and we wanted another shot at finding the trilobite-bearing layers. There was no mist, but we walked farther north, towards Lion Head, scrambling over the metamorphosed shales (phyllites) of the Jamestown Formation, warped and folded during the Alleghanian orogeny (about 275 million years ago). We didn't reach the fossiliferous beds, but we did get a great work-out. The sun was bright, the wind strong and clean, and we paused at deep, clear tidal pools filled with various species of sea weed. There were the usual blue mussels and periwinkles and other snails. At and below the water line, the great, tilted layers of rock were covered with millions of tiny barnacles (Northern Rock Barnacle, Chthalamus fragilis). I took off my shoes and waded in. Once again, the water was so cold my feet quickly began to numb. I'd love to snorkel in some of these pools, but I'd definitely need a wet suit. There were gulls and cormorants and mallards. We were almost alone out there, passing only a few other people.
Afterwards, we stopped at a Del's Lemonade truck parked at Mackerel Cove Beach, I had my first Del's. It's sort of like a lemon Slushy, only much better. But I still have to try Coffee Milk, the RI State Drink.
We left Conanicut Island and drove into Providence, out to Swan Point Cemetery where Lovecraft is buried. I visited Swan Point in June of 2000, and that visit inspired "So Runs the World Away." Also, that's the day I found the name Narcissa Snow on one of the cemetery's monuments. Yesterday, I left a small toy frog on Lovecraft's headstone, just like before. There weren't so many other offerings this time. My first visit, there were coins and stones and a couple of long, hand-written letters. The custodians must clear all those things away from time to time.We made of rubbing of the headstone, then wandered about the cemetery (which will appear prominently in Daughter of Hounds), taking video and stills, finding names (though the names in Swan Point aren't nearly so good as the names over in the Old North). Spooky spent a lot of time in Swan Point when she was in college. We hung around until it closed at 7 p.m., then headed over to the Ladd Observatory (where Lovecraft indulged his childhood fascination for astronomy) and sat for a while, watching the sun start to set. We stopped by a Whole Foods, and Spooky found the long-sought-after ginger Altoids. There was much rejoicing. We headed south along Route 2, through Exeter. At some point, we passed near to the spot where the "vampire" Mercy Brown was buried and her heart burned.
There was so much more. I'm skimming.
Here are a few photos from yesterday, and then I have to get dressed and get out of here:
This one was taken Sunday at the Roger Williams Museum of Natural History. Spooky says the bear needs a fez. I agree.
I'm not kidding, the water here is cold.
Rocks from the Age of Trilobites!
At Lovecraft's grave. "I Am Providence." My bachtrachian gift is visible to the left.
Monday, June 28, 2004
I've been composing tonight's entry in my head all evening, but now I think I'm just too frelling tired to write it. So, with apologies, I'm putting it off until the morning. I need to lie still and sleep. It was a long, long day today. I'll do an entry before we go out tomorrow afternoon, with a few more photos.
I saw a little black T-shirt in a store window on Thayer Street in Providence today. You have to understand, it was a precious T-shirt, on a shapely little mannequin. I'd just spent an hour or so surrounded by many examples of That Certain Sort of College Girl. You know, the ones who're going to Brown (or wherever) to major in Marriage. Anyway, on the front of the shirt was printed the slogan, "I will never stop dreaming." Trite turns my stomach worse than maggots. Hell, trite turns my stomach worse than Republican politicians. "'I will never stop dreaming,'" I said to Spooky, quoting that curs'd shirt, and added, "Until I'm 40, my tits are sagging, and my husband has a mistress." I hope that was printed on the back of the T-shirt. I didn't look to see. Facts have an inconvenient way of destroying hope.
There are Yankees here in Rhode Island who think, just because it's June, it's summer. They are, of course, mistaken. The lows last night were somewhere in the forties. The highs today were somewhere in the seventies. That's spring, at best. It looked more like autumn, except everything was green. I think the sky is never summer here. It has that bottomless blue of October. That blue that makes me feel as though I might fall upwards.
What did we do today? Well, there was Thayer Street. We had an early lunch there at a Greek restaurant called Andreas. We walked about the Brown University campus, admiring the architecture. I was especially taken with the old Applied Mathematics building. We stopped by 598 Angell Street, where Lovecraft lived from 1904-1924. Across the street, there's a marvelous house that I think shall be important to Daughter of Hounds. I took a maple leaf from the tree in its front yard. We paused at 135 Benefit Street (Lovecraft's "shunned house"; my "yellow house on Benefit Street"). We visited the Old North Burial Ground and spent much of the afternoon gleaning names from gravestones. The best character names come from gravestones. Narcissa Snow, for example, came from a gravestone in Swan Point. After the press of Thayer Street, the abandoned graveyard was a welcome change. I can be in a crowd of dead people with no ill effects whatsoever. Funny, that. But Spooky and I both noticed a general unpleasantness about Old North that we don't tend to associate with cemeteries. It didn't feel right, or healthy, or...I can't quite find the word. So we didn't stay as long as we might have.
Then we drove down to Roger Williams Park, near Cranston, and visited the Museum of Natural History just before it closed. It's a quaint little affair. The building that houses it is marvelous, but the collection seems mostly to have been donated by local natural history enthusiasts and is displayed in an entirely haphazard fashion. I suspect a lack of funds. I did see some Carboniferous-aged plant fossils from Pawtucket, and there were some spectacular remains of a right whale just inside the entrance (both mandibles and three vertebrae). When the museum closed, we drove down to Scarborough Beach, though it's not a beach I'm particularly fond of; too much sea weed, stinking at low tide, and too many tourist. As the sun set, we walked to the ruins at the north end of the beach, where the sand is replaced by an outcrop of the Permian-aged (275 million years old) Narragansett Pier Granite. The stone ruins are fairly dramatic, and Spooky says they're all that remains of a restaurant or night club that burned back in the forties. Spooky says she may be misremembering, so don't quote her. After dark, we drove over the state line to Stonington, just to have someplace to go until we were too tired to go anymore.
That was today. Better than frelling yesterday.
Fun fact: I have discovered that wild grapes are the kudzu of the North. It even grows into monsters, just like kudzu! From a few feet away, the leaves look almost identical. I wonder if goats will eat it; they won't eat kudzu.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
This morning we decided to drive out to Sakonnet Point, over near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts state line, in the mistaken belief that their might be something over there worth seeing. The day was bright and clear and coolish. We crossed the Newport Toll Bridge and the Sakonnet Bridge, then turned south, driving through Tiverton and Little Compton. It's mostly farmland out that way, the sort of scenery that grows dull after the fourth horse and the fifth orchard. After a two-hour drive, we discovered that the only thing at Sakonnet Point was a private beach and a gate forbidding us from actually reaching Sakonnet Point.
By this time it was 3 p.m., and the better part of the day was behind us. Discouraged, we headed back the way we'd come. We wound up in Newport, trapped in the swarm of tourists and traffic. It wasn't as bad as Panama City at Spring Break or the French Quarter at Mardi Gras, but it was plenty bad enough. Everyone waddling about, sunburned and wearing the exact same expressions I'd seen on the cows out in Little Compton. I wondered allowed what Newport must have been like once upon a time, before its conversion to a sort of New England Disneyland. It would have been something to see then, when it was Something, instead of the tawdry, over-priced caricature of Something. We drove on, past the waters of the harbour, bristling the masts of sloops and yachts, to Fort Adams State Park, then around to Breton Point State Park on the southern side of the island. There were far fewer tourists here, and a little bit of rocky coastline. But it was nothing to compare with Beavertail, and the air smelled of dead fish and sewage. I took pictures of a small crab in a tidal pool and a couple of ruined lobster pots that had washed up on the rocks (Precambrian-aged metamorphics). We drove on, noting a flock of Canada Geese along the shore off Hazard's Beach before we turned north on Bellevue Avenue. Mansions, very old trees, and more traffic. We passed the Museum of American Illustration, and regretted we'd not known about it earlier in the day.
Before crossing the bridge back to Conanicut Island, we stopped at the Common Burying Ground. It was the only pleasant and productive part of the day. We wandered among the shale, granite and marble gravestones, dating from the 17th-20th century. It'll be a location in Daughter of Hounds. Spooky took photos, a few of which I'll try to post tomorrow. Then a sudden downpour forced us to dash back to the van and curtailed further exploration.
And that was today. Blah.
Here are a few photos from the last couple of days, as promised:
In the sleeper car.
Spooky reading in the sleeper car.
Self-portrait. You can see the top of Spooky's head in there somewhere.
Greater Black-Backed Gulls near Lion's Head, Conanicut Island.
Evidence of the aforementioned 29-lb. lobsters. My arm for scale.
Spooky wading just below the ruins of the old lighthouse.
Beavertail Lighthouse, through the fog.
And, by the way, dial-up frelling sucks.
Something quick, because we're running late again. This morning, Spooky and I uploaded photos to my iBook and resized them, and this evening I'll get some in the blog/LJ. A few from the train and some from yesterday. So...stay tuned.
Friday, June 25, 2004
I just asked Spooky, "God, how do you write about a day like today?" And she replied, "I don't know." But I suppose I'll have to do better than that. How do I write about a day like today? I think I experienced more in the six hours between two and eight p.m. today than I usually experience in a month. It feels that way. My head feels stuffed to overflowing, and I begin to understand (as opposed to merely knowing) the reasons I've had so much trouble writing the last year or two.
If there are numerous typos in the following, your mind can amuse itself playing copyeditor.
We were much later getting up and out today than we'd planned, no doubt because we were so tired last night after doing 12 states in 21 hours on Amtrak. Not long before we left, I made some comment or another about wishing I new more about the local geology, and Spooky's mother produced two books -- Rhode Island Geology for the Non-Geologist and Rhode Island: The Last Billion Years. I made a delighted sound, thumbed through the latter, and saw that one of the few places in Rhode Island where metamorphic and igneous processes have not destroyed all evidence of fossils in just west of here, at the southern tip of Conanicut Island. We'd had no other specific destination in mind, so that's where we headed. Up to Plum Point and over the Jamestown Bridge to Jamestown, then down to Beavertail State Park. My gods, what beautiful coastline. I know I'll write a story set there someday, so I'll say only a few things now.
We parked near the lighthouse as a heavy mist was rolling in from the Sound. The sun became a bright smudge lost in the haze and it grew cooler (the day had been much warmer than yesterday). We poked about the dramatic exposures of the Middle Cambrian-aged (about 550 million years old) Jamestown Formation, hoping to see a trilobite or two. Trilobites from this location are important, because they are identical to African species of Middle Cambrian age and bear little resemblance to species seen elsewhere in New England, providing evidence of continental drift. But it was hard to think about fossils. The smell of salt water and wild flowers, the crash of the waves on the rocks. Spooky found some quartz and pyrite crystals, but that was really the extent of our geologizing. There were periwinkes and blue mussels on the rocks, in tide pools, and washed up here and there. Just offshore, a couple of double-crested cormorants were fishing, their snakey necks occassionally appearing above the surface like minature plesiosaurs. We climbed down into a little cove just below the crumbling foundation of the original lighthouse, where the water was crystal clear and green. I took off my shoes and waded in. The water was cold and my feet began to numb almost at once.
I had a moment there, and I expect it's something I'll write about in the next novel. An intense awareness that I stood at the edge of the continent, between the land and sea and sky. It was dizzying and a little frightening, sad and joyful and utterly exhilirating. I gasped. I shut my eyes and opened them again. I laughed out loud.
There were birds everywhere on the island, and I wished Poppy were there to see them. Besides the cormorants, we saw red-winged blackbirds, robins, barn swallows, a grackle, two species of gull (as best I can tell, Herring and Greater Black-Backed gulls), ravens, and a largish egret (I'm not sure of the species). There were also rabbits, and rabbits, and more rabbits.
There was a small "aquarium" attached to the lighthouse, actually a collection of little tanks that kind of reminded me of the trailer I wrote in "Postcards from the King of Tides." We looked at sea robins and a well-hidden flounder and saw some absolutely enormous lobster remains (I have pictures of the later, which I promise to post eventually). Can you even imagine the claws a 29-pound lobster would have?
We left Beavertail and drove over to Fort Wetherhill State Park on the other side of Mackerel Cove. By this time, the fog was getting very heavy, turning afternoon to twilight. I skipped stones and we walked about the old WWII fortifications. Then we circled the entire perimeter of Conanicut Island before heading back west, across the bridge. We drove south to Narragansett, then on to Galilee, where we had fish and clam cakes at Georges. I think we were starving after all the fresh air and clambering about on rocks. We ate in the back of the van outside the restaurant, and it was very pleasant, except for the obese, garishly dressed tourists and some idiot with a guitar playing Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor songs. After dinner, we drove through the fog and failing daylight all the way to Westerly and down to Watch Hil Point. But it was so cold and dark and misty we gave up looking for the lighthouse after we found the Flying Horse Carousel (built in the late 19th century and still spinning kids about in circles).
Tomorrow I think we'll drive into Providence and spend the day looking at Lovecraft-related sites and such-like, though I'm sorely tempted to head straight back to Beavertail and that little cove below the lighthouse.
We're here, in Rhode Island, and I'm way, way too tired to be writing this or anything else. There's some very distracting crap on the television in the room where we're sleeping. The train from Atlanta to New York was mostly wonderful, even though we had to cram all our luggage into the tiny sleeper car, because a thunderstorm took out the electricity at the Atlanta depot, apparently eliminating Amtrak's ability to check bags. Oh, and for dinner last night we ordered the lamb, which I'm pretty sure was actually camel. But otherwise, it was fine.
I awoke this morning to fog, somewhere in Virginia.
Sadly, we had to switch trains at Penn Station, surely one of the vilest spots on the face of the earth. We were stuck there for about an hour, waiting on the train to Kingston. Foul odors, filthy restrooms, fluorescent lighting, far too many humans, fast food, stale air...if it sucks, you can find it at Penn Station. We were approached by a tall, bearded saxophone player who wanted to know if Spooky and I had come to protest the Republican National Convention. We told him no, that were weren't, and didn't point out that the RNC was still two months off. So then he wanted to know if we were vampires, because we looked so "wild." Someday, I will learn to answer yes to the vampire question. Shortly after the saxophone player, we were panhandled by a narcoleptic crack whore. I really hate Penn Station.
We were coach from NYC to Rhode Island, which would have been fine, if not for a woman at the front of the car who seemed to think everyone needed to hear every word she said. Oh, and the woman behind us on her cell phone, chattering away in corporatese. Spooky's parents, whom I'd not previously met, were waiting for us in Kingston. Right off, they noticed I'm tall, but seemed to approve. Here mother fed us spaghetti for dinner, and then we drove down to Point Judith and Scarborough Beach. After 22.5 hours train time, the moonlight walk in the sand did wonders for our nerves, I think. We drove back through places with names like Peacedale and Wakefield, places I'd never been, but that Spooky has known since she was a child.
The weather is cool here, and we brought little in the way of warm clothes. One of us should have known better.
I have no idea what we'll be doing tomorrow. Tonight, we're going to read a little and get some sleep. It's dark out here, the sort of dark it never gets in Atlanta. Oh, and Spooky, who's birthday has been over for about forty-two minutes, thanks everyone who sent her cool gifts.
Tomorrow, or, rather, later today, we'll try to post some photos from the train.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Yet more evidence that I am a Wrong Thing. People die, and it affects me hardly at all. I don't know how long it's been since the death of a human has truly affected me. Many, many years. But a tree dies, and I almost shut down. Which is to say that the Asian pear in the courtyard, the one I wrote about last week, wasn't saved. As I write this, it's being cut down and fed through some huge yellow tree-eating machine, the chewed up bits spat out into the back of a big white truck. I suspect more effort could have been expended to save it, but the people who own this place, well, never mind about that. I took a few pictures of the tree yesterday evening. Here's one:
And another shot, of the place where the fallen section lay last week:
Last night, about nine forty-five, as the dusk was turning to night, I looked out the front door and thought how this was the pear tree's last twilight, after all the decades, and that it would only get one more morning. I wanted to go burn candles beneath it, because that felt like the right thing to do. But I didn't. I often don't do what I know is the right thing to do, because I fear it will look strange to those around me who are not Wrong Things.
This morning, I'm playing the stereo in the living room loud, trying to block out the noises of the tree-eating machine and the chainsaws. It isn't working very well. Now the courtyard will be exposed to the sun. I doubt it'll be a pleasant place now, though there are still the hydrangea bushes. Ah, well. We're leaving here in December, anyhow. At least the tree didn't die in winter. Winter deaths are the worst of all.
Yesterday was frantic, as one would expect of the day before a trip that will last two weeks or longer. But we did manage to proof "Night Story, 1973." I am very fond of this story. It was almost like reading it for the first time. It's one of those things I wrote at a very busy time, one of those things I wrote and forgot. I'm glad it's being reprinted in The Last Pentacle of the Sun. And in a lost month, it was good to do a little work.
There's so much last minute stuff to be done today. I'm clearing mp3 files off Hinderance so there will be room to store jpgs on the trip. I erased half a gig of mp3s last night. Images are very important to my writing, and we'll be taking a lot of reference photos this trip to be used while I write Daughter of Hounds. I also got the new Nar'eth pin-up online last night. Thanks, Leh'agvoi, for things that make me smile.
I'm going to try very hard to make an entry every day during the trip. I'll include some photos. We'll be spending a couple of days in New York City with Peter Straub. We're driving up to Ipswich and Cape Ann to look for Innsmouth. We're planning to go to Boston, to visit Chris Ewen (Future Bible Heroes) and see the New England Aquarium. There will be a great deal of exploring around Providence, southern Rhode island, perhaps Stonington, Connecticut. There are many cemeteries I need to visit. We've talked of driving as far west as Amherst, and as far north as Nova Scotia. We shall see. We'll will be driven to the station by Byron; it seems fitting we have a boy to see us off. But now I have to go finish packing, and all the other stuff yet to be done. It's already eleven forty-five...
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Last night, I watched the second half of Night of the Living Swamp Yankees...er...I mean 'Salem's Lot. What a ridiculous mess. I've never been very fond of the 1979 adaptation, but it's far and away superior to the hatchet job that Mikael Salomon has performed on King's novel. Indeed, there's little remaining of the novel in this fang'd turkey, and I kept thinking, Surely he has enough money that this wasn't necessary. But maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe it's that Stephen King has long since ceased to care what people do to his work. I remember the fuss he made about Kubrick's version of The Shining, but, hell, at least that was a good film, even if it wasn't a particularly faithful adaptation of the novel. Who on the gods' green earth thought that Rob Lowe would make a good Ben Mears? And why rewrite the story to the point that it's all but unrecognizable? I'd love to see a few explanations for this atrocity, but I doubt they'll be forthcoming. And poor Donald Sutherland, hopping about like Edward Gorey's demented twin brother. Someone should hurt for this, in that dank level of Hell reserved for the perpetrators of dull, stupid, lifeless television films. But it did make me want to read the novel again, if only to remind myself that I have cause to be angry at all the whoevers responsible for that script.
I think my skull needs an enema.
Looking at the calendar this morning, crossing off the day, I realized that I've somehow managed to lose almost an entire month. You'd think I were a rich woman, behaving like this, frittering away time that might have been spent writing. You'd think people were churning out unwatchable made-for-TV movies with my name plastered upon them.
Tomorrow night, we leave for Kingston, and there's so much to do that hasn't been done.
And I still have to proof the galleys of "Night Story, 1973."
This morning, the baby thrashers are wiggling about in their nest, and Spooky got this shot of a young cardinal in a bush outside the livingroom window:
They've got guest biographies up at the Fiddler's Green website. Jean-Pierre, the the Existentialist Snail, is so pleased we were asked to be a part of this convention.
We had a wonderful couple of thunderstorms yesterday.
And I'm prattling on, aren't I? Disconnected thoughts. Random paragraphy.
Leh'agvoi (aka, Setsuled) just sent me a new Nar'eth pin up, which I hope I'll have time to add to Nebari.net later today, or maybe tomorrow morning. Inspired by my recent difficulties with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it's sort of a collision of Hindu weaponry and Nebari anatomy. I'm pleased. Now I should shut up and make myself some semblance of useful...
Monday, June 21, 2004
Jesus frelling Christ, I hate the frelling mall. What viler institution has mankind ever devised to inflict upon itself (well, there's football...and Kid Rock...but still)? Ugh. Feh. Blegh. If I am very lucky, I'll have no reason to enter a shopping mall again for at least another six long months. At least. I'd forgotten how frustrating it can be to buy very simple, stylish clothes. Especially in this age of what Spooky refers to as the Britney Spears Whore Child. Really, I sat on a bench watching them, the people, marching back and forth, back and forth, consuming, and I marveled at how most of the men were dressed like little boys and most of the women were dressed like hookers. I saw women wearing articles of "clothing" that simply defied description. I know I'm asking for too much, hoping that I'll live to see the great NeoVictorian-steampunk fashion revolution of 2078, with its somaform corsetry and mood-regulating shirtwaists, but for fek's sake, can't people do just a little better than this? Were I still a human, I'd be ashamed, instead of merely annoyed and nauseated. I feel as though I should wash my eyeballs, but that always gives me such a headache.
Anyway, that's done. Over. History. We also stopped by the depot on Peachtree Street and picked up our tickets, so we won't have to frell about with that come Wednesday evening. Atlanta has a nice train station, very much better than Birmingham's. In fact, it's possibly the most pleasant place I've been since we moved to Atlanta, and gives me the same comfort I used to get from the Southern History Dept. of the old Birmingham Public Library — age and dignity and substance. I think the best part about the trip is that I will get large doses of all three of those things. You only need know where to look.
Gods, my brain's still all boggy and nervous from the mall.
It's starting to look as though my reading at Dragon*Con will be Sunday afternoon at 5:30 (September 5th). I'd have preferred Saturday, but apparently that wasn't an option. I requested a larger room this year, because the readings have been packed wall to wall the last two years, and at least I got that, so I really shouldn't argue. It's just that by Sunday I'll be Nar'eth, and the last time I let her do a reading...well, the less said the better.
I'll arrange for handlers. And I least I shan't be the only Nebari...
So, today I really do have to go frelling shopping, having put it off almost as long as I can. At least there will no weekend crowds.
I hope that there will be time tomorrow to proof "Night Story, 1973." And I'm also hoping that its inclusion in The Last Pentacle of the Sun leads to a few people picking up the book, people who might not have picked it up otherwise. After all, this story, co-written by me and Poppy, and concerning Ghost's childhood, has only previously been published in the sold-out From Weird and Distant Shores.
The brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) who built her nest outside our bedroom window now has newly hatched nestlings. Which seems appropriate for the first day of summer. Though, truthfully, I count the first day of summer from the beginning of June, following my childhood calendar of summer vacations.
My thanks to Matt Williams for an amusing e-mail this morning. He writes (of the blog/LJ):
Thanks for providing me with something to read while I should be working; the obvious suffering that you endure for your art makes me feel almost guilty about thanking you for the books.
As well you should, Matt. At last, someone who understands!
Last night, right about 3 a.m., Spooky and I finished up The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Wow. What a totally drad game. This is what games should be. The story was not an afterthought, but the main attraction. Indeed, there's more story here than in Peter Chung's Dark Fury. I cannot recommend this game strongly enough. But always rent before you buy, as your tastes may differ from mine, and I'd hate to be responsible for someone spending $50 on a game they wind up hating. It took us about 21 hours to play, which is fair enough. Thanks again to Greg, for such a fine and lingering -0th birthday present, and to the phorum gang for giving me the XBox.
Only a couple of days remaining until we leave for Kingston (and Saunderstown, and Providence, and Boston, and NYC, and Cape Ann, and all those other destinations). I wish I traveled better.
If I stop writing and end this entry, I have to go brush my teeth, and exercise, and get dressed, and go out into the sun to buy frelling clothes. Would that I could think of about ten thousand more words worth putting down here this morning...
Sunday, June 20, 2004
This isn't going to be the post I wanted it to be, because Spooky and I spent four hours this afternoon tweaking and correcting and plain ol' rewriting "Breakfast in the House of the Rising Sun." Now it's 7:37 p.m., and I intend to watch the new version of 'Salem's Lot at 8, so I really haven't the time for a longish post. The rewrite was a much bigger undertaking than I'd expected. But then I've never really done anything like this before, going back to a story that I wrote many years ago (in this case, seven years ago) and trying to retrofit it to something more closely approximating my present writing style. It's probably a bad idea to try such a thing, but I love the story and have grown uncomfortable with a lot of things about the style in which it was originally written. Doing this violates my once-held view of fiction as fixed temporal artefact, but these days I'm violating a lot of maxims and philosophies and views I once held as sacrosanct. Time marches on, like a herd of intoxicated elephants, dragging me with it. I'd stop if I could. Anyway, I now have a somewhat different version of "Breakfast in the House of the Rising Sun," different from the version that was first published in Noirotica 2: Pulp Friction (hands down the most embarrasing title of any anthology I've ever been a part of, by the way), then reprinted in Tales of Pain and Wonder. This version will appear next spring in Men of Mystery: Erotic Tales of Intrigue and Suspense (edited by Sean Meriwether and Greg Wharton). I really wish I could have spent twelve hours on the rewrite instead of four, but we're so pressed for time just now. I've already told Spooky that I'll probably rewrite this story again someday.
You know what? Frell it. I'm going to watch frelling 'Salem's Lot, and then I'll come back and finish this entry...
...so, as I was saying.
There was a time I never would have considered doing that sort of rewrite, but when the editors of Men of Mystery asked to reprint the story, and I looked at it for the first time in years, the language that I once worked so hard to get just so, just exactly the way it was, seemed rough, disjunct, either unpolished or polished too much. And so, the four hours I spent today revisiting Jimmy DeSade and Rabbit and Arlo and JoJo Franklin's molly house.
Before I forget, my thanks to Kirin, for the latest -0th birthday present, copies of The Dunwich Horror and War-Gods of the Deep on DVD.
Was there something else I was going to say?
There's thunder outside, and lightning.
And I have a headache. So maybe that's enough for tonight. Perhaps my mind will be clearer in the morning. Stranger things have happened.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
We're about to head out for dinner, Thai or sushi, something spicy and summery, but I wanted to make a quick entry first. I finally remembered what else has to be read — "Breakfast in the House of the Rising Sun," which is being reprinted in an anthology of dark gay erotica. So, yes, two stories really do have to be proofread before my train leaves for Rhode Island.
Fortunately, we're not leaving until Wednesday evening. Spooky got the tickets this afternoon, and we saved a little money by waiting until Wednesday. Apparently fares are getting unstable as we approach Independence Day. That gave us an extra day for all the dren that needs doing.
I was supposed to go shopping today, because I need a few new things, because I never buy clothes. That's one of those things about me that sometimes surprises people. I hate shopping. I hate the stores and the salespeople and the other customers and the lighting and looking at myself in dressing-room mirrors and the moment when the cash register rings up the inevitable total. I hate it all. I much prefer shopping via the internet, and I do so whenever possible. It's so much easier to order online than to brave the mall. This works really well for my more esoteric articles of clothing — corsetry, Victoriana, fetishy stuff, etc. — but not so well for those practical everyday clothes. So, sooner or later, usually only once or twice a year, I am forced to shop.
I'd rather...well, you really don't want to know the things I'd do to get out of shopping. And if you do want to know, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Spooky just interrupted me and took the following picture. The digital camera shall be the death of me.
Portrait of the Artist as a Blonde. And speaking of which, my thanks to everyone for their comments yesterday on the new hair. You are a persuasive lot. I believe I'm going to give it a chance. I'm starting to get used to it.
Last night's Kid Night movie was the fairly ghoulish Shuang tong (aka, Double Vision). We only did one movie, so we'd have more time for Riddick and Butcher Bay. Even so, we were up until four a.m. We reached the hanger, where there were two very pissed off mech guards waiting, at which point I announced it was time to sleep. We may actually finish the game by tomorrow night. It still rocks.
Now. I go eat.
Friday, June 18, 2004
The Murder of Angels ARC auctions are over. My thanks to everyone who bid. You were all extremely generous. I do hope that you enjoy the novel.
I'm not at all sure how I feel about this blonde thing. This gradual blonding thing. I was fairly happy with it yesterday evening, but this morning, well, I'm just not sure. Here are a couple of photos:
Perhaps I'll just dye it all black again.
I have some proofreading I need to get done before the trip. "Night Story, 1973" for The Last Pentacle of the Sun, and it seemed as though there was something else, but now I can't remember what. Frell, that's annoying. My unreliable memory, I mean. I know that I need to proof the galleys of The Dry Salvages as soon as I get back, but it seemed as though there was another story to be proofed before I leave.
Ah, well. I shall remember, or I shan't.
Last night, while Spooky dyed her hair, I read Theodore Sturgeon's superbly disturbing short story, "The Professor's Teddy Bear." It's possibly the creepiest thing I've read since House of Leaves, and it reminded me what a very fine writer Sturgeon was. It also set me thinking about one of the reasons that I write. It's a form of time travel. Here's this story that Sturgeon first published in Weird Tales way back in 1948, sixteen years before I was born. And last night, fifty-six years after it was originally published, I sat down and read "The Professor's Teddy Bear," and a dead man whom I never met gave me a chill that'll be with me for days. I can only hope that someone who will be born sixteen years from 2004 will pick up a book with something I've written this year — "Alabaster," or "Houses Under the Sea," or "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles" — that they'll pick up one of those stories in 2060, fifty-six years after it was written and first published and feel something. It may be the most than we can hope for in the way of immortality. And I do shamelessly hope for immortality, as do most mortal things.
I really want to finish The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay before we leave on Tuesday evening, but I don't know if I'm going to make it. We played four hours last night, and we've reached (I think) the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth checkpoint (I think there are thirty-six, total). Riddick has planted Jagger Vallance's bomb and released the aliens, and is now trying to find his way to the spaceport. This game just rocks. I think my favorite moment from last night was when I kicked out a ventilation grate, misjudged my position, and fell a good twenty feet to the floor below. Fortunately, there was a guard to break my fall. I'd have had to kill him anyway, but, this way, my graceless screw up lent a much needed moment of humour to relieve the tension. For the most part, I'm impressed with the voice acting in this game. It's much better than average, and there are some great lines. For example, when Riddick gets the bomb from an inmate named Jupiter, whom he tells "I just play the hand I'm dealt. Then I cheat." Nice. I still think it would have worked better as a stritcly third-person game, but that's how I feel about almost everything.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
I am now half blonde. These genetic modifications aren't as painful as I expected; a few more and maybe I'll pass for human. I'll post a picture tomorrow.
Day before yesterday, during a thunderstorm, we had a tree in the courtyard come down. The eastward half of it split and fell, possibly after a lightning strike, possibly just from the wind. Though it came down on the passageway connecting the 1914 section of the building with the 1940's section, no windows were broken. We don't yet know whether there's structural damage under all that fallen leafiness. Here are a couple of photos Spooky took yesterday afternoon:
Fallen and damaged trees tend to upset me a great deal. The building can be mended, but that tree's probably forty or fifty years old (and we need the shade). We don't yet know if the remaining portion will have to be cut down. I think those two potting tables are history, though.
Having eaten far too much spaghetti for dinner, I shall now go curl up in a dark place and digest.
It's best if we just forget about that last entry. But it did serve to remind me why I think some emotions and situations should be dealt with privately. This is a reaffirmation of my antiquated sentiment. Some of the personal and societal walls that Blogger and LJ entice us to tear down are there for a reason, and I believe that I shall remain behind mine from here on, as much as possible. I have my little black book for the things I shouldn't say here, for all that unsightly wallowing, and it's a jealous little black book.
If we're really leaving here for Rhode Island on Tuesday evening, Spooky and I have a nightmarish lot of dren to get done today and over the next four days. All those things that get done before long, long trips. Dry cleaning. Packing. Buying a few new clothes. All the stuff from the drug store. A hundred other things that I can't think of because I'm no good at thinking about these sort of things. When it comes to travel, I rely on someone else to point me and push. Push hard. I have a hair and eyebrow appointment at 2:45 this afternoon, and then at least that will be out of the way.
Yesterday, we picked up a copy of Peter Chung's The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury anime. Very cool and a steal at $12.99 (which is what I think we paid for it). It does a good job of filling in some of the space between Pitch Black and the new film, and it was nice to see (or at least hear) Rhiana Griffith reprise her role as Jack.
I reread Giger's Alien yesterday, and there's a nice bit of public bitterness over the inevitable conflicts between art and commerce.
The very last of the Murder of Angels ARC auctions has entered its final 24 hours. There are some notable differences between this version of the book and that which will be published in September, as I did more rewriting in the first-pass galleys than I usually do. Good luck, should you choose to bid.
I'll make another entry later today. Now I have to get dressed and consider stepping out into the heat and light and the cluttered world of human beings.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I almost worked yesterday. I made more notes for Daughter of Hounds. Well, actually it seemed like I was making notes about my misgivings about doing another novel now, another novel about these characters now, and about doing a novel set twenty years from now that isn't a science-fiction novel, and the things I might could change about my work so everyone would love me, so I would become a Household Name, so next time I'll have three years to write a novel that needs three years to be written, trying to fathom what the fuck it is exactly that people want from me, from books, from stories, and I know goddamn well the only opinions that matter are those of other writers, because no one else has any idea what the hell they're talking about, and, really, I went on like this for quite some time, pretending I was making notes for Daughter of Hounds. I also made notes for a long sf story that I'd write tomorrow if only prose were capable of communicating action as deftly and beautifully as is film. My imagination asks so much more of this English language tool than it can ever give.
I can see things that I could never hope to describe, much less describe with any semblance of art.
Oh gods, there's that word again.
I need to take steel wool and hyrochloric acid and scrub that useless word from my mind.
There were other bits and pieces to yesterday, though none of them seem to warrent recollection. There were storms. Those were good. I have nothing ill to say about the thunderstorms. I lay in bed and tried to hold just one moment of deafening thunder in my head and keep it there, so I could always have it, whenever I needed it, but it dissolved as the moment dissolved.
There was a long conversation with Spooky about how hard it is just now, how hard it's been the past two years, the writing, the indeterminate, unpredictable Audience, the weariness. I might have saved my breath. Conversations like that are borne of too many years wasted in therapy, years that ingrained in me the mistaken belief that talking helps. Talking only underscores the futility and the aloneness.
Oh. Yesterday, I also heard an absolutely awful cover of Tom Waits' "Yesterday is Here" by Cat Power. I think Cat Power has only ever impressed me with one song, and that song really did impress me, but the rest of it...feh.
I have to put it all out of my mind, all the rest of it, everything that isn't the next novel. All the distractions. All the uncertainty. None of this matters anyway.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
I just found an uncashed $25 royalty cheque, written on April 7th, hiding in a stack of unfiled papers in my office. I wonder how much more money has been misplaced in here? I'm really very careless with stuff like this.
I was just sitting here pondering everything that I've listed under "interests" on my LiveJournal "about me" page. If you add all that dren up, what's the sum? Is it in any way genuinely descriptive, biographical, illuminatory? Is it trivia, or do these things link together to create at least a broad-stroke cartoon of the person that I've become? I couldn't tell you. But it has me thinking. For example, perhaps the things that I've left out are more important than the things I've listed.
Yesterday, Well, I didn't write, but I bet you already knew that. To my ever-diminishing credit, I did think about writing. I intend to think about it with substantially more fervor today. Indeed, if I do nothing more than make notes for Daughter of Hounds and perhaps work on one of my many unfinished sonnets, I will write something. But if I didn't write, at least I was not entirely sessile yesterday. I did a bit of housecleaning (not quite as unpleasant as writing), and then Spooky and I went to Whole Foods over on Ponce to get the days shopping done. Whole Foods is one of the few "grocery stores" I can stand to be in. It mostly comes down to lighting. The stark, shadowless fluorescence in places like Public and Kroger make me want to hide someplace dark. Anyway, for dinner we made a chicken stew (one whole hen, fresh garlic, fresh cilantro, green onions, a red bell pepper, black pepper, thyme, cumin, sage, bay, oregano, shitake mushrooms, baby porta bella mushrooms, fresh spinach, salt, a large white onion, and celery). I like doing stews, in part because they last for two or three days, alleviating the need to cook again immediately. After dinner, more television: first a little documentary on the making of the video for The Cure's new song, "The End of the World" and then an episode of Farscape ("Lava's a Many Spendored Thing"). Then more XBox, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. I fell asleep to Blade Runner, as I often do. And that was my yesterday. All the parts I care to mention, at least.
It has now been determined that Spooky and I shall depart Atlanta on June 22nd, so that she can be at her parents on her birthday. I think it will be a sleeper car, and maybe we'll even sleep. A shame we'll have to change trains in D.C.
I'm pretty sure that I'm about to cease composing these entries in Blogger and begin composing them in LJ, instead. It's just more amenable to my mentality (that sounds a lot better than "user friendly"), and it's a lot easier to make corrections in LJ, which means there will be fewer typos in the Blogger copy, as well, since I usually find most of my mistakes after I post an entry.
Monday, June 14, 2004
It's getting really hard to deny that, post-"Alabaster," I've allowed myself to slip into some sort of doldrum. And exactly how long ago was it that I finished that story? My gods (not that I actually have any, but...), that was twenty-one days ago! For three weeks, I've been sitting here on my ass, exhausted by the last several months, tying up loose ends on Murder of Angels, worrying about money and moving and the impending trip to New England, and I've been getting nothing done. Fuck. It's not like I've taken a vacation. Most days, I've spent shut away in this office, not-writing. I will want that wasted time back, sooner than I'd like to think. A week ago, I resolved to get the next story written. That didn't happen. It's all just dead time. It's all just dead time anyway, though. I mean, whether I write or not. Okay. I'm now entirely lost in the directionless bowels of this paragraph.
Last night, tired from not-writing all day long, I watched television with Spooky. First there was a National Geographic documentary on the London sewers and Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and then, on FMC, The Doctor and the Devils (1985), which would have been a truly stellar film if not for Timothy Dalton's atrocious overacting. And then I spent three hours or so playing The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. This truly is a wonderful game, probably the best I've played since Primal, and I say that as someone with a general dislike for first-person shooters. But the story flows so well, unimpeded by senselessly difficult game play, so it really does feel like an interactive film. And, for Riddick fans, there's loads of stuff in here relating to the two films. Last night, for example, we found out how Riddick got those shiny eyes, and it added a bit of meaning to Jack's frustration in The Chronicles of Riddick, when she asks, "Was anything you told me true?" (or something to that effect). And trying to play with those eyes, looking through them, talk about intense and disorienting. Every light source, every reflective surface, could be your downfall. By the time I quit playing for the night, my eyes were stinging and watering, and I had brilliant orange afterimages floating about before me. And killing those asshole guards just feels right. Sneaking up behind them and breaking their necks feels about a hundred times better. And speaking of Riddick, while standing in line on Friday I overheard a conversation that managed to both mystify and throw light of the ongoing problem of the audience's (that is, the Mass Audience's) whining need for "sympathetic characters." Immediately behind us, a white teenager, stinking of Suburbia and the New South, struck up a conversation with an extraordinarily talkative young Hispanic woman. It went something like this:
Her: Did you see him [Vin Deisel] in that other movie?
Him: Pitch Black?
Her: Yes, that's the one. Did you see him in that? Wasn't that a good movie?
Him: I don't know. It was okay. It was sort of weird.
Him: You know, it was full of weird characters. I didn't really get a lot of those characters.
Him: It was weird. Like, you know, how they [the aliens, I presume] were tracking that girl's blood, that girl they all thought was a boy, that was weird. All those characters were really weird, you know. I just couldn't get them.
Her: But I like Vin Diesel. Don't you?
Him: Yeah, well, his character had some potential, but the plot wasn't much. All those people were just too weird. It'll be interesting to see what they do with his character in this film. I hope it's, like, better. I just couldn't get into those characters.
Her: Yeah? He was sort of an anti-hero, wasn't he?
Him: Yeah, and that was cool, but all those other characters were too weird.
And so on, and on, and on, until I though my head would surely implode before Spooky and I were finally allowed into the theatre. If you're familiar with Pitch Black, I hope that you're scratching your head, trying to recall the "weird" characters therein. Because, having seen the film a few dozen times, I find them a fairly mundane lot. Sure, Johns has that morphine probelm, and Jack was pretending to be a boy, but otherwise, and adjusting for however many centuries from now the film is set, I just don't see any weird characters. The Imam and his boys, because they're Muslim? The antiques dealer, because he might have been gay? If anyone in the film was weird, it would have been the homicidal sociopath with night-vision, not his fellow travelers. If I were a more social person, I'd have turned and asked this kid what the hell he was talking about, but I have enough trouble talking directly to people I know, much less to strangers in a movie theatre. It's overheard conversations like this that tempt me to wear ear plugs in public. I mean, how much second-hand stupid should anyone have to ingest, just to see a movie? And, being me, I can't get it all out of my head. I can't stop thinking about how many billions of times I've heard complaints about how "weird" my characters are (and they are, admittedly, often a lot weirder than anyone in Pitch Black).
I'm walking in little circles.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
So, no Ambien last night, just a single kava, but I slept more than eight full hours. So I think that's the end of my silly experiment with Ambien. A shame that kava is so hard on the liver. My sleep last night was probably aided by the weather. Towards midnight, we began to get lightning, off in the distance, and by one-thirty there was almost constant, brilliant lightning and occassional thunderclaps. A little light rain, too, maybe more after I fell asleep. The storms interferred with the satellite reception while we were trying to watch Sifl and Olly, but otherwise they were much appreciated.
Friday afternoon, on the way home after The Chronicles of Riddick, we stopped at the market to get something for dinner. Spooky remembered there was a little write-up on Farscape: Peacekeeper War in TV Guide, and she got a copy. The next day, I picked it up and noticed the price on the cover: $2.49. Now, I'll admit, it's been a very long time since I bought a TV Guide. Hell, it's possible the last time was way back in the '80s, but I'm pretty sure that I paid something like fifty cents. This is, of course, of no interest to anyone.
We're looking at train fares and thinking we'll probably leave for Rhode Island sometime before Spooky's birthday on June 24th (she has an Amazon wish list, by the way). Which means there's a lot to be done betwixt now and then.
Lately, I've been thinking too much on the nature of popularity and how it pertains to publishing. It's no good to think on these things, unless you're one of the very few, very fortunate authors who has met with great success. And even then the thoughts can be a little daunting, I think, simply because the subject is so fundamentally confounding. I understand that I am a lucky writer. I have sold, to date, seven novels (and I won't bother listing all the other stuff). That alone is an enormous accomplishment, especially given the nature of the novels and of the market during the time that they were sold. I've won awards and praise from my peers and critical acclaim (at least from the citics who have bothered to read me). I've managed to support myself with the proceeds from my writing since 1996. No "day jobs." For tens of thousands of people (maybe a lot more) who daydream, however misguidedly, about becoming published authors, I suppose this all sounds wonderful. But, on the other hand, a hand I spend most of my time staring at, though I rarely discuss it in this blog, my sales have been less than stellar, and my readership, if it is expanding, is doing so at a rate far below that desired by my publisher.
In truth, this puts me in very good company. Many of the writers whom I most admire met with little or no commercial success during their lifetimes. But fantasies of post-mortem fame do little to please editors concerned primarily with the bottom line. The days when midlist authors were respected by the publishing industry vanished back in the seventies. And, of course, there's the matter of my making a living, which has a lot more to do with me coming back to this keyboard day after day after day than most readers would like to think.
Lately, I can't seem to get past the cold fact of "popularity contests." We tend to use that phrase in a strictly pejorative sense, as in, "I don't want anything to do with that. It's just a popularity contest." And yet, that's what publishing is. If you win, it's because you've cracked the secrets of the popularity contest, and if you fail, it's because you never figured it out, or never tried, or no one ever paid to put you at the top of the list, or whatever. And adding to the frustration is the importance of happenstance in this whole enterprise. How does someone achieve popularity? Well, I have to admit, at least in the short run, money helps. The more money is spent promoting your books, the more chance is weighted in your favour. But it's not at all unusual for books with huge advertising budgets to fail. In fact, that's what usually happens to books with huge advertising budgets, if only because that's what happens with most books (and forget the highly questionable and rarely questioned, even if often parroted, Sturgeon's Law; it's about as useful and relevant here as any adage). What really makes for success is that intangible, elusive ability to appeal to large numbers of people, for whatever reason. Authors tend to achieve success in the marketplace by one of two routes: a) an ability to speak the common tongue and tell stories that resonate with a large number of readers, or b) a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In either case, it's mostly luck. This is not an issue of art, or of quality, or of effort. No matter how hard one tries, or how well one writes, the odds of success are roughly the same. The work ethic fails here, along with all those American fantasies of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and naive beliefs that quality will out.
In March (or was it Apri?) of 2002, at the World Horror Convention in Chicago, I had something like the following conversation with another author (whom I shall, in deference to discretion, not name, but who has seen far more market success than I'm ever likely to see):
Me: It's just like high school.
Him: How so?
Me: Never mind. It's not like high school at all.
Him (sounding more confused): What do you mean?
Me: At least in high school there were rules to the popularity game. That's why I was so unpopular. I never minded them, or I could never figure them out, or I was physically excluded by them. But at least there were rules that you could see and understand.
Him: But that didn't change anything, did it?
Me: I don't know. Maybe it did. But that's not the point.
Him: Are you sure you have a point?
Him: Neither am I.
Me: It's just like high school, except the rules are a secret.
Him: That's a very unsettling thought.
Me: But it's true.
Him: Yes, it's true, but what's the use of dwelling on it?
Me: I'm a bitter old cunt.
Him: At least you know it.
Me: That I'm a bitter old cunt?
Him: No. That the rules are a secret. Well, actually, that the rules are unknowable.
Me: Does that give me an advantage?
Him: Not at all.
I hope, when he reads this, if he ever reads this, he forgives me for recalling so much of that conversation, or for putting it down here, or whichever sin I just publically sinned.
But, gods, I'm sick of the popularity contest...
Saturday, June 12, 2004
My brain is like a sieve with very large perforations.
Anyway, I just finished picking over the 2nd-pass proofs of Murder of Angels. For the first chapter or so, my unwavering faith in the human spirit got the better of me, and I thought, just maybe, that production might have done the right thing and fixed all the commas. But then I hit page 41, about one-third of the way down the page. It's like the frelling K/T extinction, except with commas instead of dinosaurs. Most of the non-comma errors were corrected throughout, many of them sitting right next to commas that went unfixed. The production manager had to make a special effort not to correct these. If I did my "job" this way, I wouldn't have one. How can I get a job where pettiness and adherence to arbitrary rules only when it suits my desires would make me a valued employee? I can't imagine being so lazy and taking so little pride in my work. Of course, my name goes on the cover.
But. It's time to move on. I'm sick to death of having to think about this.
I forgot to mention that we saw the trailer for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. No wonder The Mouse balked. Were I a billionaire, I'd see that a DVD or VHS copy of this film reached every single American voter before the election. I couldn't make them watch it, or understand what they saw, but at least I'd know the Bush Administration's dirty secrets had become common knowledge.
It's a rare day when the movie I pay to see is not only a good movie, but exactly the movie I needed to see that very day. This was, however, the case with The Chronicles of Riddick. David Twohy's second outing with the charismatic sociopath Richard P. Riddick is a gorgeous, breathtaking spectacle of a film. Spooky and I loved it. Make no mistake, this is a very different sort of film that its predecessor, Pitch Black (2000), much the same way that Alien and Aliens were very different films. The Chronicles of Riddick wisely chooses to set its protagonist on a very different sort of quest this time, rather than simply sending him on another "bug hunt." In many ways, this is the sort of change in direction I wanted to see for the Alien series post-Aliens. "A sequel about Ellen Ripley without the aliens," was what I told a friend I wanted to see. Essentially, that's what we get here, Riddick having to deal with other humans instead of predatory xenoforms. Of course, the humans in question aren't all exactly human anymore, and they are exquisitely predatory. Someone on my discussion phorum remarked that this was like Star Wars made by Alex Proyas (a favorite director of mine, this I, Robot thing aside). I pretty much agree. This is a gritty, wonder-filled delight, and I was hard pressed to look away for even a few seconds. It was nice to see Keith David reprise his role as Abu 'Imam' al-Walid, and to see the story use Jack (Kyra) as an integral element (though I was a little sorry to see the role filled by Alexa Davalos instead of Pitch Black's Rhiana Griffith). And the casting of Dame Judi Dench as the Elemental being Aereon felt a lot less gratuitous than I'd expected. The art direction, CGI, and matte paintings were superb, and Graeme Revell gives this film almost as exciting a score as he gave to Pitch Black. Indeed, there was little here I didn't like. I could have done without the Imam's wide-eyed brat, who felt a little like a fugitive from a Coca-Cola commercial. I didn't find the story more complicated than necessary (as someone on my phorum suggested), but did find it feeling just a little rushed at times. With a measly one hour and fifty-nine minutes running time, and the fact that this was originally given an R and recut for the coveted PG-13, is enough to tell me this rushed feeling almost certainly resulted from the deletion of important moments here and there. A shame we can no longer make adult movies for adults. But at least we can expect (as with Pitch Black) an unrated Director's cut on DVD. Is this as "smart" a film as Pitch Black? Maybe. Maybe not. The depends what you mean. But in its own way, it's as good, and by no means is it a "big, dumb movie." Vin Diesel is firmly established as the thinking geek's action hero. If you're still pissed about the sanitized smarm-fests passing themselves off as the last two Star Wars films, I'd say you might want to give The Chronicles of Riddick a try.
If not for the headache, yesterday would have been stellar. But it was for the headache, which wasn't too bad throughout the movie, but when we reemerged into the sun and the heat and the parking-lot noise, it went off like a siren. Sometime after dinner, it finally let me go, and I only felt like ass the rest of the evening. Spooky and I ate "girlwiches" and watched the beautifully filmed, nicely understated Shurayuki-Hime (i.e., The Princess Blade).
I took Ambien, then woke at about 5:30, unable to sleep. I watched the sunrise, made an entry in my paper journal, and then downed another Ambien. But at 7 a.m., I was still awake, and Spooky dragged me off to my office, the only room with the windows blacked out. I lay awake until about 8 a.m., when I finally dozed off again and slept until about 10:30. It's not too bad, if you add it all together, I suppose. But I've had it with the Ambien, especially after Spooky's discovery this afternoon that insomnia is a rare side-effect. I'll make-do with kava kava, thank you very much. Sometimes, the cure is at least as bad as the sickness and, in those cases, I prefer to remain sick. And, though expensive for an herb, kava is about half the price of Ambien.
Now, today, I have to deal with the second-pass page proofs. So long as production did what they said they were doing, this will only be a hassle.
Friday, June 11, 2004
Addendum: My very last copy of the Murder of Angels ARC is now being auctioned on eBay. This is it, folks. Buy this copy or wait until September. Also, the Dreaming mobile auction ends in two short days. I've heard tell these Dreaming mobiles are total chick magnets (and guy magnets, too, if you're into that sort of thing; hey, who am I to judge).
Headache, headache, headache. Which is what I get and deserve for not having any caffeine yesterday. And the Excedrin has me all balled up inside, my skin crawling. I feel kind of like some spectacular mutation of the alien chestbuster has grown on my frontal lobe and is now intent on pushing its way out. But, on the bright side, my doctor called yesterday with the results of last week's blood work, and I'm healthy as a frelling horse. She sounded almost as surprised as I was. Cholesterol, liver, kidneys, blood sugar — everything perfect. I think she was ever so slightly annoyed that anyone could abuse a body the way I have and come out of it on the other side of -0 physically fit.
There's this enormous white padded envelope lying on my office floor. The UPS dude brought it yesterday. It contains the second-pass galley of Murder of Angels and a photocopy of my corrected first-pass pages. Tomorrow, I have to open that envelope and check the latter against the former to be sure that production made all the changes I asked for. Except the commas, of course, because we know I only got 70 of those, but all those other changes. It will be relatively painless, compared the the first pass, but I only have this weekend to get it done. Actually, I only have tomorrow to get it done. The worst part is that, at this late stage, I'm only allowed to check to see that requested changes (commas aside) have been made. If I find new errors, they have to stay. And last night, I was looking through one of the ARCs and discovered that on the epigraph page for Part Two ("Wars in Heaven"), I've attributed two lines quoted from Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" to "The Hounds of Love." I know exactly how it happened. Originally, I was using album titles, not song titles, for lyric quotes. When I switched over, I missed this one (and so did everyone else). I'm going to try to convince them this should be changed for legal reasons, but I suspect they'll refuse to correct it. And so it goes.
Yesterday was a write-off. After hours of trying to do something and only doing nothing instead, I finally gave up and fell asleep in the loveseat beneath one of the living-room windows. I slept from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m, and I think it was the best sleep I've had in a couple of weeks. At one point, Spooky came out of her sewing room to tell me she'd found one of my missing bras in the dirty laundry and discovered me asleep, and she decided not to wake me. Afterwards, I woke groggy and disoriented. We had burritos, and then we fed Mr. Kitty (formerly Young Master Goblin; he now lives next door, and we're catsitting him while his people are on their honeymoon). I chased lightning bugs. It was still hot outside at twilight.
It seems there was Important Stuff I was going to say today, but the headache alien thing has eaten its way into my memory banks. Whoa. There's goes my fifth birthday party...
Today, I'm going to a matinee.
Last night, just before bed, I checked my e-mail and discovered what might be the best fan letter I've ever recieved. It actually made me feel a little better, and I can't help but incluide it here. Shameful, I know, to be so vainglorious. Whatever. I have concealed the name and the location of the author, for reasons that may or may not be obvious. He knows who he is, and I am very grateful. He writes:
Dear Caitlin R. Kiernan,
OK, but Lenny Bruce didn't write books anywhere near as important as yours. I finished Murder of Angels today — I work as an hourly wage slave at a Barnes & Noble and Steve at Roc was nice enough to send me a copy of the unbound galleys.
I was already (and pledge to always be) a rabid fan of your work — but MOA has left me happy-wriggling in its brutal transcendence. The characters, concepts and bitter truths were magical for me. Now I understand why we sacrifice things for the people we love. Everything was beyond vivid — like how, when your characters light cigarettes or the house goes up, I can smell the smoke.
I know you're dancing around burnout, partially because the industry pays you less than a tenth of what you're worth — and you do an infinitely better job than the many hacks that are out there — but, (and I swear I wouldn't bother to thank you like this if MOA wasn't the best book I've read since LRM and I have two degrees in literature and used to teach writing for a snooty private college so I have a half-right to pontificate like this) MOA is up there with Pale Fire, House of Leaves, and Gravity's Rainbow in terms of its ability to show its story without falling back on cliches or easy answers...so please be careful on the burnout front. You, in my opinion, are one of the best writers alive and you keep getting better.
So I've become disjointed and it's late and I stayed up most of last night reading, then spent today (like every day) handing bland, mundane and uselessly predictable books to bland, mundane and uselessly predictable people — but I'm so thrilled that, despite all the ickyness of the world, you wrote something so beautiful and divine.
I handsell your books like crazy and run a writing group twice a month (in XXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXXX, not too far from the Old Gent in Providence) so please stop by if there's anything I can do to thank you for all the joy you've given this reader, bookseller and writer.
I've babbled enough. Simply put: I've read at least a thousand novels, and Murder of Angels is one of the best ever. And, on top of all that, through your blog, you've shown me the way to The Dresden Dolls and The Cruxshadows and a plethora of other wonderful things...
with infinite thanks and gratitude,
XXXXXXXX X. XXXXXXX
Now, if only The New York Times Review of Books and the people who hand out Hugos would be so stricken.
No Ambien last night.
And we might have found a British manufacturer of SFX contacts with suitable substitutes for the contacts I've been getting from Mesmereyes. If so, we can circumvent the frelling FDA and won't have to have our eyeballs poked and prodded, and Nar'eth will appear as planned. We were hoping Japan might be helpful, but they have eyeball Nazis, too.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Addendum: No writing today, unless the blog counts (and I don't think that it does). I'm just not awake enough to write prose, to think in stories. And I'm not asleep enough the somehow dream and type at the same time. I didn't take the Ambien last night, because when I went to bed (about 1:30 a.m., I think), I was tired enough to go to sleep on my own. But I woke up at about 5:20 (I remember looking at the clock in the kitchen) and couldn't get back to sleep, so I took two-thirds of a pill (the one Spooky had broken up for me on Wednesday morning). This put me back to sleep. Well, sort of. Really more of a fevery, fitful half-sleep, which lasted until about 10:30. I feel as though I'm staying in bed longer, but sleeping less.
We've not had much luck yet thwarting the eyeball Nazis. The drill seems to be something like this: we have to pay for eye exams, plus contact fittings (though we only need the latter), then pay for a follow-up exam where "test" lenses that have been ordered based on the earlier exams are checked to see how they fit. At that point, the optometrist will (reluctantly) release our base-line curve measurements to LensQuest, and we can finally order the contacts. What would have cost us about $140 (getting two new pairs of SFX contacts) could now easily cost more than twice that (and perhaps three times as much), to get the same thing. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll costume at Dragon*Con this year at all. More than anything, I'm appalled at the thought of submitting to an unnecessary and (in my opinion) invasive medical procedure because the government can't mind its own business.
Gods, I know I sound like a lunatic.
I'm going to wind up like Lenny Bruce, babbling to a bored audience. Only I'll be railing against optometry instead of the IRS.
Yesterday, I didn't write. In fact, I haven't really done anything worth mentioning since last Friday. That has to stop, of course. And it needs to stop today. The blood...I mean, the words have to start coming again. There's still time before the trip to New England to do the next short story, if I'll just quit screwing around and do it. I'm going to try to start it today. The only remotely constructive thing I did yesterday was some photographs (and Spooky actually did the photography), inspired by the LJ communities MyFakeDeath and Art of Death (brought to my attention by Mella and Moira, respectively). Here are the best of the lot:
I'm most impressed with that top one. I found the whole thing extremely cathartic (though even I found lying in fake vomit a little less than pleasant), and Spooky and I are now planning far more elaborate deaths. It was sort of like typing "the end," with a little more force. Practice makes perfect, right? Anyway, the only other interesting thing about yesterday was cracking open The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and completely losing myself in the game for more than three hours. There is an unexpected satisfaction in pulling that trigger, especially if the person you're shooting at shoots first.
The quill from a buzzard
The blood writes the word
I want to know am I the sky
Or a bird
'Cause Hell is boiling over
And Heaven is full
We're chained to the World
And we all gotta pull
Well, except for Mr. Ronald McDonald...I mean Ronald McReagan...I mean Ronald Reagan. He seems to have slipped this mortal coil with more undeserved pomp and fanfare than any of us could ever hope for. I know, I know. I said I couldn't say anything nice, so I was going to keep my mouth shut. But I wanted to pass along this link to a BBC News article. That's my goodish deed for the day.
Time to stop typing and go brush my teeth. And do what I pretend is exercise. And find some caffeine. And see if I can bleed a little bit more.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
This thing with the Ambien, I just don't know whether it's working out or not. Through an unparalleled act of self-control, I was in bed by 12:30 a.m. That hasn't happened in ages. I put on my Chi Chian t-shirt, Spooky read me Dr. Seuss' If I Ran the Zoo, I took my Ambien, and fell asleep watching The Thing on the iBook. I drifted near wakefullness once, just in time to hear McCready yell, "Well, fuck you too!" at the Blair monster. Then I awoke about 6:30 a.m., made a trip to the toilet and back (quite a jaunt in this place), and upon returning to the bedroom discovered that I was quite entirely awake. I tied a scarf about my face (with Spooky's help), then lay there about half an hour, watching the room grow lighter (not a very thick scarf, I'm afraid). Finally, in frustration, I asked Spooky for more Ambien. She reluctantly gave me a third of a tablet, which put me back to sleep until just before 10 a.m.
Thanks to a Sobe Adrenaline Rush, I figure I'm now about 74% awake. At seven this morning, I was probably 95% awake.
So...there's no way to know how today will go. I want to get this story started (though I did learn yesterday that it isn't due until the end of July, and I'd thought it was due on the first, which is a huge relief).
My thanks to Gregory, for what I'm assuming is the last of the -0th birthday presents. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (for XBox) arrived yesterday afternoon. I think this just might be the coolest game ever (despite the first-person shooter feature). We shall have a go at it tonight (and I shall return to Prince of Persia, as well, because my resolve is greater than any games' contrivances). If anyone else sent a gift and I've not received it, you should probably e-mail Spooky at email@example.com and figure out what's up. Again, my sleepy thanks to everyone.
I've gotten a little better, the last year or so, about how I react to what people on the internet write about my work (as opposed to actual published reviews in actual magazines), but I came across one yesterday, in a "review" of Love in Vein II, that I think bears remarking upon, if only to underscore the significance of Sadie's comments, regarding her own work, on p. 18 of Low Red Moon (Roc edition). I quote:
Things take a turn for the worse with Caitlin R Kiernan's "Bela's Plot". I saw the title and mentally groaned, please don't be Bela Lugosi, I thought...but it was. At least it was a few trendy vamp-wannabe's who sit at his graveside and read him poetry. I know she's Poppy's best mate, but that's no excuse for writing such pap. She has this odd stylistic quirk where she takes two words, and puts them together to make a new word, almost portmanteau: milkfaded; too-blue; smudge-tinted; coke-fine; lipsticky; creamslick; tuxedo-neat. Most of these are in the first three pages. The first one I thought was good, but then they just kept on coming.
Would it be petty of me to correct his grammar?
I just can't help but be amazed at how our schools have spawned a generation of supposedly literate adults (at least, this person claims to be an adult) who seem never to have encountered the works of James Joyce or William Faulkner or any of the other authors who instigated mine and Sadie's "odd stylistic quirk [sic]" of creating new compound words in an effort to make the English language just a little more flexible and descriptive. Why, when faced with "novelty" (my older style wasn't novel, mind you, unless you'd missed an awful lot of important authors before me) do so many readers balk and withdraw in anger and disgust and confusion, shrouding themselves in arbitrary grammatical "rules" they hardly seem to understand in the first place? Never mind that my style has evolved a great deal since "Bela's Plot" (written late in 1994) and rarely employs these compounderations nowadays; this sort of criticism remains as offensive and idiotic as it ever was, and it points to one of the reasons that genre fiction is so ghettoized.
Yesterday, nothing was written. And you already know about the eyeball Nazis. We're still looking for a way to thwart them. At this point, it'd be easier just to get the frelling eye exams and be done with it. But it's the principle. What next? No dental prothestics without your dentist's approval (and a kickback)? No make-up without a letter from a dermatologist? The status quo's antiquated conception of The Body as immutable and sacred is once again standing in the way of those who'd make alterations. Hell, in Georgia we now have the twat police to protect us against genital piercings.
Now I'm angry again, angry and sleepy.
Come on, guys. Talk to me. Keep me awake. There are worse things in my dreams than grammar facists and eyeball Nazis.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Addendum: It's easiest if I preface this entry with an excerpt from my May 14th entry:
Suffice to say, it's time for me to buy another pair of black contacts for Nar'eth, and Spooky has to get a pair as well. Yesterday, we tried to order two pairs from LensQuest, the company I've always ordered from before, and we were informed that they are now required by the FDA to obtain a verifiable prescription for every pair sold, even for non-prescription SFX lenses. This because some idiot somewhere whined about an eye infection, or some mother got up in arms because her Manson baby slept with his one white contact in and his stinking eye rotted out, or some such foolishness. So, now we both have to go to the added expense and bother of having our eyes measured for contacts. I think we're just going to go ahead and spring for prescription black contacts. At least it means we won't be blind at Dragon*Con this year. But I'm still pissed about the whole FDA thing. It's my goddamn, traitorous body. If I want to risk ruining what's left of it, in ways that ruins no one else's body, that's my business.
So, today Spooky went to Pearle to be fitted for contacts. We'd decided to go the non-prescription route, to save the money, and she'd talked to two different women at the Pearle on Ponce, both of whom assured her that yes, they would give her a measurement for SFX lenses for $30. She goes to her appointment at 3:45 this afternoon and they sit her down in front of an eye chart and blow air in her eyes, etc.. When she says whoa, I just need a simple measurement, not an eye exam, she's told they can't do that, that there must be a full eye exam ($90). And there's a bunch of other stuff about not releasing the presription without a second exam, and, by the way, Pearle will be happy to sell you the lenses. And no, they don't know who told her otherwise. I was waiting over at Borders (again, ugh). She shows up much sooner than I'd thought. I ask if it went well, and she says no, and tells me what I've just told you. So. We're both pretty pissed about this and looking for any way around the new FDA laws, any trick or loophole (if anyone has any ideas, please write). At this point, I'm about ready to gouge out my one good eye in a fit of vindictive self-mutilation, just to spite the goddamn eyeball Nazis. This goes a bit beyond complicating costuming and touches on issues of self-determination that are a sore spot with me. My eyes. My decisions. And the thing is (and I say this having spent a lot of time the past couple of years wearing SFX lenses), going through all this hassle is not going to decrease the likelihood of an infection or whatever the hell it is they're telling us to worry about. The risks will be the same. The only difference is, this way the medical establishment gets its greedy fingers in the pie.
Last night, very, very hot chicken stir fry with asparagus, basil, green beans, red bell pepper, Thai chilis, lemongrass, sesame, baby porta bellas, red curry paste, lime, and jasmine rice. Then Spooky and I watched two episodes of Farscape on DVD (she gave me Season Four for my birthday), parts one and two of "What Was Lost." There was much-needed rain, and Sophie insisted on being outside in it. I should have joined her.
Okay, I've decided that the results of yesterday's "experiment" post were, if not an outright failure, entirely inconclusive. For the time being, this line of investigation shall be discontinued. I also wanted to be make absolutely sure that no one out there has misread what I wrote yesterday as some sort of frelled-up ode to the joys of benzodiazepine use or abuse. It wasn't meant that way at all. It was meant quite the opposite way. I'd give almost anything to go the rest of my life without ever taking another goddamned pill.
Yesterday, I circled lazily about the prospect of writing, kind of like a vulture wheeling on thermals, sniffing about for something ripe down below. Nothing came of it, and I went hungry. I did finally get that counter off the Blogger page. That was the zenith of yesterday's productivity. Today, I'm going to try to begin a short story that's due in July. I'd planned to do it after the trip to New England but a) this way it'll be done, and b) I'm going stir crazy, not working (and those notes don't count) but having nothing much else to do instead. It's not that I have some need to start writing again. It's that I have a need to be working again, and the only work presenting itself is writing. So, this story. We'll see. It might happen.
I've noticed that Amazon.com has the cover of Murder of Angels up now.
I never got back to the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban review yesterday (to use the word "review" loosely). Things just kept not coming up, not getting in the way. Anyway, yes, Spooky and I loved it. I wasn't quite as blown away as I was by the first film, but thought it a vast improvement over the second film. Alfonso Cuar?n has a fine eye, and he's created a beautiful world, somehow more immediately tangible than Chris Columbus' Hogwart's. This is, appropriately, a darker, grittier Harry Potter, in keeping with the darker tone of Rowling's third novel. I wished it could have been an hour longer, yet the script seemed tight, if a little rushed at times. Richard Harris was sorely missed as Albus Dumbledore, but Michael Gambon served well in his stead. This film was filled by great performances: David Thewlis, Timothy Spall (a personal favorite), and Jim Tavar?, for example. Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman steal the show, in my opinion. Emma Watson is maturing into a talented actress, and I was very pleased that Hermione was given so much space to grow this time out. The hippogriff Buckbeak is one of the most stunning examples of CGI I've ever seen. I still love Hagrid best of all. The "grim" dog and werewolf effects were creepy as hell (a rare case where I'm in disagreement with Neil), all long-leggedy and black. The time travel thing even worked to my satisfaction. So, no major complaints, nothing really worth mentioning. This is a beautiful, powerful film that you should see. I think it even managed to scrape the last rancid bits of The Day After Tomorrow from my brain. I think we are living in a golden age for the fantasy film, and mavel at the wonders to come.
Only six hours of sleep last night, and I was thinking of calling my doctor to ask her if I could double the Ambien dose, but then Spooky found a site online that says it should take up to a week before I begin to get the full effects. I wish someone had told me that sooner. Of course, I might also have taken responsibility for myself and tried to find out the details before starting Ambien.
I can't deny that I'm beginning to show a certain favoritism towards LiveJournal. I was afraid this would happen. I'm much more likely to correct typos in the LJ than I am in Blog. It's just so much easier. I have no plans of abandoning Blogger, and the journal will remain mirrored at both, but I see a shift towards LJ being the root instead of an "annex." So, if you want less errors, if you care about that sort of thing, I refer you to greygirlbeast.
The third Murder of Angels ARC auction is in its last couple of hours now. Also, there a Dreaming rarity you might check out.
Monday, June 07, 2004
Valium, reputedly from the Latin and meaning "to be strong and well." Introduced in 1963 by a now-familiar Swiss corporation., Roche Pharmaceutical. Also known as Diazepam. The 2mg tablet is white, the 5mg tablet is yellow, and the 10mg tablet is blue (this colour-coding does not hold true for generics). Particularly popular between 1965-1979. And that thing which got me through, around, and under the jagged morass of yesterday and to today. The fruits of our new gods deserve credit where credit is due.
This is an experiment. And a thank you to Benjamin W. Garrison (Mapultoid on LJ) for an exquisite, articulate e-mail that helped me close the weekend on a far better note than I'd opened it on. The new Harry Potter movie had a lot to do with that, as well, and, oh yeah, Valium. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and behind myself, too. This is an experiment, as a thank you to Benjamin Garrison. I'll let down the guard for just a minute or two, put aside the writerly persona and all those worries about what agents and editors and marketing twits will think of me and talk honestly about yesterday.
That word that begins most of these posts.
Most of it was spent lying in bed, gazing out the windows at all the greens and the blue, smelling summer leaking in through an open window, drowning in my fear of this next novel. This was after I'd taken Valium, of course. Before that I couldn't have looked directly at the fear, and only busied myelf with nothing important in a futile attempt not to catch a glimpse of it, my fear, from the corner of my one good eye. The Valium pushed aside all those make-work distractions and let me stare into the face of That Which Waits To Be Written. My eyes watered, and I cried a little, but I wasn't blinded. I got hungry at some point and wandered into the kitchen, where Spooky (who makes sure I do not hurt myself) fed me a fat pickled pepper, celery with blue cheese, some sharp cheddar, and a vanilla milk shake (with whey protein). Then I spent a little while drifting from room to room, wondering if I was done, for the day, staring down the book, it staring me down. I speculated that if I hung myself from the living room ceiling, maybe no one would ever buy this place, and the assholes that are forcing us to move in December would be stuck with it. It could all be very gory and sensational. CNN and everything. Everyone would know: Semi-Famous Midlist Author Hangs Herself in Yuppie Ghetto. Spooky, busy baking hazelnut biscotti but ever practical, reminded me that my ghost would probably be stuck in this place forever, with all those other ghosts, the children and the ominous whisperers and the "cats," and she asked me if that's really what I wanted.
"Well, no," I said.
"Then you'd better not do it."
"You're right, but it's still a nice thought."
"Not nice enough."
"No, not nice enough."
There are lots of places I'd rather haunt, given my druthers.
And so I went back to the bedroom and lay down and stared again at the summer and That Which Waits To Be Written. And it stared back, just like Nietzsche said. I thought too much about too many things, mostly in the past, and how I loathe mirrors, and how tired I am of worrying about money. I drifted in and out of wakefulness, coasting the edges of strange dreams. I drooled a little more than I might have liked. At some point, I managed an entry in my paper journal. You can't say the girl lacks ambition. I listened to passing cars, barking dogs, kids on their bikes, sirens, birds I once could have identified by their songs alone, an angry crack whore, and squirrels. One of the squirrels amused me for a time, hanging precariously from the tiniest branches of the mulberry tree right outside one of the south-facing windows, gobbling the last of this season's berries. Finally, about 6 p.m., I think, but let's just say later and savor the ambiguity, Spooky helped me get dressed, and we left this place. We spent maybe an hour browsing about a local Borders, while the Valium wore off. I remarked how dead short fiction is, pointing to the percentage of the three rows of magazine racks devoted to fiction. I found only four magazines, out of at least a thousand. There were more magazines devoted to collecting toys than to short fiction. I saw two or three books I might actually read, including a history of rats. I stayed out of the CD/DVD side of the store for fear of spending money. I noticed a novelization of Van Helsing and wondered why anyone would bother. Ever noticed how stores don't have clocks anymore? I still remember when they did.
"Bookstores just annoy me," I said at last.
"I know," Spooky said, and then she asked if I wanted to leave.
"Yeah, let's get the hell out of here."
So, we drove over to Candler Park and had pizza and salad at Fellini's. I thought briefly about sitting outside, as the gathering twilight, flecked with the chartreuse language of lightning bugs, was warm and smelled more like night-blooming flowers than car exhaust. But there were way too many people on the patio for my liking, noisy people wielding talk and beer and cigarettes, so we sat inside. Which was okay, too. It smelled almost as nice inside (and without the cigarettes, thank you very much). We watched the pizza dudes twirl their pizza dough through air perfumed by baking and raw garlic and onions and Italian sausages. We talked about moving to Portland and living on the street, where I'd never again have to worry about anything but dying. We talked about Captain Beefheart and how annoyed I am at Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Our food came. We ate. We don't talk much when we eat. We just eat. And then we went to a late showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban. Which I think I will review in another post, later today. This one's already gone on way too long.
I did take the Ambien last night. It didn't hit me nearly as hard as I'd expected. I lay awake watching Alien: Resurrection on Spooky's iBook, waiting for the sudden unconsciousness I'd been promised.
"There's nothing in the world wrong with this movie," I said to Spooky, who was trying to sleep, "that not having a screenplay written by Joss Whedon couldn't have fixed."
At least that made her laugh. And then sleep came, in dribs and drabs at first, and then all at once. And I slept, though the dreams were there, as always, those alternate lives in alternate worlds, until I awoke about 7 a.m. I think Jennifer had made some noise as she was getting ready to go to work. I tottered off to piss, then came back to bed. But the Ambien seemed to have loosened its grip. And I was afraid, perhaps irrationally, I'd not be able to get back to sleep, so I took a second one. It kept me asleep until about eleven, when the Mexicans arrived with the lawnmowers and leafblowers and weedwhackers, intent on further defoliating and stripping the soil from the drought-stricken lawn. There was no sleeping through that. They are a force of anti-nature, those men and their stinking, roaring machines.
And that was my Sunday, mostly. Nothing important has been left out. It's a pretty fair estimation of Any Given Day I Don't Write. Sometimes they're a lot worse, and sometimes they're a little better.
This morning, I found a fresh crop of stills at Farscape World from the forthcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper War. I shall leave you with this shot of Chi (she's still blind):
Sunday, June 06, 2004
I believe that I had an epiphany last night while playing Prince of Persia. An epiphany of no particular consequence, but an epiphany all the same. I do not actually like games. I like simulations. I go to a "game" wanting to vicariously experience something I'll never experience firsthand, locked in this consensual reality of ours. For me, it's not about the challenge, or points, or bragging rights. The moment the "game" becomes something more concerned with getting you to be a good lil' lab rat and jump through hoops in any given outlandish order, it loses me. In D&D speak, I want to role-play, not roll dice. Prince of Persia is losing me.
Oh, and Ronald Reagan is dead. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, right? Consider mine a long and determined silence.
Another night of too little sleep crowded with too many nightmares. I've had the Ambien two nights now, but have yet to use it. But I will tonight. I feel like I'm beginning to ravel at the seams. Look closely and you'll see what's inside. So, more pills. There will always be more pills, because that's what we have now instead of gods and ceremony. We have pills and therapists and football and Wal-Mart. I'm pretty sure a couple of good, old-fashioned human sacrifices would clear my head better than another frelling prescription, but we are civilzed. I keep forgetting that, there's so little day-to-day evidence to go on. We are chrome. We are daylight. Anxiety and sorrow and anger only decrease productivity. That which decreases productivity shall be placed safely within the medical paradigm and doped into submission. It's for the Greater Good, after all. Still, you gotta wonder who's paying the technoshamans and neuromancers these days. No, you don't have to wonder. It's plain as the day on my face.
I'm starting to feel like John Blaylock, or Charlie Gordon. It's all slipping away, even though I was promised it would last forever. And if I could just sleep, real sleep, without pills or nightmares or the fear of waking, I might be able to make it all right again.
You talk too much, Kiernan. For a writer, you talk way too much. Know what I'm saying?
Yesterday. No more notes. And we didn't make it to the theatre, either. Yesterday was almost a blank, as for as productivity is concerned. I do remember watching the tail end of a documentary on undersea archaeology and the recovery of the Adventure Galley, and then there was the first half of another documentary on the bombing of Bikini Atoll in 1946.
Oh, hell. Never mind.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
It was absolutely all I could do not to post this last night (and thanks to Adrya for the heads-up). From the forthcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper War:
I'm not sure if Chiana's kicking Jenek's eema, or the other way round (most likely), but WOW!. For more stills from the mini, check out Farscape World. Looks like Sikozu has undergone some sort of genetic mods! But I wasn't sure if she was really Kalish to start with, what with the biloid thing and all. And get a load of those Luxans. Cooooool. Chi's still blind, at least as far as I can tell from the scenes represented by these stills. It's nice that there's still something that makes me giddy (besides sex, I mean). Image Creative Partnership (who does the make-up and costume FX for Farscape) is also promising new stills soon. I would squee, if only I knew how.
Yesterday, nothing much but more notes for Daughter of Hounds. It doesn't feel much like writing, making notes for a novel. It feels sort of like goofing off. Writing stuff in my notebook. Trying to figure out the lives of nonexistant people, and a history of things that won't happen unless I write them down. This book is really beginning to intimidate me. I've already cut away Dancy Flammarion's part in it, trying to rein things in a little. She would have only distracted from the conflict between the two protagonists (who may also be the two antagonists, if you look at things through their respective eyes), Emmie Silvey and Soldier. And who are they, exactly? I'll say more later on. The story's still fairly unclear, and I'll probably leave it that way. Otherwise, I may fall into the space I was in with "Alabaster," feeling as though I'm filling in blanks. The thing that keeps me moving forward through a story, that keeps me writing it (I mean the thing other than fear of bankruptcy) is anticipation. I want to know what happens next, which means I have to write what happens next. It's a trick I've been playing on myself since The Five of Cups. And speaking of Daughter of Hounds, we have begun seriously planning the Great Research Trip to Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts. It's looking as though we'll be doing this jaunt by train.
Last night, Spooky and I got a cooking bug and ended up making a more-than-usual Kid Night dinner. Bratwurst boiled in dark beer and onions, then grilled, and a hot potato salad (garlic, onions, red bell pepper, etc.). But we did have root beer! Then we watched the entirely unnecessary, but mildly entertaining Starship Troopers 2 (apparently direct to DVD, directed by Phil Tippet, who should know better than to waste his time with a rip-off of The Hidden) and the very derivative, but also enormously delightful Returner (a lot of Terminator 2 and a dash of The Matrix). Check out the latter, if only for the adorable Anne Suzuki. It's the best Kid Night movie we've had since The Vampire Effect. Then we started playing Prince of Persia, but I was more tired than I thought and, after a lot of dumb mistakes, quit, brushed my teeth, put The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in the VCR, and promptly fell asleep. Ta-dah.
I'm not sure what's gonna happen today. More notes, I suppose. Spooky was up early for a yard sale at a funeral parlour a couple of blocks away. It's a beautiful old place (think Six Feet Under) that's been put out of business by a newer establishment and is now up for sale. If only I had the dough. It would be mine and Spooky's. Maybe I'll take a picture of it for the blog. Anyway, she didn't find anything neat at the yard sale. We were hoping for antique embalming tools, etc. Tonight, we go to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Have a look at the article on water conservation at the National Wildlife Federation's website. This subject has been much on my mind of late. In Atlanta, clean tap water is fast becoming a thing of legend. But, we took the test , "What Kind of Water User Are You?," and we both scored a low, low 5. So, I think I'm doing the best I can, for now. I'm still trying to comprehend how the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day. Jesus, people. One day I'm going to figure out exactly how much I use on a normal day, but a pretty good guesstimate would be about 50-60 gallons for our entire household.
And have you seen the latest chapter of the manga at Nebari.net? The slash isn't creating half as much stir as the flirting beforehand did.
Friday, June 04, 2004
Okay, I am well aware how silly this is, but over the last five or six days, three people have "defriended" (?"unfriended") me on LJ (all you Blogger readers may ignore this nonsense), and, for some unfathomable reason, it actually bothers me. I didn't know these people, mind you. I didn't ask them to befriend me in the first place. It was all their idea. Why I should care is beyond me, except that I am a writer, which means I'm given to particularly silly bouts of self-doubt and suchlike. I mean, what the frell? Did they friend me on a whim, then start reading the journal and quickly conclude I was an annoying, dull bitch? I want to know, damn it.
The last thing I need is technology devising new ways to make me feel insecure.
Yesterday might have been worse. But it's hard to believe that I wasted so many years of my life in Birmingham. I makes me a little ill, thinking about it. After two years in Atlanta, I'd forgotten the level of constant background hostility I encountered anytime I went anywhere in Birmingham. Here, people generally mind their own business.
On the trip down, I read John W. Campbell's "Twilight," and we listened to Rasputina and Magnetic Fields. On the trip back, I dozed and ate salted cashews.
I now have an Ambien prescription, so maybe I'll get a little more sleep. These five-hour nights are wearing on me.
It seemed like I had something of substance to say this morning, but it also seems to be eluding me (again). I suppose I'll make more notes for Daughter of Hounds today. Spooky has many errands to which to attend. This book, this book is swelling in my head, and I pray that I'm equal to what it's asking. I know now that it will likely be divided into three sections, and that there will be stories set within the greater story of the novel. Substories. Daughter of Hounds will be the culmination of everything I began in Threshold (and maybe all the way back in "Anamorphosis"). I'm beginning to think this will be my first really long novel. Too bad I'm not being paid by the word. The most difficult thing about this book (and I might have said this already) will be that it's set twenty years from now, but it's not a science-fiction story. So I have to manage to handle all the Things To Come without drawing too much attention to them.
We got home about 10 p.m. last night, and I turned on the television and watched Barton Fink on FMC. Gods, do I love that movie. I had such a thing for Judy Davis back about 1991.
Oh, I hear there's going to be a story on Farscape: Peacekeeper War in the June 13th issue of TV Guide.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Today I will refrain from further bitchery regarding the act of writing and the publishing world (and my place in it). It's time to thank all the people who helped to make my -0th birthday suprisingly untraumatic by distracting me from my advancing age with their generosity. I'd have done this sooner, but there was a big straggler (there's still a straggler or two, I understand, and those people will be thanked later, I promise).
In no order whatsoever, my thanks to Bill Schafer, for War of the Monsters PS2; to Blu, for Reptilicus; to James, for the Marx Bros. boxed set; to Brandon, for VNV Nation's PastPerfect; to Edward, for The Company of Wolves; to Jim and Jennifer, for the D&D Draconomicon; to Shannon, for Skinny Puppy's The Greater Wrong of the Right; to my agent, Merrilee, for the dozen yellow roses; to Rene, for the Amazon gift certificate; and to Sissy, Kat, Jean-Paul, Jada, Maureen, Quendi, Poppy, Brent, Larne (Llar'en), Keith, Katrina, Roxanne, Franklin, Katherine, Zilljah, Marieke, Brandon, and Elizabeth, for (I still don't quite believe this) the XBox, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Mechassault. Whew. I think that's everyone for now, except I still have this funky SpongeBob game thingy that came in the XBox package, which I think was Jean-Paul's doing (someone correct me if I'm wrong). You have all been very, amazingly kind. My fans are the draddest, but now you have set frightful expectations for my -0th birthday, ten short years from now. I'll post a couple of loot photos tomorrow (I'd do it today, but there isn't time).
I have to stop in a moment and get dressed, because today we must travel deep into the Great Hostile beyond the western edge of The Perimeter. I'd feel better about this if Spooky and I had a Peacekeeper escort (or at least a few Storm Troopers to draw the fire). We should be back by dark, if the Fates are kindly, though that's damned little consolation.
Yesterday? Just more notes for The Daughter of Hounds, some last minute business with the galleys for Murder of Angels, stuff like that. The evening was blessedly free of work. Jennifer and Spooky and I hooked up the XBox, and Spooky and I spent the rest of the evening playing Mechassault and Prince of Persia. We got to bed about one-thirty, I think. I slept much better than the night before, a full eight hours, though there were some spectacularly unnerving dreams. But I'm used to those.
By the way, check out the new issue of National Geographic (June 2004) for the article on the Monterey Canyon and its squishy, Lovecraftian denizens. I wish I'd had it when I was working on "Houses Under the Sea" for Thrillers 2.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Oh gods, I feel useless.
How can I be sitting down to write another goddamn book? Didn't I just do that? And that one isn't even published yet? Hell, I don't even get to see how unpopular it'll be before I start the next one. That sort of takes all the fun out of the whole thing. I spent a great deal of yesterday making notes in longhand (I don't usually do much of that), and some of today, notes for this next novel. And, as I begin to see the scope of it, I wish I could have time to write it the way it needs to be written. Silk took me well over two years. That would be nice. I suspect that luxury is gone forever. But I kind of wish my publisher would think as much about promoting the books they've already published as they think about getting new ones. It doesn't matter how many books I write, or how good they are (or aren't, for that matter), unless there's some significant promotion behind them, and there's been damn little of that since Day One. Books are popular because they are promoted, they are not promoted because they are popular.
I don't even know what I'm trying to say.
I finally forced myself to tend to the big pile of paper on the office floor today, sheets like sedimentary deposits waiting to be filed. And I discovered that filing makes Spooky cranky. It just makes me bored and appalled at my packratty ways. Contracts, sales statements, short story drafts, a photograph of Gigi Edgley making a silly face, fan letters, more sales statements, e-mails I've printed out, doodles, empty envelopes, proofreading notes, etc. & etc. A small part of it went out to the dumpster, though, in truth most of it should have gone. But I'm weak and lack that sort of resolve. Fuck. I just remembered there's a pressing e-mail from my editor I haven't answered yet.
And I have to go to Birmingham tomorrow.
A receptionist at my doctor's office called a little while ago and asked for "Catalina Kerrnun." I just handed the phone to Spooky. She has as much business answering to "Catalina Kerrnun" as I do.
The first-pass page proofs of Murder of Angels went back to NYC yesterday, and the page proofs for "Mercury" went back to Subterranean Press.
I think my mood is too foul for blogging (that sounds naughty; a shame it isn't). I should leave you until such time as I'm less predisposed to mopery and grunting. Here are a couple of photos that Spooky took last night. Make of them what you will...
ink and coffee and tequila
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
It would seem that, with that second blogger entry yesterday, I inadvertently outed myself to a large number of readers. I say "inadvertently," because I'd reached that point, yet again, where I was pretty sure that Everyone Knew. Every time I think that, though, I end up outing myself once more. It's really kind of amusing, in a baffling sort of way. So, yes, the rumours are true. I really am an alien. And don't bother notifying the Air Force or the NSA or the "shop," because they already have extensive files on me. I regularly have coffee and scones with a couple of nice MiBs.
I'd forgotten that I have to go to Birmingham this week for a doctor's appointment, until Spooky reminded me last night (or was it this morning?). Ugh. Of course, it's my fault for not getting off my ass and finding a new doctor (that I can stand) in Atlanta. So, on Thursday, a day will be lost driving into the Great Western Wilderness and back again. I suppose I could get some reading done on the trip. But ugh, I say.
Spooky's taking her morning constitutional, with a detour to have the corrected galleys of "Mercury" photocopied so they can be returned to Subterranean Press today. And I have to call my editor at Penguin, as soon as I'm done with this entry, to tell him that I decided there was no way I could arbitrarily choose which commas get fixed and which don't. I have just about decided not to include Adrian Woods (the dratted production editor responsible for this mess) in the acknowledgements, but only because I fear petty retaliations. This poor book. [pause: the phone rang and it was my editor, even as I was typing this paragraph, and now he's trying to find the cheapest way to get the ms. back to NYC fast, because production is demanding they have it back tomorrow...shoot me now) I hope there is a special level of the Bad Place reserved for those who cannot be bothered to do their best, because they're lazy or stubborn or it's "not in the budget." Hell, this whole book wasn't in my budget, but I wrote it. Anyway, moving on, because that's all I can do, there are other things to be done this day. I need to start making notes (in the new notebook) for Daughter of Hounds [insert here: another call from my editor], and then there's whatever else needs doing. I was reminded last night that I'd promised Bill Schafer a weird sf story for his new zine, Subterranean, and I'll have to write that in August, since July already has a story to be written, and June is utterly shot.
I love being a writer. I swear, I wouldn't trade this frelling job for all the tea in China. Or, since that's probably no longer politically correct to say, all the tea in China, how about, I wouldn't trade this job for a hundred million bucks, a weekend in Greece with Angelina Jolie, a trip to Antarctica, a brand new grey-blue PT Cruiser, one of everything in the Apple store, and a house on the Cape?
Last night, we watched If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane McGowan Story (thanks to Blu Muse for talking it up in her journal a while back). It was really wonderful, in a sort of heartbreaking-but-still-uplifting way. I fell so hard in love with The Pogues back in 1986, and If I Should Fall From Grace With God was one of those records I played until the grooves went smooth (yes, that was in the far-off Palaeolithic days of vinyl). I got to see The Pogues at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, sometime in the summer of 1988. Shane had a lot more teeth back then. That was one of the two or three best shows I ever saw. Afterwards, we were dripping wet from beer and wine and who knows (or wants to know) what else. I swear, it rained booze through that whole show. Luka Bloom opened, and man that seems like a long, long time ago.
Oh, and we ate barbeque yesterday, after reading "Mercury."
I should go be useful. If I can remember how one does that...
The third Murder of Angels ARC (and possibly the last I shall sell) auction has begun. Also, I have copies of Low Red Moon and In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers up right now.