Monday, January 31, 2005
Get the frell out of here, January. I'm sick to death of you.
No, really. Go. Now.
I spent three or four hours yesterday trying to begin the preface for To Charles Fort, With Love. In the end, I'd spat up only 381 words, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to scrap them and start over again this afternoon. I'd not expected this to be difficult. I really can't afford to give it more than another day or two. Other things have to be written. Upon reflection, I suspect that this preface is proving difficult for two reasons: 1) it begins by trying to examine my fascination with Charles Fort, which is complex, and 2) I spend so much time writing about myself directly these days, in LJ/Blog, that sitting down to do so formally, for publication, feels kind of weird. I've not done anything like this since I wrote my preface for the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon (which should ship within the next week, by the way), and that was way the frell back in March 2003. My plan for today is to stop whenever I get stuck and write an afterword for one of the stories. That way, I'll not only give myself a chance to unlock, but I'll also get some of those afterwords written. It all has to be done. The order in which it gets done doesn't matter.
This is one of the hardest parts of this whole ridiculous writing gig. The empty days, when I have been writing continuously for weeks, and I have to keep writing, even though I feel there's nothing left to say. Nothing at all. Spooky says I'm a bottomless well of words, but that's not true. Right now, I'm standing on dry stone at the bottom of the well. I've been bleeding it dry (did I just mix a metaphor, or merely extend a metaphor oddly?), and it's time to step back and allow the aquifer to seep in again and refill it. But there isn't time for that. People are thirsty. Deadlines must be met. Bills must be paid. Art should never be a slave to commerce, but for all working artists that's exactly what it must be.
This round of eBay is almost done. There are only a very few things remaining up. Please check out the auctions. There's a copy of Murder of Angels, a copy of From Weird and Distant Shores, and an ARC of The Dry Salvages. These are the last auctions will have until sometime in February, perhaps even March. Avail yourself.
We never did lose power, and now the ice is gone.
I'm wasting words. Later.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Because I must never, ever prove to be certain of anything, the power has yet to do more than flicker a few times. But I am grateful, even if it is yet another example of the world conspiring to prove me wrong. The storm is over. The ice is melting. The temperatures are supposed to rise towards the mid forties (F) today, I think. Maybe the mammoths will leave again.
Yesterday, I was able to finish the first round of proofreading on To Charles Fort, With Love. All thirteen stories have now been read. Numerous corrections and a small number of revisions have been made. The second round of proofing will come when the ARCs are printed. Yesterday, I read "The Dead and the Moonstruck," then "A Redress for Andromeda," "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea," and "Andromeda Among the Stones." I think I finished about 5 p.m. All together, about 25,700 words. Too much for one day, at any rate. At the end, I was exhausted, weary of my voice, and annoyed about the stories that won't be in this volume. But it's done. This part of it, at least. I still have the preface to write, and I should try to force myself to get to that today. I haven't truly had a day off in so long I can't recall. A couple of weeks, surely.
Daughter of Hounds is growing impatient with me.
There's not much else to write about. Around here, it's been ice and proofreading, proofreading and ice, and not much of anything else.
An announcement has been made that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) will be losing federal protection in about a year's time. I wanted to write something here about the perversion of science by pro-sprawl politics, but I think I haven't the stomach for it now. The greatest loss here is the 31,000 acres of land in Colorado and Wyoming that will be opened up for strip malls and suburbs. What's one mouse subspecies, one way or the other. Hell, this extinction is progressing at such a clip that we are presently losing species worldwide at a rate of 70-700 species per year, up to 2 each day (the Earth's normal or "background" extinction rate is probably closer to 1-10 species each year). What's one mouse subspecies when humans must have room to breed and build cheap housing and park their automobiles and turn a fast buck or two. Rural Wyoming needs Starbuck's and Burger King, Wal-Mart and Home Depot, not land set aside for the preservation of mice. Mice won't put bread on the table or a new car in that new garage. Mice won't get senators reelected. Mice can't create new jobs in the service industry. They don't make developers rich. Come to think of it, mice aren't good for much of anything. Damned environmentalists. Damned mice. Can't they see the One True Parking Lot at the End of Time? Don't they understand the imperative to bury the world in the shit and thoughtless discards of humanity? When will they ever, ever learn?
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Well, the ice came. I'm surprised we still have power. I woke about 7:15 and went to the front door, expecting only the sheen and glitter of an ice storm. But at some point, the ice changed over to snow. It's quite beautiful. And it's making me miss Nar'eth even more. Anyway, I'm typing this while I can, becauser it's supposed to contnue all day, and we will lose power at some point, I'm certain. I'm not sure how cold it is outside. I went out on the front porch in just my velvet coat and leggings, barefoot. I'm guessing somewhere in the twenties at the moment.
Spooky's still asleep, as is Jennifer.
My editor and lit agent both e-mailed yesterday to give me the very good news that I've made the 2004 Locus Recommended Reading List. Murder of Angels was chosen in the "Fantasy Novel" category, and "Riding the White Bull" was chosen in the "Novelette" category (personally, I think of it as a slightly longish short story). It was good news on a day when I needed good news, and I am pleased.
Somehow, I worked most of the day yesterday on To Charles Fort, With Love, yet managed to make it through only two stories — "The Road of Pins" and "La Peau Verte." At some point, I stopped and made the following note to myself: I have never finished a story. I'm beginning to see that now. I don't think that there's ever a point where a story or novel is just exactly right. There are only finer and lesser degrees of refinement, and even those are probably subjective. You might think it's perfect for a time, but read it a year or five years later, and you'll see you were mistaken. There's always something I can make better, every time I read one of my stories. Usually there are dozens of somethings. And I once thought this wasn't true, that a story reached a certain point and beyond that point you were only changing things, making them different, not making them better. Indeed, I thought, beyond a point, you risk screwing it all up. I don't think that anymore. You risk screwing it all up right from the start, and no story is ever as perfect as it can be. Perfection is always one or two polishes away from the writer.
I'd hoped to do at least four or five of the stories yesterday, but the impending weather posed an enomous distraction. I had to leave the house twice, once for the supermarket adventure and once more to get a DVD for last night (the last one, that's really nothing to do with the storm). At least we won't starve, especially since Jennifer came home last night and showed us that our gas stove isn't electric, so we need not worry if the power goes out. We shall not have to subsist on cold rations, as we'd thought we would. We'd already boiled a bunch of eggs, because we always aspire to be prepared, even if we rarely ever are. But, yes, we shall not starve. We have oranges, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, pickles, deviled ham, mushrooms, Pop-Tarts, potato chips, Campbell's soup, and a very nice tomato. And, as long as the power holds out, I will continue with the proofreading. After that, I'll huddle on the chaise in the livingroom beneath my purple blanket and the alpaca throw that Spooky's mother sent me for Xmas and read and watch the world get whiter.
Reading all these stories so close together, taking them in all at once, which is something I virtually never do with my own work, is having a very strange effect on me. I feel removed from them.
The new chapter (Twelve) of the Adventures of Boschen and Nesuko is up at Anelnoath.com. Setsuled gets just a little bawdy this time, but, sadly, that bawdiness doesn't include a naked Nesuko (she's immune to physical illness, by the way).
Last night, as the sky began to fall, Spooky and I watched an amazing, wonderful film, Kazuaki Kiriya's Casshern (2004, based upon the 1973 anime). Truly a beautiful film. Two and a half hours of wow. Visually, it falls somewhere between Moulin Rouge and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, between The Matrix and The City of Lost Children. It's probably the best steampunk yet brought to film, certainly steampunk brought to film on an epic scale that I've not seen before. You should see this film. You may be disappointed, because you may be more wow-resistant than either me or Spooky (I know some people are like that, sadly), but you should see it anyway. I was having wonderful Dark City flashbacks all night. The naysayers will say nay and insist it's all flash and no substance, just like they are meant to do, but they will be wrong. Casshern even has a good soundtrack, which is one of the last things I expect from Japanese science fiction (jpop causes me to make that cat-hacking-up-a-hairball noise; I just can't seem to help it).
Oh, regarding Mercenary: Playground of Destruction, I need to revise an earler comment. The North Koreans are the Charrids and the South Koreans are actually the Kalish.
Okay. Now I'm going to go do some proofreading while there's power.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Outside, it's 31F, but feels like 21F when the windchill's factored in. And there appears to be an ice storm on the way. Which means we shall be without power for some extended period of time. No heat. No stove. No iBook. No Xbox or PS2. No hot water. No lights. Okay, well, I can live without the lights. Candles are fine, but no Xbox? I hate being a soft, spoiled brat of the Modern Electrikal Age. And, because this is the South, an ice storm is pretty much Armageddon. There will be rioting the in streets over the last loaf of bread and the last gallon of milk. Home Depot will be awash in idiots looking for gasoline-powered generators. Yuppies will eat homeless people on Carr's Table Water crackers. Even now, the mammoths are returning to my office. They say they only made it as far north as Virginia.
"At least the ears and the dress match, bitch." Spooky just said that to me. I'll kiss anyone who can tell me what the frell she was talking about. Yes, on the mouth.
Well, let me get this down before the glaciers arrive.
Yesterday was spent at Emory, reading stories for To Charles Fort, With Love. I only made it through four. That took a good five hours. Of course, one of them was "Onion," which, at 12,000+ words is a chore unto itself. I also read "So Runs the World Away," "Apokatastasis," and "Standing Water." So, I still have six stories to go. I have abandoned plans for an index. There's just not time. But reading through all these stories is proving to be an interesting and revealing experience, almost like notes to myself that I knew I'd need farther along. My past-present unconscious playing tag with my future-present consciousness. And I clearly have a thing for girls with silver eyes. I'll not be making it back to Emory today. If any work is done, it'll have to be done in my office.
I have to find a cover artist for the Subterranean Press edition of Daughter of Hounds.
Okay, I guess that's it for this morning. We have to go forth and bludgeon old ladies for the last can of beans. This ice thing may last a whole day, after all.
I've been trying really hard to cease accumulating useless, pretty things, Ask Spooky. Ask Jennifer. I've been very, very good. But. Now
had to go and post a link to Hiëronymus Bosch action figures. How the frell am I supposed to resist something like that? Perhaps I'd be able to eschew the whole set, if only I could acquire these two:
Someone, some kind human thing, could make a gift of them to me. My gratitude could be courted. My favour might be won. I might even spare you when the end comes...
Thursday, January 27, 2005
I did better last night. I was asleep a little after one and managed to sleep until about 6:30. That's better than five hours. That's not so bad. I lay in bed for an an hour and a half, not sleeping, then gave up and tottered off to my office to work. And here I am.
It was fairly late before I managed to escape this distraction-plague'd house yesterday, but I did wind up, finally, at Emory U., where I read through both "Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)" and "La Mer des Rêves." Three down, ten to go, plus the preface. My revised plan is to do five or six more stories today, four or five tomorrow, then spend Saturday and Sunday with the preface, take Monday off, and get back to work on Daughter of Hounds on Tuesday. Except, there's also the "Bradbury Weather" revision to squeeze in there somewhere. I'll be going back to Emory today, me and my iBook. I have found unfindable places, beyond the reach of phones and e-mail.
I was very pleased, yesterday, reading back over "Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)." It's still one of my best stories. So far, it's been published in Queer Fear (2000, Arsenal Pulp Press), a book for which the editors asked me to write a story about gay characters and were upset when I wrote a story about gay women. It was actually suggested to me, seriously, that I could simply change pronouns and make the characters male, some tidy literary sex change. I said no, I most certainly couldn't do that, and that no one had ever specified that they should be gay male characters, and so the story was published as written. It was then reprinted, in a slightly revised form, in Stephen Jones' superb Keep Out the Night anthology (PS Publishing, 2002). I think of it as a ghoul/werewolf story, though we never see any such beast in the tale, and so it probably works best as a ghost story. And it's the last story I set in New Orleans.
"La Mer des Rêves" was actually written for an on-again-off-again William Hope Hodgson tribute anthology, but ended up being published in John Pelan's Walk on the Darkside (2004, Roc). It's a very short piece, only a little bit more than two thousand words, something more of a brief phantasmagoria, a vignette of saltwater, world-shifting and gills, than a full-fledged short story. It's another one I love, if only for its complete lack of regard for the expectations of the short story (it has many more virtues; I'm just being difficult). Some of the themes that became important to Murder of Angels show up first in "La Mer des Rêves." A curiousity of both these stories is that they have characters named Emma or Emmie, which is only curious in light of the fact that I am currently writing a book about Emmie Silvey.
Should To Charles Fort, With Love include afterwords for each story, just a paragraph or two, as I did with From Weird and Distant Shores? I'd sort of prefer to, because I like people to know something of the history of a story. I'll post a poll asking this question later today or tonight.
I got back to Starlight Man, the Blackwood biography, last night, which really is shaping up to be very good, and also started reading The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt by William Nothdurft and Josh Smith, which I'd been wanting to get to for a while now.
Yesterday, I also snail-mailed some reference sketches I'd made to Leh'agvoi for our collaborative Nar'eth "winter manga." That should be along soon; I'll keep you posted. I find myself missing Nar'eth a lot lately. This pink, translucent alias lies heavy upon me. I don't know when I shall have another opportunity to be her.
I've been playing Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (Xbox) for the last few nights. In the very, very near future, a military coup has left North Korea in the hands of some guy of whom America (and "the Allies) disapprove, and he has a lot of nuclear weapons. You play one of three mercenaries, employeed by a shadowy, powerful para-military organization, sent in to capture or kill fifty-two men central to the NK coup, thus making the world once again safe for Western nuclear supremecy. I think the only reason that I've been able to get into this game is that you can play a female agent, and that you're allowed to play all sides against the others (Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and "the Allies"). It's as much about making all the money you can, however you can, as it is tracking down the fifty-two coup members. I just pretend that I'm Nar'eth in an alternate, unrealized reality, and that the Allies are PKs, the Russians are Scarrans, the Chinese are the Nebari, and the North and South Koreans are Charrids. So far, it's working for me. Oh, I know it's a massive rationalization, but frell, it feels good after a long day at the iBook to highjack a tank, run down people who are shooting at me, squish 'em, and then blow dren up. And I get paid for it! Okay, well not in "real" money, but still, it's nice being an imaginary millionaire.
Three more people have won Kaiyodo prehistoric critters on eBay, because they wisely used "buy it now" or took advantage of one of our fixed price sales. This means there is only one critter still up for grabs. Check out our pay-for-Spooky's-dentist eBay auctions and claim this guy as your very own.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
There was a major snafu with the Ambien last night, and today I feel...well...it's a fine combination of sleepy, seasick, and pissed off. I woke about 4:15 and couldn't get back to sleep. I took a second Ambien and got up and tried to work (shouldn't this land me in Guinness under "most stupid act"). I spent the next hour and a half or so reading "Valentia" again and beginning work on the book's index. Finally, about 6:17 (I looked at the clock), I noticed that the words I was typing weren't "real" words and that the keyboard had a distinctly velvety sheen to it. "Go the hell to bed, you silly bitch," I said. Which I did. And proceeded to have riduculous, horrific, hilarious, Kafkaesque nightmares. I woke a little after eleven, feeling like this. Better living through chemistry. Hell, yeah.
Thanks to everyone who took time to comment or e-mail about the revisions to the stories that will comprise To Charles Fort, With Love. Though I must remind you that art is not a democracy, that it is, instead, a tyranny, a butt-ugly little banana republic filled with drug lords, vampiric catfish that swim up your urethra, and muddy tracks of deforested rainforest. Half the time, round here, they'll shoot you just for opening your mouth, then leave the carcass for the feral pigs. Nonetheless, I listened to what was said. And I have decided to leave the stories essentially as they were originally published — compounderations, sentence fragments, missing commas, neglected hyphens, and all. I think I was at last swayed by a couple of e-mails comparing my actions to George Lucas' constant dicking about with the orginal Star Wars trilogy. To quote Mike Bracken, "Changing them [the stories in my collection] now isn't much different than George Lucas screwing around with Star Wars." So, okay, fine. Point taken. Besides, I wouldn't want all those frelling assholes who've spent so much energy and time whinning about my unconventional use of the English language to feel like maybe they're getting through to me.
And speaking of things that people say, or, the be more perspicuous, have said, here's a beauty from a moderately recent Amazon.com "review": "I've never read Poppy Z. Brite, so I can't compare this to her books..."
...what? Is that like a prerequisite now or something?
It put me in mind of a discussion I chanced across a while back. I don't recall where it was. Some website somewhere, and people were comparing me to Poppy and Poppy to me. There seemed to be three camps. Poppy's better. Caitlín's better. They both stink. I searched in vain for the camp daring to suggest that these two things, the Caitlín and the Poppy, are really very, very different beasts, now more than ever, and all this comparing was almost entirely an exercise in missing the point, of conflating apples with oranges, insects and birds, the Lower Triassic with the late Eocene.
Anyway, some reviewer once compared me to Dean Koontz, which was far more riduculous. So, I suppose it could be worse.
Maybe I should puke a few times and then start this entry over. I think I was way more more awake at 4:15.
Today, I'm going to pack up the iBook and go hide somewhere there are no telephones, somewhere I cannot check my e-mail, and work on editing this collection and on writing it's preface. Someplace quite. With better heating (though, to be fair, we're expecting mid-sixties today).
Oh, here's something I found very amusing yesterday, so I'm quoting it. I'm not sure how serious robyn_ma was being, because I never am, with her or with anyone else. But hating LJ/pager/IM-speak as I do, this warmed my foul, misshapen heart:
What is it with LJspeak? LEARN FUCKING ENGLISH. I mean, when I use it, I do so ironically. Most of the people on my friends list do, too. But when you seriously go out of your way to type 'teh'? And it's not for ironic effect? THE WORD IS 'THE.' TEE AITCH EEE. What's next, 'eht'? And what the fuck is up with DOZENS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS WITH THE OCCASIONAL 1 AND THEN 'ONE'?? I KILL YOU AND THEN SLAP YOUR CORPSE, YOU SILLY ILLITERATE ENGLISH-RAPING NO-EDUCATION-HAVING HAT OF ASS
Thank you. It's still frelling funny.
I sent Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds to my editor and to my lit agent yesterday.
And that pack of Camels I bought back in early January, when the book was stalled on me? I smoked three and tossed the rest of the pack. I'm pleased to say I'm still quit.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
My thanks to everyone who's voted in the poetry poll. I see we're still just a little shy of the requested one hundred votes, but the results are 100% positive, so I guess there will be a book of poetry somewhere down the line.
It is my considerable pleasure to announce that there will be a Subterranean Press hardcover edition of Daughter of Hounds! I don't have a lot of details yet, but it will be published well prior to the Penguin edition. Details TBA.
Though yesterday was supposed to have been spent resting (sometimes, I almost recall the meaning of that word, then I forget again) and helping Spooky do some work on the kitchen, I wound up wasting much of it resolving a disagreement with Penguin over what I would be charged for copies of the trade-paperback edition of Silk, which, you will remember, is nearing the end of the brief reprieve it was granted in November, when the remaindering was shifted from December to February. In December, when I offered to purchase 500 copies of the book, someone in Paperback Operations quoted me a discounted price — let's call it Price X. They did this by phone, and I had no written record. Yesterday, when I tried to order, the price had inexplicably risen to what we shall refer to as Price Y. Now, I'd not have been able to purchase any of these but for the assistance of a patron who will, for the present, remain nameless, but I certainly wasn't about to go to that patron and say, "Look, it'll be $Y instead of $X." So, a minor tussle ensued. By day's end, after the intervention of my editor, Operations had agreed to lower the price from Y to something a bit lower, which I shall refer to as N. I called the person who would be footing the bill, reluctantly, and the increase was approved. Next week, 500 copies of Silk will be appearing on my doorstep. I have no idea where we will store the frelling things, but, this way, I can continue to make the book available to readers and continue to make some income off it until another edition is, someday, in print.
Late in the day, Spooky and I finally started editing To Charles Fort, With Love, beginning with "Valentia." This will be the first story in the book, and it was, I believe, the first story that I wrote after completing Tales of Pain and Wonder. It was written in July 1999, just after I'd done some work in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and my head was filled with paleontology (this is evident in the story). It was originally published in Stephen Jones' Dark Terrors 5 (2000). Though set in Ireland, in many ways this short story presages Threshold, which I'd yet to write. Anyway, yesterday was likely the first time I'd read through it since 1999, and I was a little shocked at how much my voice has changed in the last five and a half years. Editing this collection, I'm faced with the unenviable task of deciding to what degree I will allow the stories to be reprinted as they first appeared and to what degree I will correct and rewrite. I thought I'd figured out a compromise, but yesterday I found myself doing quite a bit more rewriting on "Valentia" than I'd expected. I'm very conflicted about this. On the one hand, I don't want the book to be released and regret not having made changes I feel should be made, and, on the other, I don't want the book to be released and not reflect, to some degree, the evolution of my short fiction work over the last half decade. This is an important book for me, and I want to get it right. One thing I was doing yesterday was mercillessly splitting my old "compounderations," which I don't use anymore — "autumnlong," "greygreen," etc. were split apart yesterday. The sundering of collided words. Should I be doing this? Would it be better to let them stay — the compounderations, as well as the sentence fragments and disregarded commas — and allow the reader to see how they gradually fade from my stories over time? Or should the stories reflect more of my present aesthetic? I just don't know, and the editing has to proceed quickly, so I have to make a decision, one way or the other, very soon.
We stopped by Borders last night, where I bought a copy of an anthology in which one of my more recent stories appeared. One of the least things that any editor can do for their writers is to be sure that they receive complimentary copies of books. But the editor of this particular volume, and one other I am still lacking, has apparently decided otherwise. It is a great indignity, I think, to be forced to buy a book that exists, in part, because you contributed to it. Were this a charity project, such as the book to benefit the West Memphis Three to which Poppy and I contributed a story, it'd be understandable (though, those editors saw fit to sent me comp copies). There's simply no excuse for neglecting your authors this way.
And here's a thought — perhaps the reason that bad reviews and negative comments seem to affect me more than good reviews and comments, even when they're far less common than good reviews, is that bad reviews are often written so much more bluntly. They often seem almost bloodthirsty. They may, I think, even be written with more passion. This is just something that occurred to me last night while reading someone's online comment that they considered me "the poor man's Kathe Koja." It was funny, at first — silly, even — but then it sort of dug in and hung on. Anyway...
Oh, the cold weather has backed off a bit. We'll have high fifties today, low sixties tomorrow. The mammoths have headed north again.
I learned yesterday that Elizabeth Nicholls, a paleontological colleague at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, died back in October. I've been so out of touch with that part of my life the last couple of years, I wasn't even aware that she'd been seriously ill now for some time. Betsy was a great inspiration when I was starting out in paleontology back in the '80s, and we shared at least one discovery (the taxonomic synonomy of the mosasaur Platecarpus tympaniticus with both P. ictericus and P. coryphaeus, with the binomen P. tympaniticus having seniority). She reviewed the original draft of my mosasaur biostraigraphy paper in 1989 (published in 2002) and made many helpful suggestions. In her own work, she published on marine reptiles (mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, turtles, ichthyosaurs, thallatosaurs, etc.) and, most recently, was instrumental in recovering what might be the largest-known ichthyosaur, from a very remote region of British Columbia (see the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 24(4), pp. 838-849), a specimen that the Discovery Channel aired a special about a few years back. I'd not corresponded with Betsy since 2000 or so.
As I said last night, after this week, we'll be taking a few weeks away from eBay, so please check out the auctions now. And congrats to Eric, who gets a dinosaur for his troubles.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Yo, blogfolk. Here's a link to a LJ poll I've posted concerning the possibility of doing a book of poetry, Let me know what you think. Thanks.
I think the cold almost did me in yesterday. That or the family of mammoths. I've managed to herd them out onto the front porch, which only left about thirty pounds of Mammuthus dung to contend with. My point being — brrrrrrr. I don't care if you have 71 frelling inches of snow and I have none at all, it's still too frelling cold. Spooky, being of hearty Yankee/Midwestern stock is well adapted to these Pliestocene conditions and has been quite sad that she missed the blizzards. She talked to her mom yesterday, and it was snowing in Saunderstown, RI. Her dad's back from Alaska, by the way. Spooky is pining for snow. I'm pining for warm summer nights. We'd move to Portland and call it even, only I refuse to live beneath a volcano that may blow at any moment. I think that's reasonable.
You'd think someone with frostbitten fingers wouldn't type so frelling much, eh?
I did 1,484 words and finished Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds yesterday, despite the cold and the headache (the latter, at least, seems to have left me in the night). At this point, the novel stands at 166 ms. pages, 35,750 words. I might be a quarter of the way to THE END. I'm at least a fifth of the way there. I mark my life off in these increments. But now, I set DoH aside for a few days. I need the break. I have to fully understand what happens next. And I have other things that need writing.
Finishing a thing, even a chapter, which is only sort of finishing something, almost inevitably leads to depression or boredom or both. Last night I was lucky and only got the boredom. It was so bad that by about nine o'clock I actually tried to get back into Morrowind. That lasted for about ten minutes. Then I puttered about for about an hour, until a documentary about the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) came on the Discovery Channel. I am forever in awe of cephalopods. It is my hope that, when humans have finally done themselves in, there will still be cephalopods, who will evolve into terrestrial creatures of profound sentience, smarter than these silly, wasteful primates. Perhaps, fifty million years from now, it will be a cephalopod that first sets foot...er, tentacle...on Europa. That'd be fine by me. But I'll change the subject now, lest the sordid truth of mine and Spooky's tentacle fetish...ooops. Never mind.
After the Humbodlt show, I lay in bed and tidied up my iBook's desktop and many nested files (oh, I love nested files) while Spooky glued white hair to the head of her latest doll. I think I tidied for about an hour or so, after reading back over my blog for the last month, It's a wonder that I did not expire of tedium.
Here's a bit of good news, or at least potential good news: "San Francisco may become the first city in the nation to charge shoppers for grocery bags. The city's Commission on the Environment is expected to ask the mayor and board of supervisors Tuesday to consider a 17-cent per bag charge on paper and plastic grocery bags. While the goal is reducing plastic bag pollution...The whole point is to encourage the elimination of waste." With luck, the request will be granted and, with much greater luck, other cities will follow suit. And maybe people will begin to carry their own shopping bags to grocery stores, bags they can reuse many, many times. These are the gentle, little fairy tales I tell myself.
But the bad news (courtesy of Wired) is that Marvel Comics is suing NCSoft, makers of City of Heroes. Marvel's claim is that the MMORPG makes it possible for players to create unlicensed versions of popular Marvel characters to use as gaming avatars. Big green guys that might be mistaken for the Hulk. Storm clones. You get the picture. Personally, I think Marvel's shooting itself in the foot. But, hey, it's not my copyright.
After this week, we're agoing to be taking a week or two (or three) away from the eBay auctions, but there are still a few cool things to get up today and tomorrow, and cool stuff that hasn't yet sold. The next five people who use buy it now or grab something with the "fixed price" feature will get a FREE Kaiyodo prehistoric critter from my obscenely large and inconvenient collection of tiny prehistoric creature figurines. How can you possibly resist an offer like that? I'll even initial the little buggers, if you wish.
Okay. That's enough for this morning. Stay cool (ha ha ha ha ha).
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Yesterday was an anomoly, or, at least, it was an arbitrarily subdivided period of time containing an anomoly. As I said, I didn't wake until noon, which left me entirely off schedule. It was 3:25 p.m. before I got back to work on Chapter Two. And somehow, in a mere two hours, indeed, in slightly less than two hours, I wrote 1,849 words. Halfway through, I developed a truly terrible headache that's still with me. I'm not sure which I prefer to believe — that I somehow wrote five or six hours worth of story in only two hours or that I experienced a localized squiggle in the space-time continuum. Either way, I made significant progress yesterday. And got this headache. I should be able to finish Chapter Two today. Then I have to set it aside, as I've said, rest a little, do some things around the house, and write the prologue to To Charles Fort, With Love, and then I can get started on Chapter Three.
I know that it's not nearly so cold here as in most parts north and northwest, and at least we have no goddamn frelling snow, but I have had more than enough of winter and wish it to leave now, please. I'm sick of the way winter makes everything seem tired and thin and squalid. I want green trees and summer thunderstorms and days when the mercury rises above 90F. A family of woolly mammoths has taken up residence in one corner of my office. There's not nearly that much space in here, but it is that frelling cold. In February, Spooky and I shall be spending some time in Florida. It's a small consolation.
It would raise my spirits just an inch or so if you'd please have a look at our current eBay auctions. I think a few people may be confused by the items which we've put up with the fairly new "fixed price" feature. Basically, these items aren't being auctioned. They are simply being sold. In many cases, such as with The Dry Salvages and Low Red Moon ARCs, we were selling so many copies with "buy it now" that switching over to "fixed price" just made more sense.
Today's news pollution, "The Bureau of Land Management has concluded that oil and gas exploration in the northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska can be conducted with "minimal impact" on the area's wildlife." According to Henri Bisson, director of the BLM in Alaska, "The country needs access to its oil and gas resources..." That's a lie, of course. The country needs to learn to live without gas-hog SUVs. It needs to back away from its love affair with plastics and learn to live with less. It needs to insist that our government seriously explore alternative fuel options. It needs someone out there who can explain, clearly, so that everyone can understand, that we are presently in the midst of the greatest mass-extinction event this planet has seen in 65 million years, one which we have brought about, and even the assholes who don't give a shit about biodiversity and the preservation of wilderness are going to be feeling the hurt pretty soon. According to the CNN article, "Bisson said the development plan would identify seven lease tracts, of 46,000 to 59,000 acres each, north of Teshekpuk Lake, including 217,000 acres of key habitat for waterfowl. Exploratory leases also will be made available for 157,000 acres east and south of the lake, the area used by caribou." Screw the caribou. Who needs 'em. Screw future generations. Let them take care of themselves. Moma needs a new Hummer. Corporate executives need to try and fill those bottomless pockets.
Okay, well that made me feel ill.
So, I may as well close with this quote from Die Tageszeitung (Germany): Things are now clearer than ever: We have the right to feel a chill down the spine. To describe Bush as a madman with a mission at the head of a state bristling with weapons does not really get us any further... and, although insulting, it is no longer even particularly original. And yet this US administration sends a chill down the spine of anyone unwilling to become accustomed to listening to this madness.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
The way I feel right now, I'm about half determined to pack a bag — just one, that's all I'm allowed — and catch a plane to Montreal. Just a city I chose at random. There I would take up residence at a seedy hotel and spend the last year of my life with a boy whore and as much alcohol and heroin as I could consume. I can't speak French, but the boy whore could, so that works out. It would make a nice ending to the story. I'd take Spooky along, but she'd do something noble and pull me out at the last minute, saving the day and ruining the story. So she has to stay here with the cat. She'd miss the freezing morning when I wander out onto the street, fevery and delirious and half-dressed, and have a conversation with a ghost, a kindly ghost, who finally leads me back up to my rooms. I would not take my computer. I'd accept calls from no one.
It probably wouldn't be half as much fun as it sounds.
Anyway...yesterday, I wrote only 1,019 words on Chapter Two, which isn't so bad, but isn't really anything to get excited about either. There were too many distractions again. Today should be better in that regard.
The worst of it — of yesterday — was that I sat here in this dreary room and wrote the day away when it was nice outside. I'd not left the house since Sunday, so I went out on the front steps and put on my boots, and Spooky and I went to rent movies. Today, it's nasty out there again, and it will stay nasty for a few days. Missed my chance.
I'd meant to see The Forgotten in theatres, but things kept coming up. It wasn't bad, though a) we watched the extended version with its "alternate" ending, not what people saw in the theatre, and b) it's almost the same film as the far, far superior Dark City. It had its moments, though I think it wasn't quite certain if it was a film about paranoia, the ultimate unreliability of consensus reality, or the bond between mother and child. I think it should have chucked that last theme, found something other than a lost child to act as the catalyst, and all would have been better. Certain unfortunately smarmy moments might have been avoided. The Forgotten has one of the most effective car crashes ever filmed — the scene captures the unexpected suddeness of such things flawlessly, and it also foreshadows the film's most unnerving moment, when an entire cabin is suddenly snatched skyward by unseen forces. It's a movie that would have been better had the unseen forces remained unseen. The sounds we hear after the cabin is snatched away are far more disquieting than the sight of any actual "alien" could ever be. When the film was over, we watched the ending of the theatrical release. It made for an interesting comparison. The theatrical version is much more Hollywood. It presents a clear villian. It allows the main character to become the Strong Woman by calling the Bad Guy a bastard. Never mind that she was already a strong woman. The studios know a lot of people need things hammered through their thick skulls. Ultimately, the theatrical release ending does pretty much the same thing and leaves us with pretty much the same resolution, but also with some slender hope that the people responsible are being punished, that the system might work after all, that we might all be rats in a maze, but at least the maze builders are benevolent and can be trusted to govern themselves, that force of will can defeat the darkness. Seeing these two endings, knowing that the studio most likely chose the one that would close the film after polling test audiences, makes me a little ill. What if I did that with my novels? What would you think of me, if I were to so subvert the act of storytelling and mythmaking in an effort to make more money (by, I might add, perverting democracy)? Okay, at the end of Low Red Moon, I can kill Chance, or I can let her live. Which ending do you prefer? Check the box, and let us know. Should Orpheus make it back to the surface without looking to see if Eurydice is truly following him, or should he look? Should the mouse pull the thorn from the lion's paw, or should he mind his own damned business. I can only hope that it is self-evident that this process is as alien and destructive to art as anything ever could be. Yes, I'm sure it makes people more money, and money is nice, but it has very little to do with telling good and true and useful stories. We also watched Paranoia 1.0, which was odd, forgettable, intent on having a look and a feel and not particularly interested in having anything much to say, so I'll say nothing more about it.
Yes, that was a very long paragraph.
I feel asleep sometime after 3 a.m., and somehow slept until noon. I never sleep that late. It's left me feeling even more out of sorts than usual.
I love this quote I found yesterday from Sydney's The Austrailian, regarding Mr. Bush and the inauguration: He and those around him do such small-minded things that it detracts from the grandeur of his purpose, whether you regard that purpose as grand folly or grand mission...And we have the demeaning, disgusting innuendo constantly from the Bush administration that anyone who disagrees with their course, or opposes the severe restrictions on civil rights in the Patriot Act, is an appeaser, is disloyal, is un-American.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Yesterday, I learned that my sf story "Riding the White Bull," which first appeared in Argosy #1 last year, has been chosen by Gardner Dozois for The Year's Best Science Fiction (twenty-second annual collection). With this I am tremendously pleased. Indeed, I think it pleases me more than much of anything has pleased me in a long, long time. I love that story deeply, and there's a certain guilty satisfaction that comes with seeing your favoured children succeed in the Big, Scary World. My thanks to Lou Anders for asking me to do a story for Argosy.
I did a very satisfactory 1,358 words on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds yesterday. It looks as though I'll finish with this chapter by Sunday evening. At that point, I'm taking a couple of days off to rest and do a few things around the house. And figure out exactly what's going to be happening in Chapter Three, in which, I suppose, we return to Emmie Silvey. Finishing the scene yesterday was an odd sort of challenge. It strayed into what I consider rather erotic territory, though I suspect that many readers won't see it that way. It's a place that my writing doesn't usually go, not consciously, and it just happened. And I let it. It was right. There will be feminist readers who hate me for that scene (though I am a feminist myself, they'll hate me, anyway), with its somewhat brutal treatment of subjugation and humiliation visited upon one woman by another. But I think I'm happy with it, and I no longer apologize for things that please me. It was a small miracle that I wrote so much yesterday, hounded as I was with distractions. A conversation with my doctor. Trying to reach my editor at Penguin. Trying to reach someone else at Penguin. E-mails to my lit agent and to Marvel. Signing a veritable mountain of eBay books so Spooky could mail them out (no, seriously, a mountain). And so forth. I think my office door needs a lock, and I think I need to stop answering the phone and checking my e-mail when I'm trying to write.
We got a couple of new things up on eBay, including a lot of three anthologies including stories by me. Please have a look.
I've begun Mike Ashley's biography of Blackwood, Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood. It looks as though it will be very good. Ashley writes, "It seems such a shame that Blackwood and so many of his contemporaries no longer light fires in people's memories. Yet in their day they were the stars that brought light and life and fascination to the world." It struck me odd, to think that there are people who do not know the work of Algernon Blackwood. It struck me odd and sad, and I suppose the truth is that most people don't. His writing, especially "The Willows," has been a major influence. I think this showed in Threshold more than it has shown anywhere else.
Though the probe might now sit dead in a field of Titanian ice and mud, the wonders from Huygens continue to unfold. What a world we have found, and we have hardly touched the surface, much less scratched it. I could stare at this photo for hours:
Oh, and there was all that pomp and circumstance and idiotic commotion about Lord Bush being allowed to keep the keys to the kingdom for another four years. The inaugural noise covered the clank of dark machineries quite nicely, I thought. Hardly anyone noticed the sweet, contemptuous smirk he wore for the occassion, least of all the grinning pinheads who re-elected him. But, make no mistake, it was meant for them, in particular. No one much noticed the shadows or portents, either. We all know portents are usually invisible, except, of course, in hindsight. He's gonna change the world, kiddos. He gonna set us all free, or you'll die trying.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Okay. I'm about to prove that I can make a journal entry while I'm both asleep and afflicted with a frelling headache. Folks down front should hide beneath the big sheet of plastic we've conventiently provided. Avert the eyes of children. Pregnant women are strongly cautioned. See, now unless I confess to being the lovechild of Iggy Pop and Carole Channing, or reveal my sordid love affair with a Burmese python, all will be anticlimax. There's a lot to be said for anticlimax (I'm just too asleep and achey to remember any of it).
Okay. Let's see. Yesterday (an acceptably arbitrary place to start) I only managed to write 902 words on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds. It was the day of distractions and frittered time. First the bath. It's always a bad idea for me to take a hot bath before I write, because then all I want to do is sleep. Then I had to deal with the contracts for the Italian edition of Threshold, which I'd not even read, and have Spooky get them back in the mail to my agent so she can get them back to Gargoyle Books in Rome. I stole ten minutes for a quick lunch (reheated mac and cheese and a cold hamburger bun). There was eBay business. I had, I think, four e-mail exchanges with my editor at Penguin. I had to get in touch with Marvel about contract stuff. And then I was allowed to start actually trying to write, after my head was filled with all these other things. Still outside the gates of the abandoned amusement park. Soldier yelling at Saben White, Odd Willie trying to figure out the quickest way...you know, perhaps I should leave the story out of this. I fear I'm giving too much away. Anyway, I wrote 902 words, finally calling it quits at about 6 p.m.
I wasn't good for much of anything last night. We watched Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars on DVD. It's much, much better that way. Getting rid of the commercials revealed how truly epic the story is, and, I think, restored a flow that had been difficult to perceive when it was televised in October. Also, the DVD adds about 15 minutes of missing footage, which also smooths things out a bit. I noticed, too, how impressive is Guy Gross' score. I wish it were available on CD. I'm still not happy about the changes to certain characters (most notably Sikozu and Jothee) or the apparent short-cuts necessary with some of the make-up (most apparent in the Scarrans and Scorpius), but, that aside, TPKW is marvelous. The space battle scenes are, I would dare to suggest, better than anything in the last two Star Wars films, and the wormhole weapon effect at the end was beautiful and terrible and perfect. I got to bed about 2:30 a.m.
Wow. Four whole paragraphs, and no one's gotten hurt. I haven't even cut off one of my own fingers yet.
We've added a couple of new items to the eBay auctions. I've put up a PC of the lettered edition of The Five of Cups, opening at $1. Also, we have a few ARCs of The Five of Cups available (thanks, Bill). I think we've sold one already, since last night, so if you're interested in those, don't drag your feet. And on that note, I'm gonna go crawl under a rock somewhere and die in a pool of my own filth. Thank you.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I did an acceptable, but not particularly impressive, 1,055 words on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds yesterday. Writing about Soldier as a five year old is much easier than writing about the trainwreck of her adulthood. I got hung up right off, trying to describe the entrance to the abandoned amusement park at Rocky Point in Warwick, Rhode Island, and spent two hours on two paragraphs. Finally, I discarded one gate and two lamp posts, because the words weren't coming, and I needed to get on with the story. All I have to do is make you see this. This one particular thing here. That's all. And sometimes it's impossible. Sometimes, I know the best odds I can hope for are a thousand to one. You'll see what you see, what your life has conditioned you to see upon encountering that combination of words, not what I want or need you to see. Ficition writring is like making films for the blind. That's exactly how it felt yesterday. Well, odds are you've never seen this, this thing here, but I have to make you see it nonetheless. No, an approximation is unacceptable. You may not see the gates to just any old abandoned amusement park. It has to be the gates to Rocky Point Park in Warwick, otherwise I've failed. And I have failed, of course. It's all quite hopeless. You will "see" what you will "see." I may only make suggestions.
I am a toothless tyrant.
I was going to write, this morning, about how hard it is to write a story set in late 2008, writing it from early 2005, and having to avoid it being in any way futuristic, avoiding any little hints of science-fiction that might distract the reader or set them thinking in the wrong direction. But I'll save that for later. I want time for a quick bath before I start working on the novel today.
Yesterday, I got contracts from Italy. When I sign them, I will have at last sold foreign rights on one of my novels. Threshold will be released in Italian. My short fiction and comics have been translated into a number of languages — Czech, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Spanish, American. But this will be my first novel translation. It's a new thing, and hopefully it will lead to other translations.
I finished the Charles Fort biography last night. So-so or disappointing, I haven't yet decided. To much at the end is given over the the shrill ramblings of Tiffany Thayer. Fort comes through, all the same. "But damnation is nothing new to me. I offer the data. Suit yourself." I may now begin a biography of Algernon Blackwood, or perhaps something about Lovecraft. We shall see.
The eBay auctions are going strong. We're almost out of "Waycross" (just three copies left) and Murder of Angels (also only three remaining). A copy of From Weird and Distant Shores goes off tomorrow. And there are lots of other cool things. Check it out. My thanks to everyone who has bought or bid in the last couple of weeks. You've made the unforseen and unbudgeted dental crisis only a bump in the road instead of a steep drop into the sea. I'd bless you, but no good would come of that — you'd probably find toads in your beds and plagues of ladybugs in your pantries.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Yesterday, I did a very respectable 1,362 words on Chapter Two, despite being entirely out of sorts. This brings the total for Chapter Two so far to 5,013, which leads me to believe that the chapter is, roughly speaking, about half finished. I may have it done by Saturday. But I am still out of sorts, perhaps worse today than yesterday. The cold isn't helping in the least. Last time I checked the temperature, about half an hour ago, it was only 21F out there. Most likely, I'll not leave the house again today. I have my old velvet coat from Salvation Army, the one with the ugly tortoiseshell buttons, and I have my fingerless gloves, and I will spend the day hunched over this keyboard like something from a Charles Dickens novel, pecking away for a lump of coal. What worry have I of carpal-tunnel or a bad back or my failing eyesight. This might be as good as it gets. Looking back from, oh, let's say 2019, this may prove to be my fondest memory. But I was speaking of Chapter Two. Yesterday, and the day before, Soldier met the Bailiff for the first time. She was only five years old. The constant reader will, hopefully, recall the Bailiff from "So Runs the World Away," In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, and "The Dead and the Moonstruck." He is one of my favorite returning characters. Sort of a cross between Edward Gorey, Santa Claus, and Robert Mitchum's character in The Night of the Hunter (meaning no disrespect to any of those fine gentlemen, especially Santa Claus).
I would love to love the cold. I would, truly.
Other things that must be done: e-mail my editor at Penguin about the notes he sent me on the prologue of Daughter of Hounds, because I don't have ProEdit and can't read them. E-mail Richard Kirk about To Charles Fort, With Love. Order copies of Silk and Murder of Angels (via e-mail). E-mail Leh'agvoi about his revisions to the storyboards. I never call anyone these days.
I'm quite disappointed in Damon Knight's Charles Fort biography. It started out well enough, but round about Chapter Four, it sort of ceased being a biography and started being a regurgitation and interpretation of The Book of the Damned and Fort's writing in general. I understand that biographical details on Fort's life are scarce, but I'm beginning to get the feeling that Knight just didn't try that hard. Chapter Eight is wasted with an annoying and futile defense of Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision (and thus the author demonstrates, by seeing Fort and Velikovsky as fellow travelers, that he understands Fort not at all. Chapter Seven is a rather tedious indulgence on the part of Knight, as he attempts to create elaborate graphs demonstrating correlations of one sort or another within Fort's data set, especially during the period of 1877-1892. There are charts and diagrams that made me squint, and even though Knight notes that Fort never used either, that he distrusted and abhored statistics, the author plunges merrily ahead with this "Fortean" statistical undertaking. Some of Damon Knight's thoughts on space-time annomalies are interesting, particularly as they relate to premonitions, but the ideas are recounted in an extremely simplistic, anecdotal manner. I'm at Chapter Ten now, and almost done with the book, and it seems to be getting back around to being a biograpy of Charles Fort. We shall see.
I'm also struggling with The Legacy of Kain: Defiance on PlayStation. I think my biggest problem with the last few games that I've tried to get through (Devil May Cry II, Bujingai, etc.) is that they are, just beneath the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned platform games. Last night, I described The Legacy of Kain: Defiance as Donkey Kong for goths (with some of the most tiresome cut scenes ever written). I'm tired of games that are so obviously games. I didn't even make it all the way through the most-recent Ratchet and Clank, for this very reason. I want a game like Primal or The Chronicles of Riddick that sucks you in and makes you forget that you're playing a game. Otherwise, it's just sports for geeks, and I frelling loathe sports. Ah, well. I am getting a lot more reading done.
Okay, I should wind this up. Spooky's about to leave for the dentist. Which brings me to the last order of business, the eBay auctions. Please check them out. Spend some money. Last night, we added a traycased lettered of Wrong Things, along with one of the lettered hardbacks of Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold (letter ZZ).
Monday, January 17, 2005
I'm quite out of sorts this morning, even though the writing went well yesterday. I did almost 1,100 words on Chapter Two. The book inches forward. And yet, here I am, quite out of sorts.
There is some reason, I'm sure.
Isn't there some great, grim irony in the fact that the whole country gets a day off work in honour of a man who struggled against and died to end oppression, even after having re-elected one of the greatest would-be oppressors of the last century? And that the threat of freedom for a minority may have been what finally tipped the electoral scales in Dominar Bush's favour? Yes, I think that's what it is, a great, grim irony. King said, "No one is free until we are all free." Somehow, the Reverend Bernice King has missed that part, as have so many other Americans. All or nothing. Personally, I think that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day should have been suspended this year in recognition of Bush's second term. A nation cannot simultaneously pat itself on the back for granting this group of people freedom and strive to deny freedom to this other group. Or, rather, it can, but it should not be permitted to do so. The vacation has not been earned because the work is not finished.
I have always liked this quote (from King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail"): So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
But that's not the reason I feel this way. I suspect that my out-of-sortsness flows from some far less consequential spring.
Set me aflame and cast me free,
Away, you wretched world of tethers...
I also worked on editing To Charles Fort, With Love yesterday. It's going to take up much of my time for the next couple of weeks, as I need to get the final ms. to Subterranean Press so that they can get ARCs printed and out to reviewers. I have to write my preface, which I fear may be a little long. It wants to be three different prefaces, and so I have to give each thesis voice and find the common ground. And I still haven't reworked the ending of "Bradbury Weather," and I can't screw up and not leave myself time to get to that.
There should be a couple of new things going up on the eBay auctions today. Your support is appreciated. Think of it as a way of showing your support for those authors who have not (and are not likely to) win that great publishing lottery wherein mass popularity and no small degree of wealth is bestowed to an arbitraily elect few. And, hey, you even get a neat book or two in the bargain!
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I'm not really in a journal kind of mood. I didn't even make my usual morning entry in my pen-and-paper journal this morning before breakfast. So this is likely to be a bit meandersome (if that wasn't already a word, "meandersome," it ought to be, and I hereby claim its authorship for all time and points beyond).
So much of my attention is focused of the bits of news we''re getting from the ESA on the Huygens probe's discoveries. If you haven't visited the "Sounds of Titan" page, you ought to do so now. Oh, the marvelous things you people could do if you could only stop killing each other in the name of god and money. It makes me dizzy to consider. It's hard to get a handle on just exactly how much the world has spent on the United State's frelling of Iraq, but according to a January 13th Bloomberg.com report, "The U.S. spent $102 billion through Sept. 30 on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, with costs averaging $4.8 billion a month, the Pentagon comptroller's office said today." $102 billion dollars, so far, to make the world safe from a non-existant threat. By comparison, the entire Cassini-Huygens mission will have cost only "about $3.26 billion," according to the mission FAQ from NASA.
Every month, the US is spending more on the Iraqi war than it took to reach Saturn and Titan. Mass murder is expensive, and good science is relatively cheap. Oh, but I am naive. I forget.
On a lighter note, check out Chapter 11 of Boshen and Nesuko. Only fictional blood is spilled.
I'm now reading Damon Knight's 1970 biography of Charles Fort, along with Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California by Richard P. Hilton (and a host of very old books on Rhode Island and Massachusetts history and folklore). Hilton's book contains some of the best restorations of mosasaurs ever published anywhere. They might be a little thick through the mid-section and not quite snakey enough, but they look like what they were, gigantic sea-going lizards, not crocodiles with flippers. I am especially fond of the painting of Plotosaurus bennisoni on p. 108.
On Friday, my copy of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars DVD arrived. I'd preorderd from Creation Entertainment way back in October. Because I preordered I got a free autographed cast member photo, and, much to my delight, I got a Gigi Edgley signature! I haven't had time to watch the DVD yet, perhaps tomorrow night. There's about fifteen or twenty minutes of footage that didn't make the TV airing. I did get a kick out of the synopsis on the back of the DVD's case, however: When a full-scale war is engaged by the evil Scarran Empire, the Peacekeeper Alliance has but one hope: reassemble human astronaut John Crichton, once sucked into the Peacekeeper galaxy through a wormhole. Crichton's task: Get the entire Peacekeeper race to safety before the last war of an era brings an end to the universe. I'm quite certain that not only had the person who wrote this never seen an episode of Farscape, she or he ceratinly never bothered to watch the mini-series they were trying to synopsize. Or, maybe, I've received, by some fluke of cosmic misdirection, the Special Unrealized Reality version. But if not, I hope I can get this person to write copy on my next novel. Then no one will have even the slightest clue what it's "about" and will be forced to buy it and read it to find out.
And, lastly, I'm reposting this paragraph from my last entry: We added a couple of things to the eBay auctions yesterday and will likely add more today. We're now offering ARCs of the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon, but supplies are limited and they've been going fast (I think we've sold five since last night). Also, we've put up a PC of the leatherbound lettered edition of Wrong Things (out of print), with a "buy it now" price $50 dollars lower than the publication price. Bill Schafer was a kind enough to send us a large box of goodies for the auction, for which we are very grateful. He also presently has the high bid on the hand-corrected Dry Salvages ARC, a situation someone should rememdy. Take notice of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, which isn't selling as well as it usually does. The copies up now are the limited edition, not the trade, which we were offering earlier. They are signed by both me and Dame Darcy. Great art, a fine Dancy story, a handsome volume. Also, check out From Weird and Distant Shores, which includes a Richard Kirk illustration for each and every story and wonderful cover art by the amazing Bob Eggleton. Thanks to everyone taking part in the auctions; it's a huge help, really.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
The cold has returned, though not with the ferocity we were seeing a few weeks ago. Just enough to have me a little off balance. But soon spring will be in sight. Ena sn'ial.
This will be the first post I've made from Blogger in ages, but LiveJournal is still offline. It has been since early yesterday evening, following what was apparently a truly stupendous loss of power. So much for Internap. Anyway, I'll compose this here and then crosspost it to LJ later, as soon as I can. This crash has made me very grateful that virtually every bit of my journal is mirrored at Blogger (and most of it's backed up to disk, as well).
Huygens is showing us marvels, just as I knew it would.
I finished Private Demons last night about 3:30 a.m. I'm glad that I read it, and it has granted me great insight into Jackson's life and work. But, I will also say that Judy Oppenheimer is that annoying sort of biographer who cannot resist breaching the responsibility and role of the biographer. I would say that there's entirely too much of Oppenheimer in this book about Jackson.
Last night, we watched Nick Hamm's The Hole (also known as After the Hole), which is, I think, quite an underrated thriller. Thora Birch is extremely effective, and the film makes good use of its setting and the brooding threat of abandoned places (at times, it had me thinking of the excellent Session 9, though the two films share little common ground). The best haunted house stories are aware that "the hole" is not truly an artefact of warped architecture or ghostly visitations, but of the conscious minds inhabiting or passing through any given hole, any given parting of the solid with enclosed, empty space, and The Hole excels in this regard.
As for Daughter of Hounds, I spent a couple hours yesterday polishing what I'd written the day before. This scene is very dialogue heavy, and I've found that my dialogue almost always benefits from this sort of tightening. I have to hear the characters say it and be convinced that it's exactly what they would say in that instance, given who they are and everything that has happened to them. Our speech is never accidental, and the dialogue in books and films should reflect that. I was suprised to find that the profanity that had troubled me the day before worked completely. I think I cut one use of "shit," and that was all. A character should speak as a character would speak. If your gangters talk like choirboys, you'd better have a damned good reason for it.
We added a couple of things to the eBay auctions yesterday and will likely add more today. We're now offering ARCs of the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon, but supplies are limited and they've been going fast (I think we've sold five since last night). Also, we've put up a PC of the leatherbound lettered edition of Wrong Things (out of print), with a "buy it now" price $50 dollars lower than the publication price. Bill Schafer was a kind enough to send us a large box of goodies for the auction, for which we are very grateful. He also presently has the high bid on the hand-corrected Dry Salvages ARC, a situation someone should rememdy. Take notice of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, which isn't selling as well as it usually does. The copies up now are the limited edition, not the trade, which we were offering earlier. They are signed by both me and Dame Darcy. Great art, a fine Dancy story, a handsome volume. Also, check out From Weird and Distant Shores, which includes a Richard Kirk illustration for each and every story and wonderful cover art by the amazing Bob Eggleton. Thanks to everyone taking part in the auctions; it's a huge help, really.
Okay, I hope LJ is back up soon, because I am definitely no longer accustomed to things here at Blogger...
Friday, January 14, 2005
I was reading the European Space Agency's website, looking for news of the Huygens probe, and I started staring at this illustration (below). And I thought, this is science fiction, this painting, but shortly, very shortly, it'll be replaced with actual images, and then it will become something else, whatever it is that speculation, even very educated speculation, becomes when replaced by fact. And then I saw that the first raw, unprocessed images had already come in. From altitude, there appear to be deep river valleys (methane?) and an ocean. A close-up shows rounded, cobble-like chunks of ice. And there you go, I thought.
It's already happened...
Be proud of yourselves, humans. For a moment, forget your holy wars and political squabbles, your greed and pettiness, your fears and hatreds. Just look at this. This is why you're here.
Suddenly, my day is filled with news which needs relating. But first, yesterday was a very frustrating but, ultimately, very productive writing day. I managed to do 1,247 words on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds. I think I spent about seven hours at the keyboard and by 3:30 p.m., four hours in, had all but given up hope of writing anything significant. But then it came in a great rush, as sometimes happens, and most everything was written in the last three hours. I think I actually like this book. I'm not used to liking my books. I may love them and think them fine things worthy of attention and respect, but I rarely like them. This one, though, I think I like. The scene yesterday was even funny. However, after doing a whole chapter about Emmie Silvey, suddenly cutting back to Soldier, which entails, among other things, a great deal of profanity, is something of a shock to the system. I suspect I'll try to weed out a little of the fouler language today. It was really over the top at times. I don't mind giving readers whiplash, but I don't know that I want to break their necks!
Okay, on to news. I've just gotten word from Bill Schafer that the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon will absolutely, definately, finally ship on February 8th! Better very late than never. I'm looking forward to having this one in hardback and to seeing Ryan Obermeyer's work on it. Low Red Moon remains my favorite of my novels to date. When people ask me which book they should read first, I always point them towards Low Red Moon.
Also, thanks to some judicious formatting of To Charles Fort, With Love, Richard Kirk is back on board. He'll do three interior illustrations and the end papers. Obviously, I'm very pleased about this.
Yesterday, I received copies of my most recent scientific paper, "First record of a velociraptorine theropod (Tetanurae, Dromaeosauridae) from the Eastern Gulf Coastal United States" (coauthored with David R. Scwimmer), which appeared in The Mosasaur: The Journal of the Delaware Valley Paleontology Society (Vol. VII) way back in May 2004, but I've been so out of touch with paleo' that copies are only now just finding me.
Of course, the big news of the day is that the Huygens probe has survived the plunge through Titan's atmosphere and is alive and well. I am elated, truly elated. We'll watch the coverage tonight on Discovery (or whatever it's calling itself these days). I suspect that Titan is about to show us marvels, beamed back across more than two billion miles of space. We will see the surface of a new world! These are the days I live for.
And I guess that's just about it for today. I need to read over what I wrote yesterday, to be sure it holds up.
I don't suppose there's any chance of the Bush Administration issuing an apology to the Iraqi people now that the absence of WMDs in Iraq has been officially confirmed. I didn't think so. Not that it would bring back all the thousands of soldiers and civilians who have died in our president's War on the Wrong frelling Target. Of course, Rumfeld wants us all to believe that they might yet be out there somewhere. He'll still be saying this in 2025, I suspect. "Well, yeah, but there are still three large boulders in Salahuddin that no one's looked under. What about those?" Bush is a liar, at the very least, and I think impeachment would be too kind a fate for these thugs. But, hey, I'm just a screechy liberal dyke writer mouthing off when I don't "have all the facts." I know this, because people keep telling me that those damned WMDs are out there somewhere. You know, maybe Sadam had a Stargate, and as soon as the US invaded he chucked all the WMDs into it, zapping them into another galaxy. Why the heck hasn't Rumsfeld thought of that?
Maybe they're on Titan...
Click here for eBay goodness in the service of emergency dentistry.
I was reading the European Space Agency's website, looking for news of the Huygens probe, and I started staring at this illustration (below). And I thought, this is science fiction, this painting, but shortly, very shortly, it'll be replaced with actual images, and then it will become something else, whatever it is that speculation, even very educated speculation, becomes when replaced by fact. And then I saw that the first raw, unprocessed images had already come in. From altitude, there appear to be deep river valleys (methane?) and an ocean. A close-up shows rounded, cobble-like chunks of ice. And there you go, I thought.
It's already happened...
Be proud of yourselves, humans. For a moment, forget your holy wars and political squabbles, your greed and pettiness, your fears and hatreds. Just look at this. This is why you're here.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Yeah, so maybe there are other writers who can spend the first part of the day enjoying a warm January afternoon and running around getting dren done, but I'm categorically not one of them. I've spent too many years doing this writing thing exactly the same way, day after day after day. I have a routine. The routine is, obviously, inflexible. After dealing with e-mail and such yesterday morning, Spooky and I got lunch at Fellini's, went by a hardware store to get some stuff for the kitchen, and, shortly after that, returned home where I tried to go back to work on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds. I did an astoundingly measley 129 words and gave up. My head was just entirely too full of the earlier part of the day to focus on the keyboard, the story, the characters who demand every ounce of my attention. Today will go better. Today I will do more than a thousand words, easy (watch the bravada there, lady, you'll get your ass kicked).
I may have found a legitimate reason (that is, a reason suitable to my own peculiar need for convincing) to read books about other authors' lives. In the Shirley Jackson biography, Private Demons, I'm finding little bits here and there that make me feel not so alone in the particulars of my work, seeing that another writer shares this or that peculiarity. For example:
Shirley indicated to her students that her own writing tended to flow out almost automatically, without much conscious planning. Once, after reading several pages of a work in progress, she stopped suddenly. "I can't tell you what happens next, because I haven't gone any further," she said.
...she rarely remembered anything she had written. "I can read my own books in print the way I read and reread old books from my childhood; I can remember more passages from Jane Eyre than I can from any of my books."
While we were in Birmingham last week, Spooky and I drove past the apartment building on Southside that I used as the model for the building where Sadie Jasper is living in Low Red Moon. The side of the building in which I'd located Sadie's second-story apartment was a charred ruin. I think my heart actually, literally, skipped a beat. Sometimes, I dislike meaningful coincidence. I'll not say more, for fear of spreading about spoilers — some people reading this may one day read Low Red Moon, those who have yet to do so. But it was a shock. Besides, many years ago, in my misbegotten twenties, we used to have raucous drug parties in that very apartment, and there's a certain, admittedly questionable, emotional attachment to the place. I must strive to be careful about burning "real world" buildings in my stories. I'm still getting the hang of this whole cause and effect thing. So far, there's been no fire, to my knowledge, along Cullom Street to match the one at the end of Murder of Angels.
This morning , Leh'agvoi (alias Setsuled) e-mailed me storyboards for the Nar'eth "winter special" manga. It's looking drad. I'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, please have a look at our eBay autions (a good cause, the restoration of Spooky's molar). Things are going well with the "one of a kind" ARC from my editing of The Dry Salvages, but we'd like to see it go a lot weller. Thanks.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I did 1,104 words on Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds yesterday, much to my relief. Perhaps this book is gathering momentum after all! I wrote to Tom Waits' Real Gone yesterday, a goddamn superb disc and the perfect accompaniment for the beginning of Chapter Two.
It seems like I got off about a hundred e-mails yesterday, which means I'm maybe halfway to caught up on correspondence. After dinner, I finished the "winter special" script for Nebari.net, which was immediately sent off the Leh'agvoi to be drawn. It's the first comic script that I've done since Bast: Eternity Game in 2002, so it was interesting to be working in that format again (and to be doing so freely, with no editorial interference). I'm fairly happy with the result, an important bit of prophecy both for Nar'eth personally and for the Nebari people, and you'll get to see a kragat! I'd also intended to spend some time working on my soth'eerni shards, working the Nebari "runes" into the glass, but it was 10 p.m. by the time I got around to it and discovered the engraving's going to be much slower going than I'd anticipated. So, not much progress on that front.
I woke this morning at frelling 5 a.m. and was unable to fall asleep again. I got up and discovered the still-dark street was blanketed with a wonderful fog. I went into my office and did some editing on the ms. for To Charles Fort, With Love. As I mentioned yesterday, the book will not include a number of stories I'd hoped that it would. It will include the following:
Preface, "Looking for Innsmouth"
"Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)"
"So Runs the World Away"
"La Peau Verte"
"The Dead and the Moonstruck"
"The Road of Pins"
The Dandridge Cycle:
"A Redress for Andromeda"
"Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea"
"Andromeda Among the Stones"
Afterword by Ramsey Campbell
The inspiration to include an index occurred to me this morning. It will be an interesting addition and only a small annoyance to actually put together. Anyway, about six, realizing that I'd never make it through the day without more sleep, I took half an Ambien and slept until a quarter after nine.
There are a couple of new things that have been added to the eBay auctions, including a lot of three anthologies (The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories for Women, Dark Terrors 5, and The Mammoth Book of New Terror), as well as the ARC of The Dry Salvages which I marked up during revision of the novella. That last one's for bidding and has no "buy it now" option (though I will privately entertain offers). I virtually never let this sort of thing out of my hands, but Spooky's dental bill comes first. Many of the corrections that I made to the story were first made on this copy of the ARC, and there are editing marks on almost every page, all in my hand. And, of course, there's lots of other good stuff in the auction.
It's sunny out and warm, and there's cold on the way, so I think I'm going out, to a park or something. I can save my writing for tonight, That might work. If it doesn't, if I can't pick up the writing after being out all day, well, I've many cold days ahead to make up for it.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I've learned that Low Red Moon is being used for an American Gothic lit course at the University of Missouri (Rolla), which is pretty cool. Both Silk and Threshold have previously been used in college courses, but this is the first time, that I'm aware of, that Low Red Moon has been used. Perversely, I rather love the thought that people are being forced to read my books.
No writing yesterday. I spent most of the afternoon at Emory, doing more research for Chapter Two of Daughter of Hounds, which I still hope to begin today.
And I'm struggling against a profound sense of futility, which, all things, and recent events, considered, probably isn't suprising.
Set me aflame and cast me free,
Away, you wretched world of tethers...
My best library discovery yesterday was New England's "Black Friday," when, on May 19th, 1780, "Darkness came on like an eclispe. By 9 o'clock, A. M., persons could not see to weave. Candles were lighted to dine by. As the day began to prematurely put on the appearance of twilight, cattle lowed, and fowls went to roost. The darkness of the succeeding evening was almost palpable. Many feared and trembled lest the end of all things had come." There is, of course, a disappointingly prosaic explanation for this affair, one that I guessed at once. And, for that matter, one that I will most likely disregard in Daughter of Hounds. Charles Fort would not have approved of the forest fire scenario, anyway, no matter how obvious it seems. He would say it was entirely too convenient, that the sun is obscurred in Massachusetts and there is an assumed forest fire in New Hampshire, that someone wrote a poem about the fire in 1780 which happened not to be published until 1881. I'm feeling about as disagreeable as Fort right now. I am presently disinclined to accept the merely rational.
And speaking of Mr. Fort, I'll have more details on To Charles Fort, With Love tomorrow. We're working out the final Table of Contents. Sadly, for various reasons, a number of stories I wanted to appear in this collection will be excluded.
Please check out our latest round of eBay, which is paying Spooky's dentist bill.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Yesterday, we read through Chapter One of Daughter of Hounds, just as I said we would. And I like it. It feels good and right and all those things that the first chapter of a novel should feel. What's more, I think I was wrong about the focus of Chapter Two, which I hope to begin tomorrow. And I think that Deacon and Sadie are going to take a backseat to Emmie and Soldier, more than I'd thought. This is Emmie's book, and it's Soldier's book. Everyone else is peripheral. And I do feel like I'm now writing it the way I want to write it. The writing of a novel or short story or poem or whatever should elevate the audience, not drag the writer down to some level beneath herself. And she — the author — should fight always to prevent that dragging down, especially when the only possible benefit of allowing it to happen is monetary. It's terrifying to discover that I'm still far more idealistic than I can afford to be.
Spooky and I have been enjoying the e-mail reports from her father (by way of her mother), who's currently mucking about on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska (Wales, Teller, and other places), investigating Native American fishing practices. It makes me long for my days as a field paleontologist, freezing my butt off in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, etc. hunting mosasaurs and other ancient beasties. Now I live in this chair, at this desk, and bitch whenever my feet get cold. I have become soft and too accustomed to the seducing ways of Civilization. The photos and stories her father's sending back are marvelous.
I have a regrettable announcement concerning To Charles Fort, With Love, my next collection of short fiction. Citing the success of The Dry Salvages, Subterranean Press wants to keep the cost down enough that the book will have a $20 price tag. To this end, it has been necessary to cancel plans to have it illustrated by Richard Kirk, who did such fantastic work for me on Tales of Pain and Wonder, From Weird and Distant Shores, and Wrong Things. I'm half sick about this, as I feel Rick's brought so much to my anthologies in the past. But we have promised one another that we will work together again in the future. He's just finished up work on an edition of China Miéville's King Rat, which you should check out. We'll still have a cover by Ryan Obermeyer, as planned, and the book should be out late this spring (though subpress is not yet accepting preorders).
I've been trying to stay away from the television, the DVD player, the X-Box and Playstation, trying to spend more time reading, but the events of the last week have led to some significant backsliding as I sought comfort with my eyes. Thursday night we watched Troy, which was well beyond disappointing. Here's a movie that wanted to be Gladiator so hard it hurt, but failed at almost every turn. Even Brad Pitt and Peter O'Toole seemed lost in this silly mess. Orlando Bloom can do better; here he pouted, played a wimpy, half-assed version of Legolas, and...well...pouted. And gods, that song at the end by Josh Groban — the film deserves to be forgotten for that alone. Anyway, we did better on Friday night. We rented The Chronicles of Riddick and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Back on June 12th, right after I saw the new Riddick film, I wrote in this journal that I found 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." That's one I got frelling right, kiddos. The director's cut is fifteen minutes longer and does away with that rushed feeling entirely. The whole thing about the Furians makes a lot more sense, we get a character who was entirely excised from the theatrical release, as well as a little appreciated necromonger sex, and a bit more Jack/Kira. If you saw it in the theatre and weren't pleased, you might give it another try. The remake of The Manchurian Candidate was quite effective, though I'm not sure I can say it's more effective than the original. Too bad they couldn't have called it The Halliburton Candidate and gotten right to the point. Finally, I finished Devil May Cry II last night. It's the first time I've ever accidentally finished a game. It was over that quick, and there are only two good things I can say about it — it isn't quite the worst game I've ever played, and it had some nice visuals, here and there. But the gameplay was absolutely awful, the script had us laughing through the whole thing, the invisible walls and non-interactive enviroments are maddening, it's unreasonably simple, the music was dren, and this is the first time I've ever actually felt it necessary to call a game sexist (which is not to say it's the first time I've ever noticed sexism in a game). The whole second disc, with Lucia's quest, was so totally dumbed-down and simplified, as though we really shouldn't expect as much from a female character as from a male character. It's sort of the Dumb Girl Version of the game. Anyway, a lousy two-year old game. Enough said. And enough television and gaming for a while, I think.
Is that all for now? Oh, one more thing. Please check out our eBay auctions, the proceeds of which will go to pay for Spooky's recently shattered molar. Thank you. Okay, that's all for now.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Amid the chaos and upheavel of the past week, there has, suprisingly, been progress on Daughter of Hounds. On Monday, I did about 1,100 words, after realizing that the only way the book would move forward was if I stopped trying to guess what would make the book more successful, "more accessible" (my lit agent's phrase, not mine) to readers than my previous novels. Instead, I did what seemed right, what felt right, and gave Emmie Silvey the whole chapter. Then, on Friday, I did a decent 967 words, then did 1,240 yesterday and finished Chapter One. It doesn't feel as good as, say, finishing Chapter Fourteen, but it still feels pretty damn good, especially given the way this book's been kicking my butt for months. Today, we'll read through Chapter One, and I'll make whatever corrections are called for. This is what I generally do instead of rewrite. I make corrections. I just don't see the point in writing drafts. Anyway, I was also planning to spend some time at the Emory Library today, but they're closed (still "holiday hours" as classes haven't yet resumed - crap, crap, crap).
I don't read a lot about writers or the process of writing. Usually, I'd much rather be raeding about giant squid or dinosaurs or cryptozoology or quantum physics — almost anything is more interesting to me than the lives of frelling writers. So, I was more or less unaware of the commotion caused by the publication of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" in the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker. By contemporary standards — hell, by the standards that had come about by the time of my childhood in the '70s — "The Lottery" seems far too genteel and soft-spoken in its delivery of horror to have possibly caused such a ruckus. Outraged readers, cancelled subscriptions, mountains of hate mail, the South African government banning Jackson from ever visiting, etc. Which just goes to show you (what it goes to show you I'm not going to say, because I don't feel like courting scorn today). In her biography of Jackson, Judy Oppenheimer writes of "The Lottery," "The fact that the story was not as readily understood as, say, a Lone Ranger episode — that, in fact, it might even require a few moments of thoughtful consideration — seemed to anger them [the readers] most." This line caused me a moment of serious déjà vu. Decades after "The Lottery" was originally published, readers might have less trouble with horror or with the suggestion that the veneer of civility hides a fundamental evil in the human spirit, but, in my experience, they're no less angered at having to think. It would be presumptious of me to draw parallels between my own work and Jackson's, but it's impossible not to note the similar reactions elicited by the endings of "The Lottery" and Silk, Threshold and various of my other works. You'd have to be looking the other way not to see it. And it's frelling depressing. I think Jackson's response to the kerfuffle was quite on the mark. She wrote, of the letters received by The New Yorker and passed along to her, "if they could be considered to give any accurate cross section of the reading public, or the reading public of The New Yorker, or even the reading public of one issue of The New Yorker, I would stop writing now."
Similarly, if I'd taken the general reaction to Silk as an accurate cross section of readers of dark fiction today, I'd never have written Threshold, and if I'd taken seriously all those "what happened?" reactions to the end of Threshold, I never would have written Low Red Moon, and so forth. I know now that many readers expect me to do all the hard work for them. But they're just as out of luck as they ever were. And, of course, so am I. It's not that I don't want a wider readership and the financial rewards that follow, just that I can't figure out how to stoop low enough to win that much vaulted status — "accessible."
This is turning into a rant, and I did not mean for it to.
Spooky broke a tooth yesterday, and getting it fixed has now supplanted the Emory Library fee as the driving force behind our most recent eBay auction, because not only do few working writers have dental insurance, fewer still have dental insurance which covers their partners. Monday, Spooky goes to the dentist.
Anyway, there's work to do. Roll credits. Lower the curtain. More later.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
So, it was my intention to write something here about my grandmother, not quite a eulogy, but something. Something short. And I've been running the words through my mind now for days. I can't quite find the right thing to say, which leads me to believe that there is no right thing to be said. I'll say this instead.
It's true, and that's close enough.
My grandmother was born Mary Elizabeth Satterfield on May 27th, 1914, to Will and Sarah Dovie Satterfield, either in Birmingham or somewhere in Winston County, Alabama (I'm still trying to find out which). One month later, on June 28th, Archduke Francis Ferdinand , heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo, which is relevant if only because it changed the course of her life, as it would change the course of the entire world. My grandmother had no sisters, but she did have three brothers, Alfred, Lawrence, and William. I've only ever met Alfred. Lawrence died some time ago, and William was killed when he was only twelve years old. He was struck by an automobile, which must have been a fairly odd way to die way back then and in rural Alabama. My grandmother attended school through the eleventh grade, when her family no longer had money to pay for her textbooks. Her parents were too proud to accept charity that would have paid for the books, so she left school. She married my grandfather, Gordy Monroe Ramey, when she was nineteen years old. That would have been 1933, I suppose. That was the year that Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and F.D.R. became the 32nd US president. She would have three daughters — my Aunt Joanne (Sarah Joanne Ramey), who was born in 1934; my mother (Susan Elizabeth Ramey), who was born in 1944; and my Aunt Pat (Patricia Anne Ramey), who was born in 1947. She would eventually have seven grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and a great grandson. Her husband died in January 1977, when I was only twelve. She never left the southeastern US, traveling only as far west as Louisiana, as far south a Florida, perhaps as far north as Kentucky; during the last twenty-eight years of her life, she didn't leave Alabama. She lived through the world wars, Korea, Vietnam, etc. She read a lot and had a fondness for (and vast knowledge of) British history. She was Catholic, but she stopped attending mass after an argument with the local priest (I think that was in the '60s). She remained religious, though her brand of Catholicism incorporated some distinctly non-Catholic concepts, such as reincarnation.
When I was a child, she taught me about fossils and which snakes were poisonous, and how to find sassafras and watercress. She taught me how not to get lost in the woods, and which things I should be afraid of, and which things wouldn't hurt me. She encouraged my reading and bought me many books, some of which I still own. She tried her hand at painting, though she was much better at embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, and, especially, quilting. She was an amazing quilter. She smoked heavily most of her life. She was once an avid collector of antique bottles, and one of my earliest memories is her taking me out to the Birmingham City Dump to dig for bottles. We had hard-boiled eggs wrapped in wax paper for lunch. We used to play boardgames — Sorry, Scrabble, Parcheesi, Trivial Pursuit, Yahtzi, and so forth. She did a lot of crossword puzzles. She was fond of Charley Pride, Bob Dylan, and Luciano Pavarotti. She believed in ghosts and claimed to have experienced many hauntings. She did not approve of the profanity at the end of Gone With the Wind, or, for that matter, the profanity in my novels, which is not to say she wasn't prone to cursing. She could use a gun.
This is how I remember her. Others will remember her differently, I'm sure.
Towards the end of her life, after all those ninety years, she suffered dementia, but during a lucid moment, she spoke of me to my mother. She said that my ways might not be like their ways, but they were my ways, and, she said, I was the smartest one of them all, of my family. I don't believe that last part, but I am unashamedly proud that she did. This photograph, which my mother gave me Monday night, was taken shortly after my grandmother married my grandfather. They are both so young that it amazes me.
I've gone back to work. Moving on, which is what she would have told us all to do.
The phorum is back up. Spooky and I are beginning a new round of eBay auctions, to pay for the $100 Emory Library membership fee. This auction is specifically for those wishing to use "buy-it-now," not for bidding, please. I finally have DSL again, which is making my life just a little bit less frustrating. And I'll things to say about Daughter of Hounds later on...
Thursday, January 06, 2005
This is going to be another very, very short one. We're home again. I've missed my own clutter. I'm trying to recover from a frelling headache so I can write tomorrow. I'll attempt a more substantial and ambitious entry in the morning.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
In the morning, Spooky and I will be returning to Atlanta, and I'll be returning to work on the book. I just wanted to say how grateful I am to everyone who has expressed condolences in the last couple of days. Your thoughts and words have helped. Thank you.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
My mother called yesterday afternoon at 4:28 to tell me that my grandmother (my maternal grandmother) had died earlier in the day. Spooky and I left Atlanta immediately. There's not much of my family I care for, but I loved my grandmother deeply. Born on May 27, 1914, my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Ramey (nee, Satterfield) was an amazing woman. She showed me aspects of the world that I might never have found on my own. And I'm quite beyond words just now. I'll be back in Atlanta on Thursday, most likely. I'm not sure if I'll be making another entry before then. There's much to be done here.
Monday, January 03, 2005
I am near to wit's end with Chapter One, which, if nothing else, bodes ill for Chapter Two. Daughter of Hounds is hardly begun; this sort of crap is usually reserved for Chapter Three, at the earliest. I'd hoped to have Chapter One done by New Year's Day, so that I could set the novel aside long enough to attend to other projects (a Marvel script, revisions for To Charles Fort, With Love, etc.). Now I feel like I have to hang on to DoH until the words start to flow again and see the chapter through before beginning anything else. If I stop now, the gulf between me and what happens next will only grow that much wider.
I'll try to write today. For the time, I'm sticking with the original plan, to devote this chapter to Emmie, Deacon, and Sadie (in that order), then move back to the central character introduced in the prologue. If left entirely to my own devices, I'd write this book another way. But I fear it would lose impatient readers who've been coddled by "easy reads." In the past, I've had people complain because I'll spend a chapter on a character, then switch to another character, then switch back, and so on, claiming this made for a story which was "hard to read." It's difficult to fathom the lack of reading comprehension such people much possess, much less how little experience they must have had with novels. I want to build vast machines of light and darkness, intricate mechanisms within mechanisms, a progression of gears and cogs and pistons each working to its own end as well as that of the Greater Device. That's what I see in my head. But, too often, I sense that many readers want nothing more complex or challenging than wind-up toys. It's dispiriting.
Yesterday, despairing and aware of my infidelities, I wrote the first eight pages of the "winter" manga I'm doing with Leh'agvoi for Nebari.net. There's no denying the guilt at ignoring the novel for fan fic, but, on the other hand, I enjoyed writing those eight pages of script, and these days it's a rare thing when I can say that I've enjoyed writing anything. They were written for me, for me alone, with no regard for any imagined, necessary, longed-for reader. Just me telling a story to myself (and if others want to listen, that's cool, but it was still for me). There may be writers who imagine or inisist it should all be this way, that an author should never set about her work with anything less than absolute passion for the task at hand. I admit, that would be wonderful, but it has not been my experience. Anyway, that's what I did yesterday. Late last night, I read "Mercury," found an annoying number of typos that should have been caught in the proof, then read another couple of chapter's of the Shirley Jackson biography.
It's a good thing I can write, because I obviously can't count. As has been pointed out already, my list of the Seven Virtues of Writing was eight virtues long.
I am scant hours away from having DSL again. Some days, this dial-up thing has driven me half mad.
Okay. I've realized I have nothing else to say. I'm only stalling.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
So, the Seven Virtues of Writing. I've been thinking hard on this, but it keeps coming out rather cynical. At least, I look at it and think other people will see it as cynical. But these are meant to be practical, working virtues. There's no room here for the Ideal. Anyway, for now, here they are: Audacity, Resolve (which includes Determination, Persistence, Perseverance, , etc.), Narcissism, Age, Patience, Dignity, Masochism, and Persuasion. I think that's it. Of course, the Seven Ideal Virtues of Writing are quite different, but they are only compatible with obscurity, life as a "creative writing" instructor, and/or a desire never to make a living from one's published work. So, we have no need of those.
No words yesterday. None at all. Oh, I talked a lot, but nothing that made it onto paper. Just to indicate how much Daughter of Hounds is fraying my nerves, I bought a pack of cigarettes last night for the first time since early 1997! I have sworn it won't become a habit again, just a little oral pacification until I have found the structure and the words are coming once more. Spooky and Jennifer are quite disgusted with me, regarding the cigarettes, as well they should be. Anyway, after all the not-writing, Spooky and I cooked black-eyed peas (with ham hocks, salt and pepper, garlic, green bell pepper, onion, and bay), collards (with ham hocks, salt and pepper, and onions), corn bread, and mac & cheese, as is traditional. At least we were not hungry. Afterwards, we saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Some movies are just so frelling cool that they need no hyperbole heaped upon them. This is such a film. It's just that frelling cool (or, if you belong to the omgwtf set, it's just that frelling "sick"). And I say this even though I tend to steer clear of comedies. In general, they strike me that way that musicals strike some people. I can deal with a world where characters randomly burst into song, but not a world where everything just happens to be funny. Even my perversity has its limits. Well, unless we're talking about the Marx Bros. or Monty Python. Anyway, yes. I think Bill Murray is in his prime. Very cool movie.
I will write something today. I care not what it is. Anything.
So, throughout this journal I have, on occasion, shared with you odd little events from my life. Things that aren't quite right. Damned things, as Fort would say. Excluded things. Circles whose circumference is just a little more or less than 360 degrees. I have another one, and one that seems somehow much more personal than all the others, perhaps because it involves an image of me.
Early on the morning of December 28th, between 12:54 and 1:02 a.m., Spooky was fooling about with our digital camera (a Canon PowerShot A75), taking pictures of Sophie and the fanged bunny that I brought back from Minneapolis in November. I included one of those photos in my blog entry for 12/28/04. Yesterday, we needed to dump the memory card that she used that night, to relocate all those photos (and others) onto her iBook's hd. Before doing so, we were looking back over the photos of Sophie. And after the seventh Sophie shot there was a photo that appears to show me sitting in front of our vanity mirror. Then the Sophie photos resume. We looked at it, the photograph of me. Spooky said she didn't remember taking that, and I said that I didn't recall it being taken. Morever, the picture bears no date/time stamp and no number. It's just there. After it, the last Sophie pictures, with all their information, resume. The number sequence jumps from 100-0094 (Sophie) to the photo of me in the mirror to 100-0095 (more Sophie). So, the memory card simultaneously held the photograph and seemed to have no record of its existence. I scribbled down these numbers, then Spooky went ahead and downloaded everything to her laptop. Here's the unnumbered photo:
There's not much I can add to this thing. Spooky didn't take the photo. Jennifer didn't take the photo. I don't recall the photo being taken, and certainly not early on December 28th while Spooky was taking photos of Sophie. I was on the bed at the time, reading. I even recall that I was wearing a black tank top that night, not a grey one. The background tells me that I'm facing the vanity mirror. I recognize our closet door, the clothes hung there, and, ironically, the strap of the camera bag on the doorknob. To my left, though it's blurry, I can make out the fireplace, the black iron grate, and, at extreme left, a bed post (admittedly, I can only see these things because I'm familiar with them). And then there's the matter of the purplish fibers occupying the lower right foreground. Is that hair? I can make out no details of the figure taking the photograph, though she (or he or it) ought to be in frame, given the angle. I assume that to be the provenance of the nondescript black mass behind me and to the left, beneath the flash, hidden (conveniently) in the glare. And there's one last thing, which may seem inconsequential. In this photo, both my eyes are reflecting red. However, because I'm blind in my left eye, because of the nature of the corneal scarring that's the reason I'm blind in that eye, it always reflects bright yellow, never reddish. Is that an artefact of the mirror? All in all, an odd thing, this photo. We've been trying not to let it bother us, but there's no denying it's a disturbing thing. I confess I can make neither heads nor tails of it.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
There. It's over. 2004 is history, one way or another. 2005 is (from this perspective) as yet unrealized history. I don't have a whole lot of hope on this end, but I'll wish it to you, all the same. It never hurts. Well, it hardly ever hurts. In this coming year, I wish you hope and freedom from fear and persecution. I wish you insight, into yourselves and whichever incarnation of reality you prefer. I wish you courage, above all other things.
I think I might be in the mood for one of those BestOf things, if only because I did one last year. But a caveat: I consciously reduced my consumerism this year. I saw many fewer movies. Bought even fewer CDs. Etc. So, this is anything but comprehensive. In fact, this year I sort of think I should only do film. We bought so few CDs that my list would just be silly. Maybe I should call it, "Movies I Liked Best in 2004":
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Blueberry (aka, Renegade)
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Worst Film (hands down):
The Day After Tomorrow
Opinions really are like assholes...
The phorum has been up and down (and mostly down, for all intents MIA) for several days now. I have no idea why. I have made inquiries that have yet to be answered. But I did want to let everyone know that, despite the views I expressed in a recent thread, I didn't kill it. Presumably, it will return. In the meantime, I would suggest that discussion move to the Species of One LJ community.
I was going to write something else, but I don't think I'm in the mood for it. 2005. It's a more forceful-looking number than 2004. Harder. Ah, well.