Friday, July 30, 2004

The Chambered Fruit

One of my very favorite stories from 2003 was M. Rickert's "The Chambered Fruit", from the August 2003 issue of F&SF.

If you have that issue, you should go reread that story.

And if you're a member of SFWA, and you love it as much as I do, you should recommend it for the Preliminary Nebula Ballot. Its eligibility expires tomorrow (by which I mean you can recommend it tomorrow, and Sunday August 1st will be too late) and it already has six recommendations as of the latest report. (A story needs ten recommendations to make the preliminary Nebula ballot).

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No More Playgroup

Aviva has been lobbying to dropout of playgroup for a while. Like, every time we go to playgroup: "I don't want to go to playgroup any more."

We finally decided this morning to let her.

It's been like seven months, and she's still not happy there. It's not just the boys shooting. She doesn't really know the kids; she feels alienated. And while she likes the teachers, one gets the sense she thinks they're a little exasperated with her.

"What did you do in playgroup today?"
"I cried! And they told me I wasn't allowed to cry."
"So what did you do then?"
"I cried anyway!"

There were things she liked. She liked the songs she learned. She loved making us art. She loves at least two of the teachers, Ms. Halima and Ms. Kia, a lot. And for a while she was excited about going.

I think what she was excited about, though, was making friends. For a long time we'd ask, "who did you play with in playgroup?" Sometimes she'd tell us things about the other kids. I had the sense we were sort of speculating together about which kids would become her friends.

That trailed off, though.

I think that's the summary, ultimately. She went there to make friends. She didn't make any friends.

Most of the other kids go there 5 days a week instead of 2. They're hardened day-school kids. When I would leave her there and she would (sometimes -- more at the beginning, then less, and then more lately) burst into tears, the other kids would pretty much ignore this. Maybe they didn't have much patience for crying. Or maybe she arrived too late, and the friendships that were going to happen had already happened.

Or maybe they're all just kind of too young for taking initiative on friends-making -- maybe when you're three, friends-making is kind of a collaborative effort that needs to be reinforced and supported by the adults around you. Mommy and Daddy take me over to Elena's house to play, and Elena's Mommy brings her over here: ergo, we are friends.

But actually, I don't think that's it. There are kids Aviva has only seen a couple of times (Mackenzie comes to mind) who she's dead-set on being friends with. And there are other kids she sees all the time (like, well, those kids in playgroup) who she just seems kind of indifferent toward.

Maybe it's a spark thing. There's either a spark or there isn't. And here there wasn't.

It is interesting, though, how different atmospheres do encourage or discourage friends-making.

As an adult, in the past ten years, say, I've made the most friends the quickest in intense, crazy experiences -- Clarion West, Blue Heaven, cons, those zany Landmark courses I was doing, my old company's nutty, sleepless, catered, adventure-filled three-day overnight outings.

It's hardest to make friends at work -- everyone is on their guard. Everyone is presenting their official, public persona. Friendship, with its ups and downs and its particularity (this person, not this other one) is a threat to group cohesion, too. Friendship is beside the point, at work.

Maybe playgroup was like work.

Friendship requires seeing one another with our guards down, putting ourselves at risk -- it emerges where we can be honest, and where we are breaking out of routine. Where there's a sense that new things can happen, that anything is possible.

Friendship emerges least where we are managing ourselves carefully, where we are paying attention to whether we look good, where we focussed on surviving.

As a parent, friends-making is one of those scary fields where I can't keep Aviva safe. It's one of those things that's so important, and that I can't do anything about.

One of the scariest, most intense books I ever read on friendship is Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. Which crystallizes many of my fears for Aviva. Girls can be so mean to each other.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Worldcon Panels

I got my schedule for Worldcon 2004, and I am on a gazillion panels and things. Yikes. At least I'm not moderating any of them -- I moderated every panel I was on at Wiscon, which was fun, but somewhat stressful.

Here is the schedule, with the descriptions I was mailed from the Worldcon programming people:

Aghgh! My plane is only getting in at 9pm Thursday!! I will miss my Thursday panel!

Thursday 6:00pm OWW gathering Liberty A

Thursday 6:00pm Riding the Slipstream
   with F. Brett Cox, Theodora Goss, Delia Sherman, Andrew Wheeler, Mary Anne Mohanraj
In between the genres is a new non-genre called slipstream. Can it
really be defined? Should it be? How is it enlivenling long-standing
thereafter dinner w/ some folks

Friday 5:00pm Literary Beer
   with Pat Cadigan, David Gerrold

Saturday 1:00pm Autographing
   with Kage Baker, Tanya Huff, Don Maitz, Terry McGarry, Nick Sagan

Saturday 3:00pm a meeting

Saturday 5:00pm Postcapitalist Social Mechanisms
   with M. M. Buckner, Cory Doctorow, David Friedman, Charles Stross
A look at the reality and potential of such things as
reputation/abundance/gift economies and the like -- as found in
Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", Stross's Macx stories,
and a wealth of others.....such as fandom itself????

Sunday 2:00pm The Writer and Moral Responsibility
   with Carol Berg, Joe Haldeman, Chris Moriarty, Deborah Ross, Bron Serson
So you write a book about a serial-killer-vampire and find out
that a disturbed 14-year-old kid has decided to play out that
fantasy.....Arrgh!!!? Talk about this and related issues. Where
does the buck stop?

Sunday 4:30pm-6pm Strange Horizons Tea Party

Monday 10:30am Reading
    (just me!)

Monday 1:00pm Dealing with Job/Family/Life!
   with F. Brett Cox, (fellow Web Rat) Melanie Fletcher, Paul Levinson, Michelle Sagara West
Many artists and writers hold a frull time job of one sort or
another; learn about methods for squeezing time out for SF work. And
how do you pursue "the loneliest profession" and have time for your
family too?

Monday 2:00pm What's Your Agenda?
   with Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Don Sakers, Carrie Vaughn
How do you get your agendas in and keep the story going strong? Do
you really have to be a Mason to understand which character in the
Magic Flute is the Catholic Church? How obvious should it be (or,
does it matter?) before the story's believability is shot?
How can writers avoid taking their preconceptions with them? Their backgrounds shape the tale after all don't they?

(Note: some of the above links may yield weird results, as I am just automatically Google-I-Feel-Lucky-ing them.)

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Friday, July 16, 2004

Fly, little orange, be free ("The Orange" licensed under Creative Commons)

I noticed some time ago -- as I went a-Googling -- that people were pirating my story "The Orange".

I always have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. On the one hand, I am awed and pleased by the idea that someone would actually spend their time retyping my story from hardcopy to share with their friends. This mostly seemed to be a case of high-school and college kids typing my story by hand into their blogs -- the way I used to compose mix tapes for my friends when the original peer-to-peer music sharing technology, casette tape, burst upon the scene. The pirates in question always used my name, never tried to pass the work off as their own. They weren't trying to be pirates. Like me, back then, with mix tapes, they felt that a story that addresses you directly, that changes or delights you, is morally yours to disseminate. On some level that is hard to argue with....

Click here to continue reading "Fly, little orange, be free ("The Orange" licensed under Creative Commons)"
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Zen and not Zen

A few days ago, I was holding Noah and talking to Aviva, and Noah spit up.

Aviva leaned in and said with great determination (she is beginning to get more competitive with her brother) "Noah, we're not going to help you!"

"Aviva," I said, "why are you saying that? Why don't you say, 'Noah, we're going to help you right away?'"

"Noah," Aviva said, "we're going to help you right away and we're not going to help you!"

"Wow," I said, "that's very Zen."

"Zen and not Zen," said Aviva.

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Monday, July 12, 2004

"Start the Clock"

My story "Start the Clock" is on (very few) newsstands now, in the August F&SF.

July's Locus had a very nice review of it by Nick Gevers: "An emerging prodigy of science fiction, Benjamin Rosenbaum takes a new and amusing direction...some brilliantly mordant observations on the phenomenon of generation gaps... The lifestyle extrapolations here are especially inspired."


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Thursday, July 1, 2004

The Supreme Court Locates its Spine

It still wasn't quite as vigorous a defense of liberty as I would have liked, but in the Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul cases, the Supreme Court of the United States seems to have finally recalled that we have a Bill of Rights.

The U.S. is now more politically polarized than at any time in my memory. Discussions are increasingly framed in terms of "how our side can win"; we expend less and less effort considering whether we are in the right. At such a time, it's fascinating to see how the justices fell out.

Clinton appointee Clarence Thomas is the only one to side wholly with the Administration's "the president can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants in time of war" attitude.

Clinton appointee Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bush pere appointee David Souter are perhaps the most civil libertarian, arguing that Hamdi's detention is unlawful and (along with Clinton apointee Breyer) that, regardless of any fiddling distinctions about jurisdiction, the court should have made it clear that Padilla must be charged or released.

Souter writes of Padilla, "At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society. Even more important than the method of selecting the people's rulers and their successors is the character of the constraints imposed on the Executive by the rule of law. Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber. Access to counsel for the purpose of protecting the citizen from official mistakes and mistreatment is the hallmark of due process."

Reagan's Scalia and Ford's Stevens would free Hamdi, writing that "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive." (Scalia, however, would agree with Thomas to not let the Guantanamo prisoners bring suits in U.S. courts).

The other Reagan and Nixon appointees make up the broad middle of the court, trying to find some accomodation between the demands of national security and those of personal liberty: you may be able to skimp a little on due process with enemy combatants out of uniform, they argue, but you can't simply forget about it.

Perhaps this democracy thing is going to work out after all.

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