Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Soy un autor de auténtico lujo...

This may be my favorite review of "Embracing-the-New" so far.

Here is Google's mangling for the Spanish-impaired.

Google doesn't seem to do very well with the adjective-the-noun construction, as in "Sublime, the description it creates, and forceful, the message it delivers..."

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Stories coming out

I just sold "Orphans" -- an arch little story inspired by reading many many children's picture books to Aviva -- to McSweeney's. It will be in issue 15. I'll have to find out when that comes out...

Two anthologies with my stories in them are debuting at WFC this weekend: "Start the Clock", a science-fiction story about never growing up, appeared in F&SF but was written for the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology coming out from Wheatland Press (though it doesn't seem to be listed on their site); and "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum", a metafiction/Western/Victorian murder mystery/air-pirate adventure tale/alternate history/philosophical excursus written for All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories.

And I think Flytrap #3 might be coming out this weekend too, containing "Night Waking", a quiet, creepy, semi-autobiographical little story.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Menagerie on Restaurant Placemat

We went to the Blue Ridge Mountains the other weekend. I used to go there as a child with my parents.

It's funny how, with my brain rewired for parenting, vicarious joy seems more intense than personal joy. Aviva and Noah's fun somehow tastes better than my own fun.

There was a lot of hassle that weekend -- ambitious hikes are a thing of the past -- dinners were a constant juggling act to keep all parties in their seats, with their feet off the table, eating and not making a mess or getting food in each other's hair. I'd been waiting for this trip to have pancakes with blackberry syrup. I remember being ecstatic about the pancakes with blackberry syrup as a child.

They were good. But, you know, good food is just, like, good food. On the scale of things, the joy of personal consumption of good food is, like, just not that far up there. The yumminess of the pancakes did not really counterbalance the stress of keeping the kids from running amuck.

But: Aviva and I got up early in the morning and hiked through the forest and were quiet and saw a family of deer.

And Aviva got to ride on ponies. Two different ponies. And take ponyshoes home to keep.

And Noah is crawling, and would tear through the woodchips of the playground towards the swing where his sister was swinging, and giggle gleefully as I carried him away from it again. And regard the woodchips in his hands with wonder, chewing on them contemplatively.

And as we were going home late, all tired and ready to crash, I saw how different the stars were from the ones we have in the suburbs, and convinced Aviva to walk down the trail with me to the amphitheater, where it was dark and we lay on our backs and looked up and she agreed that there were, indeed, lots and lots and lots of stars.

And the joy of all those things is so very far past the joy of eating raspberry pancakes, that I feel like a whole new category of joy has been invented just for parents.

On our way back to the cabin, I said to Aviva, "Wasn't that great! All those stars! I'm so glad you came with me, Aviva!"

"Yes!" said Aviva.

"I'm going to remember this always! Are you going to remember this always?"

"No," said Aviva, very seriously. Which cracked me up.

Here are her drawings from the restaurant:


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Friday, October 15, 2004

Many projects, bubbling

When I started this blog years ago -- before, in fact, the word "blog" was generalized to include what this is -- I used to write about writing process a lot. What I was working on, who I was submitting to, etc.

I don't do that as much any more. Partly, as I began selling more, I began to get circumspect about kissing and telling. Since some of my editors read this blog occasionally (the strangely horizontal monkeys come to mind), I wasn't sure I wanted to sully their impressions of stories with whining about them beforehand. "Jeez, this story has bounced everywhere in creation, I hope to God I can cajole someone into buying it" isn't, perhaps, the best preparation for sitting down before a crisply printed story with for unbiased read.

Plus, also, I don't know -- how interesting is hearing about the work of writing to you folks? Is it what you come here for, and you are annoyed that lately you have to wade through reams of political ranting and cute things my kids say? Or are stories, really, like laws and sausages, the kind of thing best viewed as springing wholly formed out of nowhere?


The plan had been for the novel that Ramin (aka David) and I were working on, The Library of Souls, a metaphysical Kabbalistic thriller about the curse of immortality, to be done for this Worldcon. I would gladhand the agents, manuscript clutched coyly behind my back, etc.

Didn't happen.

The consensus at Blue Heaven was that, while there was much to love about that book, it was still pretty flawed, had major problems of structure and character motivation; and after taking some time off and reading it again, Ramin and I found that we agreed. So we spent a while brainstorming the plot, came up with a radical revision -- character relationships transformed, whole characters dropped, chapters littering the cutting room floor -- and rolled up our sleeves.

I found myself, though, getting more and more frustrated. For one thing, I didn't want to be writing this book still -- I wanted to be done. The fact that after five years, many months after typing the magical words "The End", we were once again in the middle of the book with no clear end in sight, was driving me bonkers.

And for another, I was finding collaboration increasingly difficult. Now, Ramin is the most amazing collaborator in the world. His emotional stability -- his ability to take my temper tantrums in stride and pounce on them creatively and proactively -- is prodigious, indeed sometimes almost frightening. We've taught each other a great deal, writing this book, and at its best, it's a lot of fun.

But I had things I wanted to say with this book. Things I wanted it to be, if it was going to be my first book. And while two years before, making the case for why the book should be that way seemed interesting and learning-rich, at this point I just wanted to delete the stuff I didn't like and rewrite it and then have it stay that way. I wanted to just do it myself.

I also felt like, if it were my book alone, I would just put it on the shelf to sit for a few years -- but that I couldn't do that while Ramin was still excited about it.

Ramin turned in a multichapter revision that was good -- exciting, a new direction, well crafted -- but just wasn't what I wanted to be writing.

I talked to some good friends (including Esther) and they told me (as good friends do) what I was telling them: that I wanted to write a new book.

So, I've given the creative lead on Library of Souls over to Ramin. It doesn't have to be the book I intended (and earnestly suffered for and agonized over). Rather, I'm like: this has some cool stuff, let's see what we can do with it. As soon as we made this decision, helping Ramin write it -- brainstorming plot, doing revisions of chapters for language and character, giving him notes -- became lots of fun. The book is a lark again, a fun thing to do with a friend, which is how it began.

The new book awaits. I'm gathering ideas. It's heady and exciting: a field of untrodden snow.

And meanwhile, I'm writing stories. God, I love short stories. Short stories are so clean and clear and lovely, compared to novels. So easy.

Also, with life's usual perversity, I am delighting in collaboration again. Not just with Ramin -- I'm playing around with a possible collaboration with Cory, and another one with Greg and Kelly and Chris. I'm mining the last version of Library of Souls for stories, and have sent one out -- it would be fun if a series of them came out in one venue. I am finishing revisions on "The House Beyond Your Sky", the story set so far in the future it makes "Droplet" look like contemporary realism. It's at the OWW if you belong to that and want to take a look.

And a boon, of late, to writing productivity -- my sister has moved to town, and for the last few weeks, almost every day, we've been meeting in a cafe at 7:30 to write. Yay sisters!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Reading List

Books I am currently reading, or finished this week -- it struck me as an odd list:

  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    • Just finished this, the first Austen I've ever read. She's brilliant -- the economy of the prose, the holographic way every character is completely present in every surprising line of dialogue. Oddly, though, the effect of the entire book is a little less than the sum of its parts -- the opposite of, say, Jame Eyre.
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil
    • I'd probably be more impressed with this if I hadn't already gotten most of the ideas filtered through Charlie and Cory and Greg Egan's stories, among others. It's a very interesting book, with some really fascinating parts. It's a little marred by his extremely poor understanding of quantum physics -- the fact that he makes grand pronouncements on that topic that are total hogwash makes me a little wary of his other assertions
  • The Plague, Albert Camus
    • Reading this desultorily, which I guess is appropriate
  • The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, ed. Datlow, Link & Grant
    • About halfway through this. Many gems. I particularly like a lot of the small, moody horror stories like "Cell Call", maybe because I rarely read horror otherwise.
  • Give Our Regards To The Atom Smashers, ed. Sean Howe
    • An anthology of literary writers talking about their favorite comic books. Made me miss Galactus-era Kirby, Love & Rockets, and Raw
  • Killshot, Elmore Leonard
    • I have never read Leonard. It's true what they say about him -- great dialogue, great economy of prose, vivid characters. All of which is true about Jane Austen... but they're pretty different.
  • The City of God, St. Augustine
    • I seem to have lost this, which is annoying because it was really interesting. After the sack of Rome, Augustine makes a good case for Christianity based not on the idea that the Christian God is better at protecting his followers, but rather that they never claimed he was going to protect them, because that's not the point -- in other words, his case rests on the idea that his religion is not so much a set of provably accurate claims, as a more appropriate response to the world as it is. This seems like a good way to think about the problem.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
    • This is lovely; internally consistent, fascinating characters, commandingly assured prose. I would have said a month ago that I was thoroughly sick of time travel and the last thing I wanted was a novel on the topic -- but utter, playful artistic seriousness care in the details can redeem even the most hackneyed trope. It seems appropriate, really, that time travel is now essentially the province of literary writers -- the juice has been squeezed out of it as an idea per se. But this book is not just sloppily invoking time travel as a literary metaphor; it is actually very good speculative fiction, despite the implausibility of the science

Those are the ones I actually hope to finish: I'm about ready to abandon William Vollman's Fathers and Crows, not because it's not good, but because it's huge and intense, and commands much more attention than I can give.

Wow, searching for the above links, I notice that there are a crazy number of sequels to Pride and Prejudice!

Check it out: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

That's not a subgenre, it's an industry...

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Friday, October 1, 2004

A Letter to My Congressman

Dear Congressman Moran:

Why are you not co-sponsoring H.R.4674, which seeks "to prohibit the return of persons by the United States, for purposes of detention, interrogation, or trial, to countries engaging in torture or other inhuman treatment of persons”?

Are you really in favor of the executive branch of the government being able, without any judicial review or the ability to show probable cause for arrest, to hand people like Maher Arar over to places like Syria to be tortured?

As reported in the Sunday, January 4, 2004 San Francisco Chronicle, the government handed this Canadian citizen over to Syria to be tortured for ten months, on no evidence other than the fact that some distant relations of his were suspected terrorists. Apparently this is called "extraordinary rendition", an intelligence community euphemism for "outsourcing torture".

America must stand for liberty. Torture, even at arm's length, is absolutely unacceptable. I am frightened and disgusted by the erosion of civil rights we are living through. Please support HR 4674.


Benjamin Rosenbaum

Your turn.

David Moles has the list of current consponsors of HR 4674.

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