Monday, October 29, 2007

Better all the time

Friday was my tenth wedding anniversary.

I biked with the kids (Noah in the trailer; Aviva proudly under her own power) to their grandparents' house and dropped them off. Momi had baked us a celebratory Linzertorte. It reads "TEN YEARS", inscribed in Baseldüütsch pie crust.

Then Esther and I went out to a fancy restaurant.

The kids slept over at their grandparents'. We woke up the next morning at EIGHT A.M., with no one jumping on us. We had no idea what to do with the peace and quiet.

Since we dilly-dallied for over seven years before getting hitched, I have actually had this wonderful woman in my life for almost eighteen years now.

Meeting Esther at the age of twenty, and somehow managing to hold onto her even back then when I was relatively clueless, is the kind of luck that leaves me with a certain queer solipsistic unease, as if this whole life thing has to be a setup of some kind.

Of those almost-eighteen years, the last ten, since we stood under a chuppah on a rainy morning in American University's Kay Spiritual Life Center, have been markedly the best.

And getting better all the time.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pictures from an Exhibition

Here are Jocelyn Lee's excellent photos from the Anthroptic show. Apparently it was a big hit, and some art feeds (zines? blogs? floating museums?) like Turbulence, ArtCal, and Rhizome wrote it up. (I particularly like the facepainted girls picnicking at the show).

Update: The Svenska Fotografers Förbund covered the show too (as did, and calls it "l'exemple parfait de collaboration entre logiciel, artiste visuel et auteur".

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Petting the Stray

Got my contributor's copy of the December F&SF, which contains my and David Ackert's collaboration "Stray", as well as stuff by Mary Rickert, David Moles, David Marusek (a psalmistry of Davids!), S. L. Gilbow and Frederic Durbin. Haven't read it all yet, but it looks to be a heck of an issue. (Funny how it's out on Fictionwise already, but you can't order the print version at yet...)

And it was very kindly reviewed by The Fix (updated: and by Rich Horton in his year-end summary).

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sentient Flora on First Avenue

As previously noted, the art book Anthroptic which I did with artist Ethan Ham is opening tonight as a gallery show in New York City.

PS122 Gallery
150 First Avenue
New York, NY 10009

October 13 - November 4, 2007
Opening party: October 13, 5-7pm

I won't be there, as I'm in Switzerland, but go say hi to Ethan. (I also, by the way, am not going to World Fantasy. Esther just started a new job; too much chaos here.)

Ethan has also designed a spiffy new website for the project, where you can hear the professional voice actors (including our friend and my collaborator David Ackert, as well as Hristo Atanasov, Sally Beaumont, Marlo Flanagan, Vanessa Carol Hart, and the AT&T Labs Text-to-Speech Demo) reading the stories.

If you go, comment here and let me know how it was!

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Sale! (and, doubts)

Sold a short story, "Nine Alternate Alternate Histories", to Jay Lake and Nick Gevers' Other Earths.

I know, I'm not supposed to be writing short stories. I'm supposed to be writing a novel. I feel guilty as I have turned down requests recently from esteemed and estimable anthologists and editors on the theory that I am hunkering down. Jay however insisted that I had promised him a story, and the idea arrived (really, it's hardly a story, more of a metastory, just noodling about, in other words) and I succumbed.

The TOC has been posted and looks amazing -- both the contributors, and the titles. I hope my contribution does not seem too slapdash by comparison.

In any event, restarting the novel after a long series of interruptions for other, time-sensitive projects (collaborations with Paul Melko and Cory Doctorow, the Anthroptic gallery show, the transatlantic move, and a couple of Secret Writing Projects I cannot yet tell even you, Gentle Reader, about) is hard going. I have not dared to dust off the spreadsheet, which lies in broken disrepair and apparently claims the novel will be done in 1900, which, really, is as good a guess as any.

Over Yom Kippur, as part of my ruminations, I reread Donald Maass's The Career Novelist, a book, pragmatic and hardnosed perhaps to a fault, which I find very wise on the subject of novel marketing and positioning, and which never fails to depress me. Reading it, it is perfectly apparent to me that the novel I am writing, Resilience, is a very poor choice in terms of any kind of ideal marketing strategy. Really, for a first sally, given my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, I ought to be trying for something broadly accessible, fabulist but universal: like middle-period Lethem, say, or Barzak's excellent (I have just finished it) One For Sorrow; something straight-ahead and disciplined, with a sympathetic protagonist and a linear narrative arc.

Instead I appear to be writing a sprawling, badly-structured far-future fantasia whose principal inspiration is, perhaps, Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, a monumental and brilliant novel, to be sure, but not, perhaps, the most accessible or easily followed book. This strategy seems guaranteed to procure me, let us say, the intersection of Charlie Stross and Haruki Murakami fans, rather than the union thereof. Plus, complicated narrative structure, multiple points of view (again), a depressed protagonist...



The Yom Kippur service, in addition to all-day fasting, incorporates mind-numbing communal repetitions of the Selichot -- the apologies -- and the Sefer Vidui -- catalogue of confessions. Don't get me wrong, I like this. It is an ideal inducement to soul-searching and catharsis, and an ideal setting in which to have a little yearly chat with God. (Mind you, with reference to various debates with Ted, I should point out that I envision my chat with God as taking place, materially, within the confines of my cerebral cortex, rather than any little soulium-particles travelling off to visit fluffy-bearded Mr. God in transdimensional God-space. Which doesn't mean that I don't think it's a chat with God.)

Anyway, the liturgy, I noticed this year for the first time, divides sins into sins against God, sins against other people, and sins against yourself. I had long considered the first two categories important; the third seemed strange at first.

So God, I said, what's with this sins against yourself business?

Oh, you know, God said, like your whole paralyzing self-doubt thing.

In About Writing, Delany talks about the fact of being constantly being assailed by doubts as the fundamental engine of good writing, the only chance at excellence -- "you must write to project yourself, again and again, through the annealing moment which provides the negentropic organization which makes a few texts privileged tools of perception" -- and as being, if you respond to them immediately, energizing.

Which is true for a certain kind of doubts: the kind that suggest crossing out one thing and writing another. But there's a less productive sort of doubt that I indulge in almost lasciviously, which costs a lot of energy.

So here's what I came away with, out of the dialogue between Maass's book and the Yom Kippur liturgy:

The book I'm writing may not be the ideal book to write first. But it is the book I'm writing.

The writerly balance between doubt and chutzpah is a delicate one. But this year, I'm cultivating the chutzpah.

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