May, 2006

Yeah, I was right. Check this :

She now realised that Scrubb had some excuse for looking white, for no cliff in our world is to be compared with this. Imagine yourself at the top of the very highest cliff you know. And imagine yourself looking down to the very bottom. And then imagine that the precipice goes on below that, as far again, ten times as far, twenty times as far. And when you’ve looked down all that distance imagine little white things that might, at first glance, be mistaken for sheep, but presently you realise that they are clouds–not little wreathes of mist but the enormous white puffy clouds which are themselves as big as most mountains.
–from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

And then this:

A sheer rock face skyscrapered up behind him: the side of a mountain. Ahead of him was a sheer drop: cliffs, going down. He walked to the cliff edge and, warily, looked over. He saw some white things, and he thought they were sheep until he realized that they were clouds; large, white fluffy clouds, a very long way below him.
–from Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neat, huh? There are more parallels between the two than just the similarity of the image and the commonality of the words used, by the way. Both places being described are the beginning (or end) of the world. In both places reside savage, godlike animals, though in Lewis only Aslan, while Gaiman has a whole pantheon.

Do I think it’s plagiarism? Goodness, no. I can’t see inside Gaiman’s head, so I can’t tell you whether this is an intentional reference or not, but even if he wasn’t overtly thinking “Oh, I’m going to put in this bit from Lewis I’ve always liked” when he wrote it, I’m pretty sure he also wasn’t thinking “Oh, I’m going to steal this bit from C.S. Lewis because no one will notice.” Give the man some credit. The two are already connected through numerous blog mentions and Gaiman’s story “A Problem of Susan” (which we aren’t discussing today, as we’ve had plenty of that already thank you very much). Anyway, to me, it’s a reference, not theft, even if the reference was made beneath the writer’s conscious level (and some of the best references are). It’s interesting how, when faced with exactly the same situation, Lewis’ character Pole runs far too near the cliff edge while Gaiman’s Fat Charlie just barely gets close enough to see down. It confirms a whole lot about Fat Charlie’s personality.

I really liked finding the reference. For one, it reminded me of that whole genre conversation thing Lois McMaster Bujold talked about during her speech at the 2004 National Book Festival (and which I reflected on and nattered about here). Also, returning to that cliff, with its sheep that are really clouds way way way down below, made Anansi Boys a richer experience for me. Thanks, Neil.

My husband asked me how many books I pulled down before I found the passage. Two. I went to Voyage of the Dawn Treader first, because I knew the scene had Eustace in it. Then I realized it was The Silver Chair. One of the cool things about The Silver Chair, to me, is that it starts with a gigantic screwup. Eustace and Jill are supposed to talk to Caspian and they don’t, and so they’re on their own in the quest, without all the resources he could have provided for them, and does that ever suck for them. It’s the old Metamorphosis structure, you know, where the guy wakes up a bug and then things go downhill from there.

By the way, when I upgraded Nucleus, I broke something about the item pages. When you comment you get an error message, but it’s a return formatting error, not an actual error in the comment processing mechanism. So your comment gets posted, you just have to go back to the original page to see it. I’ll fix it when I fix the layout, so it may be another couple of weeks. I’ve been deleting extra instances of comments when people tried more than once, puzzled by the cryptic error message. As always, thanks for your comments and contributions, I love hearing from folks.

iTunes says I was listening to Bone Machine from the album Surfer Rosa & Come on Pilgrim by Pixies when I posted this. I have it rated 4 stars.

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I have a hard time thinking about genre in terms of my own work. It doesn’t seem shiny enough for specfic or fabulous enough to be fabulistic or straightfoward enough to be litfic or wild enough to be magic realism. I’m kind of hoping the dissection of the work will be someone else’s job, but then there’s that whole marketing thing. The last two stories I finished have no specfic elements at all, and I have no idea where to send them.

It seems odd for me to say I don’t want to think about what exactly I write since I classify everything around me, but I seem categorically unqualified to be able to figure out what my own writing is. Not only that, classifying my own work seems like so much wankery. Plus, I have some concerns that overthinking genre could break process for me, so I avoid it. Then again, there’s that marketing thing to tend to. What is this? Where do I send it?

I can tell you where the stuff came from (en cierto, de Jorge Luis con su voz solemne y poetica, su rostro ciego, su amor perpetuo de Buenos Aires, sus senderos siempre bifurcando, y su alma bibliotecaria. And you, Edgar, with your deep preoccupation with setting, the house that is ever the soul, your sense that the mystery never solved is the human heart. Yes, you too, Fyodor, and all those sentences that are too long and all those characters who are too complicated, as well as your study of moral problems. I’ve hardly begun, this could go on for a while, so perhaps I should stop now.) Revise that to: I can tell you some of the places the writings came from, but I cannot label them any one thing, or tell where the words will end up.

I have a title for a story I don’t have a story for yet. It’s called “Ranganathan’s Gift”. I am hoping that it will be funny and synchronous.

I just finished Anansi Boys and there’s an image there that feels yanked whole cloth from Lewis. I want to compare the two, to see how much alike they really are. Anansi Boys is a great book, too, so much better than American Gods. Funny and more carefully plotted and such a delight to read. I was so happy with it.

I realized, around November or December, that my kinesthetic limitations translate to writing. I cannot, for the life of me, describe a simple sentence in which characters take a physical action. If I take the trouble to figure out what people are doing and how (in order to round out my scenes for those movie in the head people) I always take three times as long to write the applicable sentences only to subsequently have readers tell me they can’t work out what anyone is doing. Picking up a glass! Sitting in a chair! Lying upside down in bed! Tipping someone over the sill into the hole! Why is this so difficult? Learning this trick is going to cost me, I can tell already. Between the inability to describe action and figuring out how to be funny, I’m going to be pretty busy failing over here. Ah well, fail better, right?

“Hindsight” was returned to me (by the now defunct Fortean Bureau, sadly…does it count as a rejection if the place you sent it to shuts down?) which means that I have nothing out, because “Hindsight” was all I was sending around. “How Does Your Garden Grow?” has been through a heavy round of edits and a re-read by the small critique group, so it’s a hair’s breadth from being ready to go out. There’s also a flash piece that’s essentially lacking only a title (and a market) before going out, and “Easier Next Time” which was reasonably well-received at WUTA and for which I haven’t many edits. Then there’s the big edit pieces: “Lie Down with Dogs” (which is also very long, almost 10K words, and can you believe one of the knocks people had on it was that they wanted more?), “Seamless”, “Nine-Tenths” and “How I Lost My Nissan Z-350”. Then there’s the radically (possibly irreparably) broken stuff: “Egghead Kingdom”, “Ennui”, “Found Objects”, “Olympus”, “Loyal Companion”, and the one I really love “Far From the Tree”. Unfinished pieces include the post apocalyptic star story, the Chelia backstory thing I was working on, and (winner in two categories!) “Far From the Tree”. So it looks like I have about four things that really ought to be out finding a home, four things that need revisions and six things that I just throw my hands up about for now, because I’ve no idea how to fix them.

Tally: I wrote fourteen stories in, roughly, a year and half. Six of them are (currently) unworkable. That’s a pretty scary failure percentage, there, and that’s before we get to market, even! However, in the slightly reassuring department, only one of those shelved pieces (yes, “Far From the Tree”) is from this year, so maybe the others were all overambitious practice? And “Far From the Tree” tries to do a lot and I was cocky and confident I could handle it all, at first. Still, the newer ones do seem to be getting to the page more fully realized, clearer in every respect, than the earlier ones, even when I can’t quite pull the rabbit out of the hat. The improvements are most noticeable where I’ve taken old starts and finished them (“Nine-Tenths” and “Easier Next Time”). Anyway, at least I know “Far from The Tree” is broken. In every other instance, I had to have someone else tell me the story was broken. I couldn’t see it. That counts for something, right?

You know, other than trying to get the eight that aren’t wretched in good enough shape to go out into the world and maybe working on the Chelia backstory a bit, I’m going back to Cualcotel. It’s novel time. I want to complete it. This week, my goal is to get an outline, and go over the part I think stays the same (first five thousand words or so?).

iTunes says I was listening to Distractions from the album Simple Things by Zero 7 when I posted this. I have it rated 5 stars.

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25 May 2006, by


The kerfluffle over Absolute Write being shut down by Barbara Bauer‘s scream and scare tactics will probably die down soon. What shouldn’t be forgotten though, is that past behavior is the best predictor future behavior. Once a scammer, always a scammer. Spread the word.

Remember Yog‘s law: Money Flows Toward the Writer.

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Have a handful of links, because I have got to close some of these tabs:

  • My love of New Orleans and my career as a librarian caused me to get a flood of well-meaning notices about how NOPL wants used books donated. This seemed dubious to me, because I know that they have little staff for processing right now and many of their branches are closed indefinitely so they likely are short on space as well (and I won’t even talk about what sort of collection you could build from other people’s discards, anyway). Finally, Snopes has weighed in. The New Orleans Public Library doesn’t want your (or my) ratty old books, though they’ll take them. What they really need is money, as I suspected.
  • Is it possible that whiny, insecure kids turn into conservatives when they grow up? This research says so. Yet another reason to provide a positive environment for children. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could fix the world by making sure all our preschoolers were well-adjusted and self-confident? [hat tip to Legomancer.]
  • I just missed They Might Be Giants in our town. Alas. Thank goodness I can still take the internet quiz to see which part of Fingertips I am. I suspect I will be “I hear the wind blow. I hear the wind blow. It seems to say, ‘Hello! Hello! I’m the one who loves you so.'” though I could also be “Hey now everybody, now hey now everybody, hey now everybody now.” From the fiendish mind of my friend Legomancer, of course.
  • For all my writer friends, this hysterical dramatization of the editing process. Had me snorting and laughing. [hat tip to Elizabeth Bear.]
  • Also, this is my kind of Communist Party.
  • Moving from funny to frightening, discover that paying down your credit card is potentially unAmerican. Really. Your money could be held up as a threat alert while your creditors notify Homeland Security. Feeling safer, yet? [hat tip to Legomancer.]
  • If kids get unstructured playtime in a natural environment, then they’re more likely to grow up to be environmentalists.
  • The incredible torn-up credit card application. At our house, we routinely get credit card applications for Rorschach. Of all the pets, I expect that Rorschach would be the least able to responsibly manage his credit. [hat tip to Legomancer.]
  • In case, like me, you’ve wondered if all conservatives lack a sense of humor, here’s proof that at least one can still locate his funny bone. Read Results of New In-Depth Study Revealed: Bush May Actually Be Hitler! The guy may have read The Onion once or twice. [hat tip to Transylvanian Dutch.]
  • I’m not actually going to inflict my version of the “10 writing things” meme that Elizabeth Bear started, but I am going to link her entry, because it’s worth looking at.
  • Ever read Terry Bisson’s story “They’re made out of meat”? It’s cute. And brief. And when you’re done you can watch this video of it, which is like that story made into an Outer Limits episode. Good old sci-fi. [hat tip to Elizabeth Bear.]
  • Predictably, I’m pro-immigrant, and I think building a fence between the Mexican and American borders is a stupid idea. I also think a lot of the talk about the illegal immigrant “invasion” is fear-mongering of a most irresponsible nature. Read Queen Sucia’s sensible commentary on media foolishness in this regard, then Real Live Preacher‘s description of a humanitarian, border-living friend. If you asked me whether I wanted to build a fence or leave some cans and ask people to close the door behind them when they leave, I’d definitely choose the latter. I just wish my government would listen to me on this.
  • I try to be good to service people because working in a service job can be really tiring and stressful, and usually pays not nearly enough. Also, when people are willing to cut my hair or serve me food or clean my hotel room or look after my kid or bring pizza to my house because I’m too lazy to fetch it, I am generally grateful. I’m not saying I’ve never been infuriated by a service person, nor that I am willing to return to places where I get bad service, but I try to apply the benefit of the doubt, if you know what I mean. Apparently, CEOs believe that observing how potential employees treat waiters is a good gauge of what sort of human beings those potential employees are. I am not surprised. [hat tip to Waiter Rant.]
  • Interesting neuro-scientific explanations as to why hanging out with negative people can be a real downer. [hat tip to Merrie.]
  • I love this word : psychoceramics.
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I upgraded Nucleus. Still dinking with some of the plugins, and expect a look and feel overhaul shortly. Just checking to make sure I didn’t radically break anything in the process. Also, too many people have been asking where I’ve been, why I’m not updating, and so forth, so I figured it was time to wave.

Ways I can tell I’m not serious about poetry, number 7032 : I write it in Appleworks, instead of vi.

Not that this serves as an excuse: there was the part where I couldn’t write about writing because I couldn’t write anything, then there was the part where I couldn’t write about writing because I was too busy writing, and now there’s the part where every entry I start on sounds stupid (including this one).

Meanwhile, in the yard, the honeysuckle abatement program proceeds. Honeysuckle is to Missouri like Kudzu is to Mississippi.

I had a zillion dreams in the past week or two, but the only one I can now remember is that I was sitting in one of the classrooms at Lincoln, the ones facing the river where the huge glass pane windows are, and Elizabeth Bear was sitting there telling us to watch the movie where Viggo Mortensen is a schizophrenic.

The Kelly Link book I checked out from the library is so amazing that I think I want to have my own copy. I heart Kelly Link. Remember back when I told you to go read her story The Faery Handbag? Yeah. Don’t make me repeat myself.

See? It’s better when I’m succint. Hugs and kisses.

iTunes says I was listening to Start Wearing Purple from the album Voi-La Intruder by Gogol Bordello when I posted this.

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