December, 2006

So I go off for ten days and you people not only let a president die but the Godfather of Soul as well? Well, ok, so the president was 93, but still! Also, I know I can’t be the only one creeped out by how quickly Saddam was executed. I mean sure, right, not our place to interfere. Still, kinda creepy, no?

I haven’t unpacked my reading vacation notes yet, and I’ll do a book log entry (last one of the year!) when I do, but I just thought I’d mention that I read 5.5 of the 6 books I took with me, plus the book I was in the middle of, plus a magazine and both Colonias. By my standards, an utterly successful reading vacation.

One of the things I finished while in the frozen north (which was not very frozen, by the way. No snow at all until the day we left. Don’t know if that’s global warming or what, but it was freakish and weird.) was the The Year’s Best Science Fiction Twenty-Second Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois (billed, on the cover, as “over 300,000 words of fantastic fiction”). If I get caught up on my book log, maybe I’ll review this baby. At any rate, it contains the Christopher Rowe story “The Voluntary State.” I re-read it, because that’s what I do, and it completely knocked my socks off. Again. This got me pondering about compiling a list of stories I’ve read in the last couple of years or so that completely blew me away. Stories nearly perfect in every way, most importantly in the value add on subsequent readings way. These are stories that feed me new things every time I read them. So, without further ado, here’s my top 5 stories, read in the last twoish years, in no particular order of preference:

  • The Voluntary State” by Christopher Rowe.
  • “The Cage” by Jeff VanderMeer (excerpted here).
  • “Report of Certain Events in London” by China Mieville.
  • The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link.
  • “Seven American Nights” by Gene Wolfe.

I have missed you, and missed blogging.

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In: in my life | Tags:

20 Dec 2006, by

Bye now!

I’m off on reading vacation. No email, no blogging, nothing but books and maybe a crossword puzzle. Enjoy your holidays!

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Dream stuff in the extended entry.

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In: dreams | Tags:

15 Dec 2006, by

Dream soundtrack

Yes, I am trying to push the pity party entry down the page, thanks for asking. For this to work, I’ve dispensed with the extended entry I usually do on dreams. It’s not dream content so much as dream commentary, this time around.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night and had some trouble going back to sleep. This doesn’t happen often, but I do have tricks to get around it. I used the spring unwinding trick (which my husband always makes fun of me for because he thinks it’s ludicrous and silly. Which is probably true. But it works, so what can I say?), except instead of it just being a spring this time, it was a spiral staircase I was following, descending down into sleep.

When my sleep is disrupted and I wake a lot at night, I become aware of a facet of my dreams that I don’t otherwise remember or mention. This is the dream soundtrack. There’s almost always music in my dreams. Actual for real music that I know of and listen to. Last night’s songs were two : the “Boinga” song from the Backyardigans episode I watched with my daughter before going to bed (it’s a good song, Alicia Keys guest sings and she’s smooooove) and “Alice” by the Sisters of Mercy. I can’t remember which was first, but I wonder if my brain was riffing on the “Alice” name when it pulled up both of those particular songs.

I haven’t heard Sisters of Mercy in ages. I will go remedy that right now. That’s bound to cheer me up, right?

“Alice in her party dress
She thanks you kindly
So serene
She needs you like she needs her tranqs
To tell her that the world is clean
To promise her a definition
Tell her where the rain will fall
Tell her where the sun shines bright
And tell her she can have it all

— Sisters of Mercy

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14 Dec 2006, by

Not good enough.

So I guess it’s about time I wrote a little something about writing. I don’t actually want to. I have no good news and I’m doing whatever I can to avoid thinking, working, anything on this topic. I’ve written almost nothing for – oh, about three months now – and if I hadn’t given myself a deadline of November 2008 to beat my head against this wall I would have quit by now because ugh, the headache. I want out. I apologize in advance for how negative and discouraging this post is going to be and my only excuse is eh, you (at least one of you) asked.

  • Exhibit A: I’ve done this for two years and published nothing. To be fair, I’ve sent out almost nothing, but that’s because I can’t stand any of it. I have a grand total of six rejections, all from the same story, the only one I ever sent anywhere. That’s nearly all my problems right there : I don’t write enough plus I don’t like what I write enough to send it anywhere plus when I miraculously get up the gumption to send something somewhere it gets rejected (which, naturally, is no surprise, since I knew it sucked before I sent it).
  • Exhibit B: There’s no faster way for me to feel bad about something I’ve written than to read it at my writer’s group. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t think it’s because I can’t take criticism, but that may be it. I don’t think it’s because I’m convinced what I’ve written is great, since I’m pretty sure nothing I’ve written so far is great. Though I long for something to be. Just like that, all archaic and yearning. I want to write something great. But obviously, I haven’t yet. Anyway, usually I’m just reading things I think are passable but need help, and when I get to the end and hear everyone’s comments I just feel like the thing is sullied and worthless. These are not even comments that are wholly negative, I should explain. My writer’s group has a pretty soft touch. Usually I feel like I totally failed to get anything across. Like I came in and read a poor version of Jabberwocky, all nonsense words in the right syntactical places, but failing to convey any meaning. Or like it’s the wrong trousers and they’re all wrong. It’s not them, I’m pretty sure. It’s me. Still, I’ve got to figure out how to handle criticism, right? Totally basic, necessary skill. Skill I thought I had, too, so I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. I’ve also got to figure out how to read aloud something I’ve written and not hate every word as my mouth shapes it, but I don’t know how to learn that, because it seems to be something I unlearned.
  • Exhibit C: I’m not sure I love writing anymore. I don’t love doing it, and I certainly don’t love having anyone else read anything I’ve written. It’s totally agonizing to contemplate sending things out for people to read. It all sucks! It’s all broken! Sometimes I even know how it’s broken, but so rare that I can fix it. Blech. I hate every word! If I hate every word, and I wrote them, how can I expect anyone else to feel otherwise?
  • Exhibit D: Ok, so I lied in exhibit C. I don’t hate every word. A couple of weeks ago I was rummaging through some papers and happened upon my failed slush bomb story. And I got sucked completely into it. And I loved it. But you know what? That story doesn’t go anywhere. It’s stuck. So what’s all the pretty, engaging writing get me? Nothing. Not a thing. Because there’s no story there. Well, there’s a story there but I can’t get at it, I can’t make it come out. Just another three pages full of word detritus that doesn’t cohere. And I don’t know which is worse, all the finished stories which are not right or all the unfinished stories which are so promising but I don’t appear to have the ability to fashion to completion.

I can’t honestly say I suck at writing, but I’m pretty sure that however good I may be, it is not good enough. I fall short. Maybe I harbored too many dreams of greatness, I don’t know. I was pretty sure I had my head on straight, non-delusionally, when I started this. I didn’t think it would be easy, and I didn’t think I’d make any money, but I guess I thought I’d be pretty happy with what I wrote. And I’m not. At all. It’s not good enough. None of it is good enough. It’s all I can do not to start a big bonfire and reformat my drive. Meanwhile, as I exercise the great restraint of not purging the world of my poor words, I’m expected to polish and edit and send all those sad little specimens somewhere? When I can see every blindness, every deafness, every cleft palate, every club foot? How inhumane a task is that to set oneself? I swear I’m not a perfectionist, though I’m sure this rant will sound like I am. I’m a complete and total believer in good enough instead of perfect. Problem is, I can’t even get as far as good enough. I’m not sure how much better, or longer, I can fail.

Gah. I’m sorry I subjected you to this. You can see, maybe, why I didn’t really bring it up. Next time, maybe you’ll think twice before asking.

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Thanks one and all for participating in the reading vacation quiz. With less than a week to go before we travel, I have made my selections, and I have used A Whole Can Of Plot‘s system in combination with an attempt to pick at least one thing that each of you voted on. The only loser in the latter category, I think, is Lanf, because he recommended TOW with caveat (and no, I haven’t read the book in between. Didn’t even know there was a book in between) and because I ultimately chose Clan Apis over Planetes. Sorry, Lanf! I’ll read Planetes for the New Year.

And the winners are :

  • In the adult spec fic category: The Female Man
  • Additionally, there’s a mysterious package that I haven’t opened yet, but which I’m taking with me. Said package strongly resembles what is known in my house as the “happy shape”. (There are two happy shapes, actually, CD shape and book shape). The card (which I did read, thanks so much, Elaine!) strongly suggests possibilities of spec fic and delight. I am rubbing my hands together with anticipation.

  • In the short fiction category: the YA McSweeney’s anthology
  • In the factual category: Buenos Aires
  • This is the only book I’m taking no one voted on. Because every once in a while I feel the need to exert autonomy. Also, if it’s going to be useful, I kind of have a deadline on it.

  • In the graphic novel category: Clan Apis
  • In the YA novel category: Ethan of Athos
  • I know, I know, not technically YA, but I’m short a book in Earthsea, and Mer says Cart and Cwidder’s only good if you follow through on them to Dalemark, and I haven’t got but the first one. Besides, for expected fun factor alone, I can consider the Bujold YA. Also, we will probably take The Grey King as our read aloud book on the way. And there’s the anthology! So, I’m only sort of cheating the category, I think. Also, there was no way I wasn’t taking the Bujold book with me, since I essentially bought it for this very purpose.

  • In the I suppose I really ought to read this (or try to read this) category: Zen in the Art of Writing because my writing needs to be Zenned and koaned. All that striving and desire is leaving me glum and unmeditative.

Again, thanks for your words of advice, jokes, recommendations and book choosing systems. I’ll let you know how reading vacation turned out when I get back. I can’t wait to start reading!

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In: in my life | Tags:

You know, I belong to the school of people who don’t speak ill of the dead. Sometimes I will note the passing of people who I think were great in some regard, or whom I’ll miss, or whose passing I think diminishes us all. None of these things apply to Augusto Pinochet, who died yesterday. I shall make an exception now, and speak ill. This will seem unkind of me, and that’s because it is, but good riddance. The world doesn’t need you, nor dictators of any stripe.

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10 Dec 2006, by

Waking up again

I tried waking myself up. Rather, I tried letting myself I would need to wake up soon, because it was almost time. I didn’t feel all panicky when I couldn’t move, and eventually, what felt like not long after, I did wake up. I told myself, “See? You can’t stay asleep forever, no matter what. You always wake up eventually.”

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