Sunday, March 15, 2015


It's overcast today, but the last few days have been clear and warm, with a cloudless blue sky. This is April weather a month early.


Today is the Ides of March, I just realized. Yesterday was Pi Day, which friends celebrated with pies. And Terry Pratchett died 3 days ago, after suffering from a form of early dementia for several years. He was 66, too early to go.

He was a wonderful writer, someone I read for comfort, because his books are funny and charming and sane and well written, and he was the master of the fiction footnote. His footnotes don't work in e-versions of his novels, because they are put at the back of the book. They need to be at the bottom of the page, because they are part of the story. They are a great way to add information and comments that are too tangential to be in the text, except maybe enclosed in parentheses.

Anyway, a lovely writer and a loss to humanity.

SFF and LIterary Writing

The following is in response to an essay in Esquire, "How Genre Fiction Became More Important Than Literary Fiction."

First, a passage from the essay:
"The landscape of realism has narrowed. If you think of the straight literary novels of the past decade—The Marriage Plot, The Interestings, The Art of Fielding, Freedom—they often deal with stories and characters from a very particular economic and social position. Realism, as a literary project, has taken as its principle subject the minute social struggles of people who have graduated mainly from Ivy League schools."

Then my comments:
Decades ago I was reading the novels of Alice Adams and Laurie Colwin. They are both good writers in a New Yorker way. At a certain point, I think while reading Colwin, I realized I was reading about the emotional problems of people with trust funds. So I went back to science fiction.

I suppose I could see the current literary situation as the triumph of science fiction, with all these elite literary writers pillaging SFF for ideas. I don't like it, though I have no trouble with the triumph of SFF in popular culture. I suppose I ought to see a therapist re my dislike of the American upper middle class and their art. I want them to keep their sticky fingers off my beloved space ships and trolls.

What I remember about Adams at this distance in time was -- her writing had some tics that bothered me. She began too many sentences and paragraphs with 'and.' If the 'and' is actually needed, use a semi-colon instead of beginning a new sentence. Most of the time, it wasn't needed. It was there to make the style sound smoother. No. Never use words that are not needed.

Come to think of it, my ideas of style are probably shaped -- at least in part -- by the Icelandic sagas, which have a very spare style. Though they have a couple of interesting tics of their own. The sagas love prepositions, as do Minnesotans. Why say 'take hold' when you can say 'take hold of?' And like Minnesotans, the saga writers use a lot of pointer words. I don't know what the right term for these are. Words like 'there' and'then.' 'That's a nice car (or sword) you have there.' 'So how did you like the concert (or battle) then?'
I need to set myself a test. How long can I go without mentioning Iceland or the Icelandic sagas? How long can I go without mentioning my own writing?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Old Venus

I have a story in the anthology, which is why I'm posting this. I have read a review, and it genuinely sounds like a good group of stories by an impressive group of writers. I always like being in good company.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Re the story "Moby Quilt"

This is a reply to Timothy, who commented that he liked"Moby Quilt."

"Quilt" is the fourth Lydia Duluth story. All four have been published. The first, "Stellar Harvest," was a Hugo finalist and maybe a Nebula finalist. I no longer remember. Anyway, it's in one of the Nebula Awards collections, edited by Kim Stanley Robinson. In addition, there are three stories set in the Lydia Duluth universe, but not about Lydia Duluth. All of these have been published. One, "Knapsack Poems," was a Nebula finalist and has been reprinted several times.

There are three more unpublished Lydia Duluth stories, which I'd like to get out to editors in the next month or so.

The final plan is a collection titled The Adventures of Lydia Duluth, which would include all ten stories. But first I have to get the hwarhath collection out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Privilege and Weather

And maybe I should let go of 'privilege.' It's apparently useful for other people.

Outside, there's a clear blue sky and a lot of sunlight. Predicted high of 30, which is pretty warm. The rest of the week the highs are going to be below freezing and above zero. No snow forecast. I really could use some snow -- not eight feet, like Boston, but maybe six inches and then a series of light dustings to keep the snow white.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Several Thoughts on Privilege by Me from Facebook

I am thinking about privilege, a word I am not crazy about. I suppose it's useful. It comes from the Latin for 'private' and the Latin for 'law.' It means a law passed for or against a private citizen. Now, per Merriam Webster, it means (1) a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others
(2) a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud
(3) the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society.

I'm seeing it used mostly as definition # 1, though I think a number of people are blending definition # 1 and definition # 3. This makes sense, given the fact that Americans have a really poor sense of class, which also make sense. For generations Americans have been told that we are all middle class. Or at least all white people are middle class. We do see people of color as different. This is especially true of African Americans. They are seen as poor and probably criminal, even if wearing a three piece suit and a Phi Beta Kappa key. I find this unbelievable, but it's obviously true. Large numbers of Americans -- including, apparently, most cops -- cannot see class markers. I've seen this confusion in action at panels I moderated at SF cons. A discussion of race and class is close to impossible, since -- here in the US -- race is code for class and class is code for race.

I don't know where this thought is going, except talking about issues of privilege is this blurry mess is not easy.
I am old enough so I can remember when it was assumed that most Americans would have food, shelter, clothing, medical care, transportation and enough money to get their kids through college. It was not called privilege. It was called having a union job. When you call a decent life, earned by hard work, privilege you are doing the Koch Brothers' work for them.
I don't like the p-word because it's fuzzy and because it replaces the idea that all people have a basic right to a decent life with some kind of weird hierarchy of suffering. You are privileged because your life is better than the lives of some other people, even if your life is maybe not so great. At the same time privilege means, per one dictionary, "a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by one person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich." (This is one of several definitions, that blur together and make it hard to be sure what we are talking about.) So it's possible, using this word, to slide from 'at least I don't live in a war zone' to 'break out the caviar.'

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Previous Book

Here is a photo of the previous book, which came out in December. The teapot is by Rachael Hoffman-Dachelet.

I am uncomfortable doing self-promotion. I figure it will be easier if I promote someone else's work as well.

From Aqueduct Press

Three early novels by Eleanor Arnason
I'm pleased to announce that Aqueduct Press has just issued e-book editions of three, out-of-print novels by Eleanor Arnason: The Sword Smith, To the Resurrection Station, and Daughter of the Bear King. Each includes a new afterword by Eleanor.

The Sword Smith tells the tale of Limper, a master sword smith running from an oppressive boss-king who forced him to make expensive junk, and Nargri, his young dragon companion. Written in the early 1970s, and published in 1978 by Condor, The Sword Smith is an anti-epic fantasy. In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes the characters as "mostly fairly ordinary people, rather than heroes, wizards, and kings. Their problems are ordinary problems, rather than a gigantic struggle between good and evil. There is no magic. The dragons are intelligent therapod dinosaurs, and the trolls are some kind of hominid, maybe Neanderthals. In many ways, it is a science fiction story disguised as a fantasy."

To the Resurrection Station, Arnason's second novel (written in the 1970s), was first published in 1986. On a planet far from our Earth, it begins a Gothic tale: a moldering mansion full of secrets, a disturbing master of the house, a young and innocent heroine, and the mansion's robot servant, who drives the story. A motley crew escapes to Earth (now overrun by interesting intelligent machines, except for a clearly crazy spaceport) where they land and begin exploring the ruins of New York City.

In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes Resurrection Station as about people who can't fit into social roles. "Claud can't be a traditional Native. Belinda can't be a straight young woman or a traditional heroine. Shortpaw is not an acceptable giant mutant rat. Without being especially heroic, they all refuse to give in or give up."

Not your everyday fantasy, Daughter of the Bear King clearly arises from Second Wave Feminism. A middle-aged woman discovers that she has a role in an epic struggle between shoddiness and integrity. And her battle flows across time and universes.

On a Monday morning, Esperance Olson is suddenly transported to another world where dragons fly and wizards divulge her heritage: daughter of the ancient Bear King, she is a shape-changer with magical powers. This strange world runs on magic, and the wizards have summoned Esperance to fight a creeping and shadowy menace. Her epic journey transports her back and forth between her birth world and Minneapolis, where the magic and monsters follow, wreaking havoc.

Samples of each book are available for free download at Aqueduct's site, where the books are available in both epub and mobi formats for $7.95.

Love Poems (and a Novel)

From facebook:

Patrick and I went to Barnes and Noble Sunday, so I could buy him the new Samsung nook for his birthday. While we were there, I bought a notebook for myself, because it was on sale and had WRITE on the cover. Always good advice. And I bought a translation of Neruda's 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I had looked at it before and passed on it. I love Neruda, but I worried about his love poems. I've now read three or four of the poems. The problem is, he describes the woman as a landscape. I get no sense of a person. These poems were written long ago, when Neruda was a mere kid, so I will forgive him. But love poems that treat the loved one as a thing are creepy.

I can't remember ever thinking of Patrick as a landscape. I usually think of him as a cute, funny, clever, crabby person. (I added crabby, so you won't think I am uncritical.) I put him in a novel (To the Resurrection Station, now out in e-version) as an intelligent giant mutant rat, still a person.

If you think I am pitching To the Resurrection Station, you are right. The rat is named Shortpaw. At least one person who knows Patrick says it is a true portrait.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Postscript to the Vanishing Women Post

One of my friends thought the comparison to Hollywood (in my vanishing women post) is wrong. New SFF writers don't get attention because they were young and foxy. They get attention because they are hip and the next big thing. This sounds correct. I withdraw the comparison to Hollywood.

Being a Writer # 2

A writers list that I belong to is having a discussion about networking and self-promotion. It's well known that publishers do very little promotion of most books. The big guys only promote the books they expect to be best sellers. The independent presses simply do not have the resources for promotion. So it's up to the author.

There are two problems. One is that many writers are introverts and do not like networking and self-promotion. Among other things, it feels pushy and obnoxious to be always talking about your work.

The second problem is, it isn't clear that self-promotion works. It seems to in a handful of cases. But when authors get together, they talk about all the things that don't work. Forget about having postcards and bookmarks and refrigerator magnets made. They do nothing. Appearances at bookstores might work a bit, but organizing your own tour is difficult; and it's always a drag when three people show up for a reading, all of them relatives.

I am thinking of making business cards, which I do need, with the cover of Hidden Folk (my latest book) on one side. I have e-editions of my first three novels, all long out of print, coming out from Aqueduct Press. I'm thinking of having bookmarks made to publicize them. I am serious in saying I don't think bookmarks work, but I like bookmarks. They are useful. Business cards and bookmarks celebrate my publications and help me remember that I am, in fact, an author.

Maybe I will do this, and maybe I won't. I do need the business cards.

I don't enjoy readings or signing and don't go looking for them, though I will do them, if asked to.

(One big rule in self-promotion is, do what you enjoy. If most of it doesn't work, then have fun.)

I maintain this blog so people can find me on the Internet. I once lost a sale to Harper's, because the person who wanted to buy a poem of mine couldn't find me. Never again. I've made a handful of sales because people could find the blog and the email address associated with it. I've gotten a few pieces of fan mail. That is all to the good.

If you have a blog, you need to keep it more or less up to date. People won't revisit a blog, if the last entry was two years ago. They may suspect you are dead or in a nursing home. So I try to post every week or so. I try to make the entries entertaining, though I do not have John Scalzi's gift for chat at all.

Blogs are supposed to be out-of-date as methods of promotion. We are all supposed to tweet. I will stick with my blog, thank you. My natural length seems to be novelettes or novellas, and the same goes for posting. I like room to say what I want to say.

I do facebook, because I enjoy facebook. I haven't gone out looking for facebook friends, so I have only 700. Almost all of them are members of the science fiction community: writers, editors, publishers, critics, reviewers, fans. This is because most of my social life revolves around writing and science fiction. I treasure the handful of facebook friends who are not in the community. They remind me that there is a larger world.

Most of the time, I don't push my writing on facebook. Instead, I talk about the weather, what I've done during the day. Trivial material. There are also photos of Iceland and cute animals from around the world. I usually link to at least one political article a day, though I try to limit these, since so much news is unhappy-making.

Always pushing your career makes you seem, well, pushy or a narcissist.

I go to local conventions and to Wiscon, in order to meet with friends. I do panels, because I enjoy doing panels, and they get me a free membership. Once in a long while, I go to out-of-the-region cons. I belong to a couple of e=mail lists, one made up of SF writers, the other made up of feminists in the SFF community.

I do a column for Strange Horizons six times a year. I took me a long time to get in the swing of writing those, but I have now written three columns ahead, because they were fun to write: one about Chinese detective stories, one about Ghost in the Shell and one about vanishing pieces of SF history.

I have probably written most of this entry before, because writers are always mulling over self-promotion.