Sunday, May 31, 2009

sun then, sun now

I find I don't have much to say today, so instead here are three photos. One was taken at the end of March by my sister, who was visiting from England, the other two about six weeks ago by our neighbour, Vicki, who is planning to make a blockprint portrait of us and took several study photos.

Saltoro, March 2009

Saltoro is our neighbourhood joint. They make good cocktails, they have incredibly well-priced good-with-food wines (lots of French and Italian as well as the usual Washington and Californian stuff) and there are always a couple of choices of fish, chicken, steak, vegetarian, pasta, salad. So whatever you are hankering for that day, you can find it here. And they don't mind if you linger for hours and hours over the wine.

Kelley drinking wine, April 2009

me looking at Kelley, because I always look at Kelley

We were both incredibly tired this day, though I can't remember why. But we were happy to drink wine with Vicki and attempt to look non-destroyed for the camera. I think K did a better job than me. But she did train as an actor...

And, oh, what the hell, here's a photo of me from the end of summer last year when Kelley and I decided to have a picnic in the garden, with champagne and caviar and generally enjoy the last of the year's sun. Now we have a whole summer of it to look forward to, so I'm happy. Yay!

happy in the back garden, September 2008

Later this week, K and I plan to experiment with adult milkshakes in the sun: ice cream, rum, roasted pineapple... Yum. If it works, I'll share the recipe. Meanwhile, enjoy the day.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009


Nearly three years ago a reader on the East Coast (thank you, Jen) who is a massage therapist gave me a birthday gift: one free massage from a therapist living here on Puget Sound. Jen had done lots of research and found a woman whose training would be useful for the kinds of problems I have because of MS and whose temperament might complement mine. Then Jen phoned this massage therapist, Susan Karlsen, and had a long chat--interviewed her, basically. Susan agreed to come out to our house and give me a massage.

Normally, Susan works from her home treatment centre, Luminaries: a charming bright yellow Victorian in Richmond Beach, overlooking Puget Sound. But every week for the last two and a half years she's driven to my house and given me a massage.

I firmly believe that Susan, and Gretchen my physical therapist, are to a large extent responsible for me being in reasonable shape. They keep the blood moving, the muscles toned, the fascia flexible. They help make the difference between existing, creeping from day to day with aches and pains and a thousand small miseries, and looking forward to my life every morning.

Susan has been a massage therapist for ten years. She's developed her own style built on myofascial release and Swedish techniques. Sometimes during the massage we're both quiet; sometimes we entertain each other with outrageous stories about our week; sometimes we talk about the beauty of kindness.

Susan has shown both me and Kelley great kindness over the last couple of years. This post is basically a giant thank you for all her care and attention. I'm hoping that there's at least one reader who lives in the Seattle/Shoreline/Richmond Beach/Edmonds area who will immediately email (luminaries at earthlink dot net) or phone Susan and book an appointment. Or who will give a gift certificate for her services to family or friends who do live here. Or who will spread the word.

A massage is a fine thing--it can promote healing, relax you, or revitalise you. Treat yourself.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

21st Lambda Literary award winners announced

Open, Jenny Block, Seal Press

Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word), Thea Hillman, Manic D Press

Our Caribbean, edited by Thomas Glave, Duke University Press

Out of the Pocket, Bill Konigsberg, Dutton

The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, Carolyn Gage, Outskirts Press

Loving The Difficult, Jane Rule, Hedgerow Press

Turnskin, Nicole Kimberling, Blind Eye Books

Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality, Regina
Kunzel, The University of Chicago Press

The Bruise, Magdalena Zurawski, Fiction Collective Two/University of Alabama Press

In Deep Waters 2: Cruising the Strip, Radclyffe and Karen Kallmaker, Bold Strokes Books

The Sealed Letter, Emma Donoghue, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
All the Pretty Girls, Chandra Mayor, Conundrum Press

Sex Talks to Girls, Maureen Seaton, University of
Arkansas Press

Whacked, Josie Gordon, Bella Books

love belongs to those who do the feeling, Judy Grahn, Red Hen Press

The Kiss That Counted, Karin Kallmaker, Bella Books

Finlater, Shawn Ruff, Quote Editions

Best Gay Erotica 2009, Richard Labonte & James Lear, Cleis Press

We Disappear, Scott Heim, HarperCollins

Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, Sheila Rowbotham, Verso Books

First You Fall, Scott Sherman, Alyson Books

Fire to Fire, Mark Doty, HarperCollins
Now You're the Enemy, James Allen Hall, University of Arkansas Press

Got 'til it's Gone, Larry Duplechan, Arsenal Pulp Press

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


It's heating up here in Seattle and I'm looking forward to a couple of lazy days in the sun. I've been working hard on a variety of things--one of which is my first short story in years, just accepted for publication.

The story, "It Takes Two," is a new kind of tale for me, very indoor, very urban--no lingering descriptions of trees or sky or water--and featuring characters who haven't a shred of earnestness to their name. They're calculating, scheming, out-for-number-one types with fewer social skills than they would like to think: they work in the software, biotech, and adult entertainment industries. Even the length is new to me: a novelette, just south of 12,000 words. I had enormous fun with it. If I had to classify it, I'd put it in the 'hot and sticky' category, along with works like "Yaguara," "Touching Fire," "Song of Bullfrogs, Cry of Geese," and "Wearing My Skin."

So heat has been on my mind. And then, on the Bilerico Project, I came across a video of Janis Joplin singing "Summertime" in Stockholm. I've always loved this one. It's a quintessentially summer sound to me, sort of like the Beach Boys--only completely different.

Joplin, I think, was a stunning performer. I'd give a lot to go back in time and watch her live.

So then I started thinking about open air concerts. If you could pick the fantasy lineup for a summer's afternoon-turning-to-evening, with, say, 500 people in a park, maybe some hash, maybe some wine--nothing outrageous, just serious mellowness--who would be in the lineup? Remember, this is fantasy.

Okay, so in my show would be Janis Joplin, Michelle Shocked, early David Bowie, early Pink Floyd, early-to-mid Led Zeppelin, perhaps a little Joni Mitchell... If Kelley were there (and of course she would be: it's a fantasy), then some late 80s U2 to make her happy. Ooh, maybe a little BRMC. Perhaps Groove Armada. John Martyn. Oh, and Bob Marley. Eric Clapton...

Who else?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


After yesterday's ruling from the California Supreme Court on Proposition 8, it seems we can get marrid in California, but we can't get married. At least according to Seneca Doane at the Daily Kos:

In last year's landmark 4-3 decision, In re Marriage Cases, the California Supreme Court decided that same-sex couples have a fundamental right under state law to every single advantage that heterosexual couples do, including the right to call their legal union "marriage."

Today, the court unanimously upheld the substantive fundamental right. Liberal to conservative, they all now accept it. They construed Prop 8 as narrowly as possible: as a initiative that addressed what we would label these relationships that we normally call marriage. The voters said that we can't call these relationships "marriage" when they involve same-sex couples. That's an insult to gays and lesbians and I hope and believe that it will not last.

Here's an excerpt from the ruling (p. 36-37):

Applying similar reasoning in the present context, we properly must view the adoption of Proposition 8 as carving out an exception to the preexisting scope of the privacy and due process clauses of the California Constitution as interpreted by the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757. The scope of the exception created by Proposition 8, however, necessarily is determined and limited by the specific language and scope of the new constitutional provision added by the ballot measure. Here the new constitutional provision (art. I, § 7.5) provides in full: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." By its terms, the new provision refers only to "marriage" and does not address the right to establish an officially recognized family relationship, which may bear a name or designation other than "marriage." Accordingly, although the wording of the new constitutional provision reasonably is understood as limiting use of the designation of "marriage" under California *\37 law to opposite-sex couples, and thereby modifying the decision in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757, insofar as the majority opinion in that case holds that limiting the designation of "marriage" to the relationship entered into by opposite-sex couples constitutes an impermissible impingement upon the state constitutional rights of privacy and due process, the language of article I, section 7.5, on its face, does not purport to alter or affect the more general holding in the Marriage Cases that same-sex couples, as well as opposite-sex couples, enjoy the constitutional right, under the privacy and due process clauses of the California Constitution, to establish an officially recognized family relationship. Because, as a general matter, the repeal of constitutional provisions by implication is disfavored (see, e.g., In re Thiery S. (1979) 19 Cal.3d 727, 744; Warne v. Harkness (1963) 60 Cal.2d 579, 587-588), Proposition 8 reasonably must be interpreted in a limited fashion as eliminating only the right of same-sex couples to equal access to the designation of marriage, and as not otherwise affecting the constitutional right of those couples to establish an officially recognized family relationship.

Which could be interpreted, according to Doane, as meaning:

We now have two kinds of marriage in the state: those conducted up until the day Prop 8 passed and those conducted starting the day after it passed. For the former marriages, those conducted by both heterosexual and homosexual couples can be called marriage. For the latter marriages, heterosexual marriages can be officially called marriages and homosexual marriages -- which are still marriages in fact -- have to be called something else. So don't bother us about retroactivity; this difference between pre- and post-Prop 8 marriages is no big deal.

I think his interpretation is largely correct. The thing I can't get past is: if you call it something else, it is something else. Names are powerful.

Also: how does one go about getting marrid? What is the official process?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Supremes uphold Prop 8

Christine Cotter/LA Times

Well, it was expected. But it's still crushing. From the Los Angeles Times a few minutes ago:

The justices uphold the same-sex marriage ban but also rule that the 18,000 gay couples who wed before the November vote will stay married. The decision is sure to spark another ballot box fight.

By Maura Dolan
10:08 AM PDT, May 26, 2009

Reporting from San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.

The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists say they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.

Although the court split 6-1 on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the justices were unanimous in deciding to keep intact the marriages of as many as 18,000 gay couples who exchanged vows before the election. The marriages began last June, after a 4-3 state high court ruling striking down the marriage ban last May.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, the state high court ruled today that the November initiative was not an illegal constitutional revision, as gay rights lawyers contended, nor unconstitutional because it took away an inalienable right, as Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown argued.

Only Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the court's sole Democrat, wanted Proposition 8 struck down as an illegal constitutional revision.

I have no doubt there will be protests and rallies. I have no doubt that same-sex marriage will eventually be legal in California. But I feel for all those who will suffer because of this.

I'll have more considered thoughts later.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Ammonite and trivial pursuit

From: Kathy Ludwig

Imagine my delight that while playing trivial pursuit on my iphone a question about Ammonite appears in the arts and literature category. I was so pleased that I nearly ran out of time to answer. "What planet is the setting for Nicola Griffith's Ammonite?" Thought you might get a kick out of it...

Wow, I absolutely get a kick out of it. Trivial Pursuit. That is very cool.

I used to play Trivial Pursuit in my stoner days. I loved acting out clues for people when it was my turn to read the question. In terms of answering, I was seriously crap at the sports questions. I just shouted, 'Pele!'. (It's surprising how often I was right--hey, it was the early eighties.)

And, uh, does anyone here not know the answer to the Ammonite question?

I should be finishing my story today, but I'll probably spend a lot of time musing on how to convey the answer in mime to a bunch of wasted people. These days of course I would just fingerspell it--it's only four letters, even I can do that--but back then, hmmn. Oh, I wish I could take video comments, I'd love to see some reader attempts.

What kind of prize would tempt any of you to give it a go?

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

archived posts: writing and the writing life

Today I've chosen three early posts on writing and the writing life. I hope you enjoy them. You can comment here or on the posts themselves.

writers and a living wage
I found it rather charming to read this post from late 1996 (my guess, given references to working on what would become The Blue Place, domestic partnership stuff, etc.) about writing and money. It's clear that I thought the only path moving forward was up. Kelley and I have just spent a couple of days talking about ways to supplement our writing incomes. When I answered this question, nearly thirteen years ago, I wouldn't have dreamt we'd need to do such a thing. There again, while Wizards of the Coast was a great place to work, Kelley has now been her own boss for nine years. And that, that right there, is the point. We are living our dream every day. Life is good.

what is 'good enough' for Clarion West?
Now I know how stories are selected for Clarion, and I find my advice is still good. I'd add, "make sure it's clear, make sure there's a beginning, middle and end, make me feel something." But, eh, you can't download twenty years of experience in one short post. Side note: I never did find out if the person asking the question ended up as one of my students.

what to do when you're a beginner
I had many of these questions in the early days, and sometimes wasn't as patient as I could have been. Oh, I wasn't mean or anything, I just didn't take the time to give a really detailed response. If you're a beginner, Kelley has given some excellent suggestions on her website. See, for example, From the Beginning, a comprehensive discussion of how to get started.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

how to obviate college debt, maybe

I was in the park yesterday, and I noticed there were many young people wandering about looking stunned. Now, sun can stun in Seattle, especially after a really rainy winter and spring but it struck me that it might not be a coincidence that it's roughly this time of year when people graduate. So I wondered if some of them were stunned by the explosive decompression of no school--and/or the thought of college debt. And then when I got home I came across Robert Reich's blog. He has a modest proposal regarding student loans:

But how can a young people repay this much money when the job market is so bad? The law doesn't allow college loans to be discharged in personal bankruptcy.

Even when they do find jobs, college grads have no choice but to take the job that pays the most. They can't afford to do what they might really want to do -- become, say, a social worker or writer or legal services attorney.

This problem won't go away when the economy recovers. College debt burdens have been rising for years, and the career choices of many newly-minted graduates are narrowing to those that help repay college loans. We need a new system. So here's my proposal: Any college student can get full funding from the government, with only one string attached. Once they've graduated and are in the work force, they pay 10 percent of their incomes for the first 10 years of full-time work into the same government fund they drew on to finance their college education.

Now maybe that formula will need to be adjusted up or down to cover all the costs. And surely some people will game the system as they do every other one. But the essential idea is that linking the costs of college to subsequent wages makes college affordable to everyone.

It struck me as simple and good-hearted, certainly an interesting starting point. But I've never been through an American educational institute; I don't know what it's like to have to pay to play. So I'm curious about the response of those who have. What do you think?

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Friday, May 22, 2009

holiday weekend

This is going to be long, luscious holiday weekend. The weather is perfect. I'm going to go outside and stay there for a while.

Meanwhile, you can follow this blog via Kindle. Imagine lying in the grass under a tree, munching on an apple, reading this while the birds sing...

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Prop 8 decision coming Tuesday

California's Supreme Court will deliver its decision on Proposition 8 and the legality of same-sex marriage on Tuesday 26th May, at about 10:00 am. We shall see...

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lambda Literary Foundation

I have just joined the board of trustees of the Lambda Literary Foundation, "the country's leading organisation for LGBT writers and readers."

It's a small board and there's a lot to do, so I think we'll be working hard. Sometime soon I'll ask for your input on a variety of questions but for now I'm blinking and trying to get my head around the scope and size of this thing.

Exciting times ahead...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

graphite and gold

Last night we had a couple of beers, a great conversation, and then a wonderful dinner (roast chicken, every roasted root vegetable currently available, plus steamed cabbage lightly tossed in butter and pepper). Outside, the light was eerie, a combination of the golden hour and a gathering storm. The air looked slippery and electric, like gold rubbed over graphite. Against the intense greens--pale emerald alder, glass green grass, dark fir--the lilac and hot red hydrangea popped liked something from a sixties psychedelic poster. Every leaf and petal was distinct and perfect. We admired it for a while over dinner. As we made tea, thunder rumbled and lightning lickered.

We shook our heads at the strangeness of Seattle weather, and as the rain began we settled down to watch the season finale of 24.

The doorbell rang. It was our neighbour, Elbereth, standing under an umbrella and pointing at the most astonishing double gold and graphite rainbow. She just wanted us to see it.

It's difficult to capture that kind of light, so these pictures don't really do it justice, but here it is (courtesy of Kelley this time).

I love living in a place where the sky does this and our neighbours point it out. Life is good.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sojourner Truth

Last month's unveiling of a bust, by sculptor Artis Lane, of Sojourner Truth. I got a serious thrill out of watching so many powerful women acknowledge their debt to this woman. Go watch. (I forgive you if you skip the awful musical number at the end.)

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Night Train, by Martin Amis Ask Nicola

From: Barbara Sanchez

I just read
Night Train by Martin Amis at K's recommendation on her blog. It blew me away for many reasons. For such a small book it packs a big punch. Why did you want her to read it?

I read Night Train when it first came out, just after I'd finished The Blue Place but before it was published. It was a really clear example of what a writer could do with the noir form--Amis really is very good--and what I didn't want to do, was glad I hadn't done, with The Blue Place.

Amis brings a fine and powerful focus, a driving energy, to the narrative. That's something I aimed for, too, in TBP--yet they're such different kinds of energy. Amis's character, Mike (female) is a blunt force; she grips you around the head and squeezes. Aud is more like a slicing wind. I wanted Kelley to read them both and tell me what she saw and thought and felt. But that was a very busy time in our lives, and it didn't happen.

But it did last month, so, hey, it all works out. And here, for your delectation and delight is an excerpt from a review of both books from City Pages, Minneapolis:

Resembling John Woo's movies, The Blue Place swims inside violence as in a lushly colored dream; it makes a polar opposite to Martin Amis's gaunt Night Train, which also stars a big-boned, quick-fisted woman cop. Amis's anti-heroine is clearly a man in disguise, weary of the cruel noirish milieu the author can't quite admit to creating. Griffith, meanwhile, writes Aud as convincingly female, because she would claim for women the entire spectrum of human behavior, including brutality and its sometime converse, rage.

It's been a long time since I read it NT. I do agree with the reviewer's idea that the narrative and tone of TBP is lush where NT is much more spare--gaunt is a good word--but I'm not sure I agree with her/his gender analysis. I'm not saying I disagree, I just don't remember the book well enough--apart from that pile driver narrative force--to have an opinion one way or the other.

It's a short book, and a very fast read. Definitely worth two hours of your life.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm sad...

...that there are, as yet, no reader reviews of this blog up at the Kindle blog page. Sigh. Don't you like the blog? Don't you want other people to come play?

Remember, you don't actually have to have a Kindle to leave a review.

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new banner

So, here's a new blog banner. (Thanks to Jennifer Durham.) What do you think?

In other news, yesterday I had an odd experience: I wrote a thousand words in 75 minutes on my story, then had to stop cold and immediately leave the house for dinner with an old friend. I felt as though I'd left my kidney behind or something. Very strange...

In other other news, Kelley has a wonderful blog post up, a personal essay about art in hard times. Go read it. You'll be glad you did.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

sundog millionaire

After lunch today I went out on the deck by the ravine and mused on my story. I sat under an umbrella and sipped tea. The sun was brilliant. Birds sang--baby birds. I couldn't see them, but I distinctly heard the soft peeping of a handful of hungry little things. I don't know where the nest is. It seemed, rude, somehow to go poking about looking for it. Harassed parents need their privacy.

Then I saw this corona around the sun. I don't know if there were actually sundogs or not; the brolly was in the way (and even I'm not dim enough to gawp directly at the sun). For a moment the sky turned into a blue mirror. If you look carefully, you can see the shadow of the central contrail against the sky. An astonishing thing. I felt like a millionaire.

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this blog now available on Kindle

Want to read this blog every day on your Kindle? The whole thing, with no ads? Cool! Go here and sign up. You get a 14-day free trial. If you like it, it's only $1.99 a month [edit: now only 99¢] to subscribe. It will just show up, wirelessly, soundlessly, effortlessly and with a winning smile.

Even if you don't have a Kindle, you could still click on the Amazon link and leave a review of the blog. Share the wonder (okay, dailiness) that is Ask Nicola!

Also, if you would, please take a look at the banner of this blog. I'm thinking of changing it--and when I try something new I'd like your opinion.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

computational knowledge engine

There's a new search engine in town, a 'computational knowledge engine', Wolfram|Alpha.

Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.

Wolfram|Alpha is an ambitious, long-term intellectual endeavor that we intend will deliver increasing capabilities over the years and decades to come. With a world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields, our goal is to create something that will stand as a major milestone of 21st century intellectual achievement.

I've tried it. It's kind of cool--if you're willing to simply trust that what you get is true. But I tend to do that with things like Wikipedia, anyway, unless I'm writing a real essay*, in which case I sigh and confirm via other sources. So I'm guessing for simple travel (how far from Leeds to London?) or money (how many dollars in a pound?) questions, I'll be happy to use it, and then follow their links to the source material and check it out myself if it's really important, if I need to lean on that answer to make a crucial decision about something.

But go play. It's fun.

Meanwhile, it's shaping up to be a truly beautiful weekend here in Seattle, so I don't expect to be online much.

* Oh, ho. What's a 'real' essay when it's at home? I find I mean something that will be in a printed book or high-circulation journal. Interesting. I have print prejudice...
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Friday, May 15, 2009

AN: a question of love

From: Shereta

The topics you intend to explore for your next story sound very interesting. I would slightly disagree with your description of love causing decision making to become subordinate to hormones, though biologically that may seem accurate. However, holistically it's more a matter of one type of decision making - one on a higher plane of consciousness taking over. I have read all of your novels (minus the memoir) and have enjoyed them all tremendously. I am very intrigued by the change and growth that occurs with your characters especially in light of your own views on spirituality – I am assuming from various interviews that you are atheist. I wouldn’t describe myself as atheist although I certainly do not subscribe to any established religions. I am a graduate of MIT so I clearly have a high appreciation for science and reason, but I have also (through various life experiences) have come to appreciate more esoteric knowledge. I believe that love is a great paradox and that to know it’s true meaning is to know your true self and to know God (or what’s been labeled as such and mistaken as so many other things). I guess I don’t really have a question per se, I just wanted to share that with you and thank you for your body of work. I also happen to live Atlanta (one of the few actually born and raised here) so your descriptions of the city in The Blue Place were also very enjoyable. It’s always interesting to see familiar things through the eyes of others and discover them all over again.

Happy writing with the new story.

If you're looking for a label I'm more of an agnostic than an atheist. I've never bothered to spend time figuring out exactly what I do and don't believe--though if I had to pick a religion I'd go for Science. Frankly, I think god is in our biochemistry. Belief in god probably stems from evolving as prey animals.

Love and decision-making. Eh. I think the full, first flush of love drives us insane. (Believe me, I've been there. Three times.) In a good way. But a screenplay I want to write will explore what happens if the person in love has the fate of the world resting on their shoulders. Should be fun (twirls evil mustachios...).

I am having fun writing this story. I'm still not sure if it'll work. So much depends on being able to blend eroticism with tricky POV stuff (without it looking in any way tricky). I think this might be the first time I've written a keep-a secret-from-the-protagonist story. It's cool to still have things to learn.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

the next future

Last night I started watching The Matrix for the umpth time, and was struck by the colours of its future: grey, black, and green--just like the computers of the late eighties (grey steel cases and green screens) and early nineties (black plastic cases and grey screens). The new Star Trek's future, of course, is blue and white, like an oughties Apple store. (True cultural zeitgeist or very sophisticated product placement? I don't know.)

A few years before The Matrix was released I wrote an essay, "Layered Cities."

Fiction generally embodies that which a culture knows to be true. In the thirties and forties, American writers knew that the world was getting bigger, brighter, and more reasonable. There was new class mobility, the Depression was over, and a world government of rational, impartial scientists would soon be completely in charge. Future cities imagined in these times, then, were utopic visions of science-based meritocracies: well-fed white people bustling across clean-looking pastel-colored sky bridges with their slide rules sticking out of their pockets.

By the eighties, on the other hand, writers knew everything was falling apart. The economy was fueled by junk bonds and the government was going broke; more and more people were out of work; and homelessness was the new epidemic. More recently imagined Cities of the Future are in decline: rain-wet streets are neon-streaked and full of piles of dirty clothes that turn out to be brain-burned refugees from various corporate wars...

This week, I'm writing the first science fiction story I've tried in years. It's not set in the future. It's not about outer space or computer space, it's about inner space: perception and emotion. Specifically, it's about love: what is it, and how do we know it's real? When we're in love, our executive decision-making centres becomes subordinate to the hormone tide; we flow through our lives on an intuitive tide, knowing all will be well. It got me wondering if--perhaps in some future novel--I could use falling in love as a metaphor for public and civic trust.

When a country is at war (or at bay, economically), does the body politic and its irrational fears/hopes overwhelm the executive decision-making centre? If that's the case, should we trust the government?

Eh, but I'm just playing. Here's my real question for you: what will the next future look like on screen? A Kindle (16 shades of grey)? Twitter (turquoise)? Blogger (orange)? Tell me what you think.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

pork & beans: fast, cheap and good

There is a construction business axiom: you can have it cheap and fast but not good, good and cheap but not fast, or fast and good but not cheap. Fortunately, food isn't like the building industry. So here, on request, is my recipe for pork and beans. It's inexact. (All my recipes are inexact.)

You'll need:

  • 6 slices of bacon (without nitrates, nitrates, or phosphates--Applegate farms is fab)
  • a chunk of pork loin or a couple of chops (what Kelley and I do is buy a pork loin when it's on sale, chop it into chunks to freeze and use a bit at a time--I've never weighed what I use but for this recipe I'd guess, oh, 12 ounces maybe)
  • 2 cans white beans
  • 2 red peppers
  • 10 big white mushrooms
  • 1 box/can tomatoes (I like Pomi tomatoes in the box: no added salt or water or sugar or ascorbic--or any other--acid, and no nasty seeds to get stuck in your teeth; also they just taste better)
  • a one- or two-count pour (glup, or glup glup) of olive oil
  • a dutch oven or other stovetop or oven pot with a good heavy lid

Pour the olive oil in the pot--just enough to make sure the bacon doesn't stick when you start it frying. Heat the pot while you cut the bacon slices into quarters. Set the bacon frying (medium heat).

While the bacon fries, cut up the pork. Big chunks are best. Drop the pork in with the bacon. While it's browning, chop the pepper (big chunks) and the mushrooms (ditto). Open the beans.

When the pork is browned on both (if you're using chops) or all (if you're using a pork loin) sides, add the vegetables and the beans--don't bother draining the beans, just pour the whole lot in. Don't pour off the fat in the pot, either--that's what makes everything so damn tasty. Stir. Add half the tomatoes. Stir again. Turn up the heat, stirring occasionally.

At this point you'll have to ponder the liquid mix--is there enough? If not, add more tomatoes and/or a little water. Stir until it bubbles. Lower heat, put on the lid, simmer, stirring occasionally.

It doesn't take long to be cooked enough to be safe to eat, but if you simmer for an hour or so, all the flavours come together. You don't want to cook it too long, though, or the peppers turn to sludge and their skins roll off and into red needles. (This is why you cut the veggies into really big chunks, so they maintain their integrity while the meat cooks and the juice turns to deliciousness.)

Serves...well, I don't know. Depends how much you eat. Six people? Something like that. We always have leftovers for lunch the next day, and often for a second dinner, too.

I serve with brown rice and either steamed broccoli or sauteed courgettes (zucchini). A good appetiser is salad, a good dessert is berries and ice cream. (If it's not berry season, heat frozen berries in a pan and pour over vanilla ice cream--trust me, it's delicious.)

This is a very forgiving recipe--which is a polite way to say it's difficult to fuck up, so don't fret about the details. Have fun.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

joint them like a chicken -- a self-defense post, sort of

If you're squeamish, don't read this post.

While we were cooking on Sunday for a Mother's Day dinner (waves at K's mum, Sharon), I had enormous fun showing Kelley how to use a knife to kill someone. I was chopping mushrooms, and really enjoying the feel of the knife (a very, very sharp gift from K's dad, Larry--more waving--a year or two ago) and it occurred to me that what most people know about cutting people up they learn from bad horror films, or bad fifties films about gypsies with the obligatory knife fight over a woman.*

So I put the knife down (even I'm not stupid enough to use a real knife for show and tell), rolled up a piece of newspaper, and demonstrated the edge-out slash-slash-slash thing that, in my opinion, is most useful mode against an attacker. (Or harmless bystander who pisses you off.)

I've just spent ten minutes looking for something illustrative on YouTube--and I couldn't find anything.** But it strikes me as useful knowledge, so I thought I'd describe it--though I don't know how effective words alone will be.

First of all, for me knife fighting isn't about the horror movie leap-from-the closet overhead stab; it's not about the tip of the blade. It's about the edge.

Pick up a knife so that the:

  • tip points to your elbow
  • blade runs along the outside of your forearm
  • edge faces out

You may need to practise this so you can do it easily. Crouch, so that your torso is curved away from your attacker (you will look a bit like a boxer). Move in to your target, slashing in a general upward path, in diagonal curves. Imagine a single snaking path. (The brain has a much harder time calculating endpoints when an object doesn't travel in a line--so if you use arcs your opponent finds it harder to block.) I'm right-handed so my first cut would be from lower right to upper left--across, say, the femoral artery--second cut, from left to right, across the brachial, the third, right to left again, across the carotid.

It takes about 1.5 seconds. Flick flick flick. Then you step back and watch them bleed to death. Or, if you missed the arteries, they writhe helplessly--because you probably at least got the tendons.

Oh, and if you were wondering what we cooked for Mother's Day, it's a pork-and-beans-and-red-pepper thing I invented a few years ago***. Served with two kinds of rice (I only eat whole grains, but K and her family like the white stuff with lots o' butter and pepper) and steamed broccoli. Followed by lingonberry pie and ice cream.

And, no, I didn't joint my mother-in-law or her husband, Art, like chickens. We had a perfectly civilised dinner with lively conversation and a lovely bottle of Washington chardonnay. And a white Bordeaux. With a delicious Nebbiolo standing by. (But I stuck to beer--don't want to be drinking wine when I'm already feeling hot blooded and kind of fey.)

* Just in case anyone is wondering if I'd fight for possession of Kelley: no one possesses Kelley; she chooses for herself. Duh. And if she couldn't speak up and/or defend herself for some reason I'd nominate Aud as her champion. If Aud were busy then, yeah, I'd do it. I'd win, too (as long as I could, y'know, fight sitting down).

** Huh. I've no idea what style it is I use, no idea where I learnt it. I'd always had a vague notion that it was some kind of kali (though I never studied kali). It's all a bit of a mystery.

*** At some point I'll write out the recipe if anyone is interested.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Kelley is king

Kelley is king today, a wise king, over at Bob Sutton's blog. (Bob Sutton wrote the The No Asshole Rule, and others.) Go leave a comment. Or, hey, do it tomorrow. Mondays are hard.

But if you are feeling chipper, if you are in a commenting mood you could perhaps bob over (no, no name pun intended--it's English for 'drop by') to A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe and take a guess at what the Rorsach-like image on the back of this coin represents. I think it's the work of a time traveller who fell through a worm hole, who--instead of blowing up Romulus cornering wool futures chose to artistically represent some bad films of the 20th century. Like The Fly...

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek: Reboot

This will be a rather random review--today I'm too tired to think in coherent sequences. There will be minor spoilers embedded along the way, but nothing major (unless you've been living in a hole for the last year, in which case don't read this, go get treatment).

The bottom line: awesome, whether you're a fan or not. Go see it.

The very first thing that struck me was that Star Trek: Reboot steals from/pays hommage to, just about every visual skiffy trope of the last twenty years. The spaceships, space battles, wormholes, explosions, time travel etc--nod to design elements from Babylon 5, Firefly, Star Wars, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, and many more. They take the hallowed Star Trek building blocks--the Enterprise, transporter beams, phasers--and update them brilliantly. I don't mean 'pretty well' I mean fucking brilliantly. The FX are cooler, the colours and textures are sleeker, the sounds are particularly convincing, and it all feels like the future--but it's still, very much, Star Trek. Hats off to the production designers, set and costumer people, the sound editors and foley artists, the FX geeks, the...well, everyone.

So, within a few seconds I knew the film was going to look and sound awesome all the way through; a practically perfect update of technology for the next next generation.

The cultural updates were also pretty good though the portrayal of women was, sadly, underpar (more on that later). The thing that always bothered me about old style SF was the privileging of rationality over emotion, the whole mind/body dichotomy. (See my essay, Writing from the Body, for more on this.) Star Trek was a prime offender: everything positive was was clean, machined, and logical. The Vulcans (held up as role models for less evolved humans) espoused the excision of emotion; pon farr was something to be ashamed of. The new creative team threw all that out. Or at least tweaked it severely. The message we get throughout the film is that passion is a Good Thing. If you feel, if you take emotional risks, you win. (Winning, of course, is a Very Good Thing.)

So, for example, when Spock-Nimoy comes back through time he encourages the friendship between Spock-Quinto and Kirk because their friendship will (I'm paraphrasing) be the thing that defines them both. That's a strong statement: a relationship between two people which will be the most important thing in their lives, that will shape their development and destiny. The K/S shippers must have been swooning. I was delighted for them. Plus, friendship is a powerful force, and it's just plain pleasing to see one set out for future franchise development. The creative team made a very smart choice, I think, in having the career trajectory/action hero role belong to Kirk and the emotional arc belong to Spock. Lots (lots) of room to play there.

So, the women. The first female character we see gets blown out into space during a battle, and dies. The next has a baby--Kirk--and is never seen again. The next also has a baby, Spock, and does nothing but tell him she loves him, then dies. (And, hello, she's played by Winona Rider who is only 37; Zachary Quinto, her movie son, is 31. But we all know about the weirdness of Hollywood gender crap; I won't rehash here.) The next woman is Uhura. She gets to be fought over in a bar, then watched while she takes her clothes off--though she does get to translate something at some point--and then is the object of a main character's affection. She also wears mini-skirts and boots. In other words, although there are is no egregious misogyny, if you want strong women, watch something else. Eh, one day someone will write Aud in Space, but today is not that day.

This is a story about boys and men--about their rivalries, hierachies, and friendships. And it's a blast.

The creative team, through the time travel device, have simply wiped the board of the canon. The world of Star Trek is now officially off the reservation. It can go anywhere and do anything--and yet the kernel of its appeal, the essential righteousness of Kirk and Spock, and the strength of their friendship, is rich and ready.

This will be a fertile franchise. And therein lie my main quibbles with the film (if you ignore the hand-waving time travel thing, and the cardboard badguy*, and the movie shorthand**). Every now and again, some action sequence would go on too long, to no apparent purpose but to lay the foundations for various video games (hello ice planet, hello Scottie shoots through the tubes). It was a little tedious, but I understand the commercial impulse.

There were a handful of minor slip-ups. (For example, Kirk at the end: "You got it!" was the wrong tone; I think "Fine [shrug]" would have been better. Scotty's alien friend was handled badly, etc.) But I really enjoyed this film. There are some real woo-hoo! moments. Superior entertainment. Go see it.

* Eric Bana did a good job with a thankless role. 'You killed my planet, now I'll kill yours! While you watch!'
** Two examples: the fleet is busy, fill the new flagship with cadets! And Yeah, we're off on a voyage without a 1st officer, release the parking brake--oh wait! here's a guy right now who will do!
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Glutton widget

Blimey. Watch this video about the new widget from Book Glutton. I honestly don't know what to make of this. I think it could be a *seriously* useful tool for writers wanting feedback, and for some readers. But when I think about using it myself, as a reader, my head tries to explode.


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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek: I can't wait!

We have our tickets for Star Trek. Woo hoo! This is the film I've looked forward to most since Iron Man (and before that 300).

As with those two films, what has whet my appetite is the trailer. It's practically perfect for my film-story tastes: the chosen one, heroism, conflict, aliens, explosions, jokes, time travel... Wow. I don't know who made the trailer but they should get a cut of the first dollar gross.

So tomorrow afternoon, I'll be stuffing my face with popcorn and my mind with, well, moviecorn, and loving every minute of it. Then I'll be at the pub with my sweetie, reliving the whole thing, waving my beer around shouting Pow! Zap! Fire everything!

The YouTube embedding has been disabled, but here's the link.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Aud on Twitter

My ex-editor, Charlotte Abbott, has a great new blog, Follow the Reader, with FoAN, Kay Meyer. Today Kat interviews Colleen Lindsay, a friend (and ex-publicist--oooh, an ex convention!):

Colleen’s One Small Step Toward Saving Publishing Would Be:
“It would be great to see any one publisher make it a company policy to take one day a month AT WORK and make it a reading-only day. I’d love to see publishers step back and try to remember why most of their employees are working in publishing in the first place: a love of reading.

But the way most of your day is structured at any publishing job actually precludes one from simply READING.
As an agent I’m up against the same thing. It was a huge wake up call for me last year to realize that in a 12-month period, I’d read only seven - SEVEN! - books that weren’t client manuscripts or partials I was evaluating. It takes some of the joy out of the work.”

Fictitious Book Character She’d Most Like to Twitter With:
Aud Torvingen from Nicola Griffith's wonderful series of books The Blue Place, Stay and Always. But I suspect that Aud would just hunt me down and break my neck for bothering her.”

If you play nicely, Aud won't hurt you--at least not much. Why don't you try it and see?

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slash fiction, or Teh Magick Testicles of Perspicaciteh

I read a blog post today (thanks, Cindy) on Hoyden About Town, "Slash and Teh Magick Testicles of Perspicacity," which I thought might amuse you:

You don’t even have to know anything about slash to get a few giggles and more than a few eyerolls out of this interview with evolutionary psychologist Don Symons, author of Warrior Lovers: Erotic Fiction, Evolution and Female Sexuality [eta: see comments 1 & 2].

Like all good evolutionary psychologists who focus on gender, Don hasn’t bothered to talk to any actual *whispers* women. Especially not to any women who write and/or study this, erm, *whispers* smut. Because women can’t define their own experience, can’t tell their own stories, can’t have any useful insights into their own motivations. Because women’s fan academia doesn’t really exist in any meaningful sense, not until chest-beaters come along and put their stamp of Knowledge onto it. Because women’s culture is there to be picked apart with tweezers and analysed with a touch of distanced fascination, a modicum of distaste, and a whopping serve of wilful ignorance. For lo, he has Teh Magick Testicles of Perspicacity. Here, let him show you them.

[Followed by video of the Fount of all Knowledge, an evolutionary psychologist without research skills, recorded earlier this year.]

Do read the comments at the end of the post. I learnt some stuff I didn't know*: Bible slash, Tudor slash... Wow.

* There again I admit to a vast ignorance of slash fiction; I haven't co-written** a pompous tome on the subject. ** Yep, The Fount co-wrote the book with a woman but gives no acknowledgement of that fact in the interview.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marilyn French

Photograph: Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/Corbis

According to this Guardian article, Marilyn French died yesterday.

Yesterday I was called by a friend at the Guardian, telling me that Marilyn French, author of the feminist classic, The Women's Room, had died. I was tramping the wet fields of Sussex, looking for a lost dog, worried that the roast I'd slung in the oven was probably burning. It seemed both a peculiarly domestic setting to hear of the death of so important, so radical, a writer - and, at the same time, strangely appropriate.

Later I looked out my old Sphere edition of French's iconic novel of 1977. Battered and tatty, the silver mirror cover was still easy to find on my crowded bookshelves. The title, in bright yellow capital letters, against a black silhouette of a keyhole; the strap line - This Novel Changes Lives - in a bigger typeface than the author's name. I thumbed through it with affection, and an odd sadness for the passing of a woman I'd never met. I had memories of smoky autumn afternoons in damp student digs in 1982, spent reading the novel for the first time. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before.

I read The Women's Room when I was eighteen. It bored me rigid. But all around me, women were being astounded at having their experience named so boldly. The book excavated their anger, polished it, gave them a handhold--a place to grip it and wield as weapon.

For me, though, eh, I was eighteen. I'd never cared about what men think of me. I'd never truckled to the dominant paradigm: I hadn't had a real job (and the only sexual harrassment I ever got--that is, the only stuff I noticed--was from a woman, which made me blink, then laugh, then tell her to Fuck Off). In other words, the book wasn't intended for me. But for those it was meant for, wow, it hit hard.

Penguin are rereleasing this novel in August, with a foreword by Dorothy Allison. If you haven't read it, I recommend that you do. If it's about you, you'll weep with relief. If it's not about you, you'll learn something--you'll walk in others' shoes, understand how it felt to grow up female in the twentieth century. So buy a copy, and drink a toast to the woman who changed so many lives thirty years ago.

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next year in Atlanta

Kelley and I will be guests at Atlanta's new "geekvent" for quiltbag fans, OutlantaCon. So if you're going to be in or near Atlanta April 30 - May 2 2010, come on down and play.

So, all you fannish folk, you quiltbag (the 'a' stands for 'allies', so I'm talking to all you straight people, too) fen, what makes a perfect convention? What would you like from a guest? Reading? Staged interview with Q&A? Panel? Hanging out in the bar? What would give you the most bang for the buck?

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Monday, May 4, 2009

doing it for money

A few years ago I wrote a mini-essay, "Doing It for Pleasure." This post is about doing it for money--writing, that is.

It's only the beginning of May but so far this year I've had a score of requests for essays, introductions, invitations to speak and so on. (I don't even bother keeping track of the 'my daughter/husband/gerbil wrote a book/story/poem, will you look at it and tell me how to sell it?' emails. They get deleted without a response.)

The answer is no. Unless you're willing to pay.

I used to accept all kinds of appearance invitations, especially for schools and colleges. I didn't mind paying a little out of pocket to make the experience pleasant: upgrading the flight to first class, adding a night to the hotel stay, paying for K to travel with me, and so on. After all I love meeting readers, talking to students and teachers. But I'm not a charity. I've reached a tipping point. So now, no. No more. If you want me to come to your college and impart wisdom (or wickedness) to your students, you will have to pay the full freight. Plus a reasonable fee.

What is 'reasonable'? Well, imagine you're paying me by the hour for every hour I'm out of my house--including travel time. Remember I'm a professional, an expert at what I do; I don't work for $10 an hour.

This applies with a vengeance to actual writing. If you ask for an article, an essay, a story, expect to pay. If you ask for an interview, I'll need to know who has agreed to publish the piece. Nothing pisses me off more quickly than finding out the whole thing's being done on spec; it's a waste of my time.

If you want my opinion on your manuscript, expect to pay a per-page fee, with a hefty minimum.

The world has spent years taking advantage of artists. We're expected to donate to charities, rally to causes, give our time freely in exchange for publicity or for the greater good. Why? Because we're perceived as needy and neurotic; our kindness and generosity is mistaken for desperation--and pathetic gratitude--for attention. Here's some news: I'm not needy or neurotic; I'm a professional, an expert. I know my worth. Frankly, I wish more writers did.

If you're a writer, stop and think for a minute: who is profiting from the time you're donating? From your name? You can bet someone is. Make sure it's you.

I write fiction for the art, for free, for love. For myself. Anyone else who wants access pays. Except, of course, readers of this blog, who can send in questions and have them answered in public for free. Because I like you. You lucky dogs.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Charis Books and More

Charis Books and More, in Little Five Points, Atlanta, is where I heard my first author reading. It's where I gave my first reading. It's where I met Dorothy Allison and Sarah Schulman and Ursula K. Le Guin, and then got to know them. And I mean "got to know them." I had dinner with them, drinks, had them to my home. Charis is the kind of place that makes that possible. It's also a fine, fine bookshop: light, airy, staffed by kind, knowledgeable people.

Like all small independents, especially feminist bookshops, it relies upon community support. Here's their latest newsletter:

Dear Friends:

Perhaps you know how much I love CHARIS, but I want to share some of the reasons with you now.

Charis Books and More is one of only 10 proudly surviving feminist bookstores in the country. Charis has stood the test of time because it is so much more than a bookstore; it is an extraordinary space where people come in, come out, come by and become. Charis has managed to survive for 35 years because thousands of people have called Charis “Home.”

Charis Circle, Charis’ non-profit organization, does great and untiring work for the community in the Charis space. I’m asking you to help support this sacred space and the amazing free events offered there by supporting Charis Circle! Go to to see a list of our upcoming events.

Amidst responsible cutbacks, Charis Circle is determined to keep building feminist community, fueled this year by our 90-day campaign called “Building Sustainable Feminist Community During Economic Uncertainty.” Charis Circle is widening its reach by asking more donors to give less. The theme for the campaign, “$100 from 500”, is our way of saying, “We understand you may be cutting back and so are we. If you, and 499 other people like you, can donate just $100 this year and pledge to do so next year, you can help take a stand AGAINST racism, homophobia, sexism, able-ism and classism and FOR rights, empowerment, equality, education, and choices for women and for all people!” $100 per year is less than $10 a month, so please consider monthly giving as an option. Of course, NO donation is too small.

Won’t you help support one of my favorite non-profits by clicking the link below and by forwarding this to others you know who might be willing to support the work of Charis Circle?

DONATE NOW! to support our free programming and events!

If you can afford a little something, please consider giving it to Charis. And if you're in Georgia, anywhere in Georgia, it's worth a trip to Little Five Points to drop in and say hello. Also, of course, you can buy books (and more) from Charis, and support two birds with one purchase...

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The Sword of Rhiannon

Now available: Leigh Brackett's The Sword of Rhiannon, "a love song and eulogy to a planet...a hymn to the lost past of a Mars that never was." With an intro by yours truly. (Why yes, that quote is mine. It makes the book sound kind of awesome, doesn't it? And it is.)

The Sword of Rhiannon was first published as "The Sea Kings of Mars," in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1949: sixty years ago. Leigh Brackett was 33. That year saw the discovery of a moon of Neptune (Nereid), the first flight of a jet-powered airliner, and the debut of the very first local on-air TV station (KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh). The Big Bang theory had been published only the year before--right around the time the United Nations established the World Health Organisation, and the arrival of first shipload of Caribbean immigrants in the UK marked that country's beginnings of multi-culturalism.

Earth was changing, growing smaller and more culturally interknit, while the universe was only just beginning to be known. Our understanding of our own solar system was poised on the cusp between the exuberance of frontier imagination and the discipline of science...

To read more you'll have to buy the book. Buy it from the publisher, or get it from the evil empire, just buy it. You know you want it.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

payment in sherry

Carol Ann Duffy is now officially the Poet Laureate--the first woman, first dyke. She gets paid--£5,750 a year for ten years, and a butt of sack. Sack is white fortified wine, these days usually sherry. According to Wikipedia, a butt is 2 hogsheads, or 3 tierces, or 4 barrels, or 7 rundlets in volume--about 105 imperial gallons (bigger than American gallons) i.e. 477.3 litres. That's a lot of sherry...

I think it's cool that, finally, the Poet Laureate, is a woman. Sadly, this week another poet, another dyke, U.A. Fanthorpe, died just before Duffy got her news.

A huge week for lesbian poetry. Tonight I think I'll drink a glass of sherry to them both.

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around midnight

I'm writing this around midnight. All the windows are open. I smell bluebells and mown grass. In the ravine the tree frogs are creaking. It's a beautiful evening. Tomorrow, though, it will rain.

Still, today I spent an hour sitting on the deck in the sun--reading a paper about fampridine (aka 4-aminopyridine aka 4-AP) published recently in The Lancet. (Sadly, you need a subscription to read the whole article, but here's the abstract.)

It's an interesting lesson in capitalism. 4-AP has been around in generic form for years. If (when, assuming I can clear up a few scary questions about alcohol use and seizures) I persuade my neurologist to prescribe it, I'll get the local pharmacy to compound it for me. It will cost about $50 a month. Fampridine-SR, on the other hand, will probably sell for about $1,000 a month.

But, hey, that's a detail for dreary daylight. Right now the treefrogs are singing...

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Pooh has a solution to swine flu

Via Moonrat.

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