Wednesday, April 29, 2009

distractions

I've been distracted by a new project. Things may be a bit erratic here over the next few days. Take the opportunity to go do something awesome. Or just plain delightful.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Angel of Death

Got this email from a friend this morning:

Fans of Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” and “Grindhouse,” martial arts movie junkies, and anyone who fell in love with Nicola Griffith’s character “Kick” should make a point of checking out “Angel of Death.”

Ed Brubaker, comic writer and avid historian of pulp fiction created an online series starring Zoe Bell (Xena, Warrior princess stunt double and pulp movie star.)

Come and get your ass-whoopin’!

So I went to watch the first ep (there's a 15-second commercial to get through, but, hey, it's only 15 seconds):


You can watch the other eps here.

Thoughts?

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Jeannette Winterson

From: Lara

I would like to say I really enjoy your books. I discovered them recently and then went out and bought every one of them I could find, bit by bit, and read them. I haven't finished collecting yet, I keep searching specialty local bookstores. Your books make me happy and I am very admiring of your strong characters and inspired by them. They stay in my mind and I often tell stories of them to my girlfriend. I am impressed and very grateful that there are authors like you, who write about women in an empowering way, and that your characters do
not have angst about their choice of partners, they just do it, and that is exciting and liberating.

Your writing is wonderful, you have such strong edges in your words and insights and moments of wonder. My favourite idea from your books was from 'The Blue Place' I think, where it mentions riding a green tongue of ice all around the world.

I am very happy to have found your writing, and to be able to share it with people I know.

I have one question, as I follow your blog:

Do you read Jeanette Winterson? I ask because I am reading 'The Stone Gods' which strikes me as similar to some of your writing. In it, the character says things like, 'F is for future' 'I is for identity' in a similar way that Aud rhymes her name. As another coincidence, the main character is a scientist who is sent off to a new planet.

I haven't finished Jeanette's book yet but I am also very excited to have found her writing.

I hope you are well and the weather there is lovely - here it is getting cooler but the days are crisp and blue with small white clouds...

I'm delighted you like my work. I hope you'll read me. May it give you much joy.

I haven't read anything by Winterson since The.Powerbook. I find that her work and my taste are diverging. In fact, the only book of hers that really moved me (to anything more than exasperation) is Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. It's strong, clean, clear, and funny. I find her other work by turns brave, sparkling, irritating, sly, self-indulgent, smug, fey, interesting, ill-disciplined, and empty.

The stories of The World & Other Places are quite erratic--I do admire her bravery, though. Written on the Body is beautifully written but pointless. I can't find a reason for her refusal to reveal the sex of the narrator; it doesn't add anything to my understanding of the relationship; it doesn't deepen the story; it doesn't make me pause and ponder gender performance. (I think Kelley does it better, frankly.) It is of course possible that the point of the book is to irritate the reader so much s/he throws the book at the wall, mulls her/his own irritation, and reaches enlightenment. (Winterson does like to play.) But I found it ultimately unsatisfying. Boating for Beginners...well. It reads like an unfunny comic book written by a precocious teenager. A bizarre piece of work.

I could go on, but life is too short. After The.Powerbook I decided to stop wasting my time. Winterson is following a path I don't find inviting.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

wanting to go after my subconscious with a knife

From: Barbara (in a comment to this post)

So where did Julia's name come from? She's hardly a secondary character. And Victoria Kuiper? Not a secondary character either. They both start out as chance encounters and end up being loved fiercely by Aud the Deep-minded.

Between the ages of 8 and 11 my best friend was Juliette Lyons. I burned for her (in a don't-know-what-sex-is-yet way). I wrote about it in And Now We Are Going to Have a Party:

As I was learning poetry, I found out I needed glasses. My best friend Juliette told me, "You look much nicer without them." And so at recess I ran outside without them. It was the first time I did something foolish because I wanted to look nice for a girl. Playing rounders (a bit like softball) is tricky when you can't see the ball. After one or two games Juliette suggested that for team games it might be permissible to sacrifice vanity for school spirit.

Playing rounders was where I first noticed the gender divisions that were beginning to crop up all over the place. The boys' football team got all the resources: they had a football field, while the rounders team had to use the ordinary playground; the boys had uniforms; eventually we got our uniforms, and they marked out the playground for us, but it was clear where the priorities lay. Girls and boys were worth different amounts in the world.

This gender strangeness began to pervade my life. Juliette, and my other best friend, Catherine, began doing unfathomable things. Instead of riding bikes and running around, Juliette wanted to listen to music, and wear fashionable clothes, and go hang out in town. I went along with it. I liked music. I'd always liked clothes, and found the new hotpants particularly fetching. Why not? I thought. I even got into the habit of pulling my hotpants snugly over my ten-year-old prepubescent bum, going into Anne and Carolyn's bedroom (Anne was away at college, Carolyn had mostly vanished from home), putting a Rolling Stones 45 on Carolyn's turntable, picking up a hairbrush, and lipsynching to "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown" or "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

The hanging out in town was puzzling, though. The first time we did it, Juliette produced cigarettes. We were to smoke them, stand around and look cool. Catherine coughed and choked, Juliette and I did not. I soon got bored. I didn't see the point of this ritual display.

Juliette and Catherine started doing things together. One day when I wasn't there, Catherine told me that she and Juliette had gone to Juliette's house, taken off all their clothes, put on perfume and an Elvis Presley record, and danced around alternately naked or draped in a fake bearskin rug. Then they had practised kissing.

I felt funny in my tummy: a great loss--it should have been me kissing Juliette!--but also as though I'd dodged a bullet. I knew even then that kissing girls didn't mean the same thing to Juliette and Catherine that it meant to me, and I wasn't ready to deal with that. Unconsciously, I wanted to be a child as long as I could. I dreamt about the kissing, though, and on my next Christmas list I put Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel."

Elvis, of course, makes another appearance in my memoir, again connected to a girlfriend. (Oh, just go read the book.)

Victoria 'Kick' Kuiper is a bit more complicated. I'm not sure--

Oh. Well, huh. I've just realised something. Victoria, Vicky, was the name of my very first best friend, Vicky Brazier, from age 4 to 8 (when I moved schools and met Juliette). Now I feel sorta sheepish--why didn't I know this? The subconscious is a tricky thing.

I'm also seeing that I have a thing for Dutch last names. I have no clue why (no conscious clue). At some point I imagine some reader will ask me a question and I'll slap my forehead in sudden (and probably embarrassed) understanding. But right now: no idea.

As for changing Victoria to Kick, that's easy. I like short, hard-ending names, and she was a stuntie, so it just made sense.

Anyway, clearly Aud loved these two women because on some level I did too, long ago.

This is something I struggle against in my fiction. When I finished The Blue Place, I thought about Julia, and about Thenike (from Ammonite), and saw that many of their physical characteristics, particularly their hands, were Kelley's. I berated myself for a paucity of imagination and decided Aud's new love would look nothing--nothing--like Kelley. So I made her a bit more stocky and strong, with small hands, wide shoulders...and realised she was beginning to look like me. (And let me tell you, that felt really creepy.) And then of course she got MS. At which point I felt like going after my subconscious with a knife.

Writing is a strange business. Sometimes I think I know exactly what I'm doing; other times it becomes quite clear that I'm not the one steering the ship. Mostly, though, I just don't worry about it too much. Right now I'm looking forward to the day when I figure out how my subconscious has shaped all these gob-stopping Anglo-Saxon names...

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Friday, April 24, 2009

naming characters

From: Donna

When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning or do they just come to you?

It depends. Sometimes they come to me, sometimes I have to search, sometimes I encounter the name in some unexpected context and it rings like a bell--so insistently that I have to think of a story to go with it. (This is what happened with Aud.) But yes, the first names of my protagonists are carefully considered. I spend less time on their last names.

I don't know where Marghe's name came from, exactly. I wanted an 'ahr' sound (why, I've no idea, but it's pointless arguing with my subconscious), and at the time I was formulating Ammonite, I was pissed off at the Anglo-Saxonism of science fiction. I had just read a lovely book full of photos of Macau, so decided to make Marghe half Portuguese, half Chinese. So she became Marguerite. Then Marghe. Yes, I know Marguerite is French. But there's a kind of knot in my brain when it comes to names based on Romance languages. I get them all turned around. (See, for example, Philippe, a minor character in The Blue Place, who should have been Felipe.) I think it's because I grew up thinking of continental Europe as irresistibly cosmopolitan: everyone speaks everyone else's language and borrows one another's proper nouns with insouciance.

Lore, from Slow River, is harder to pin down. Again, I was determined she be a citizen of the world, not the UK or US. All I can say is, I'm (pretty) sure her name has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings, and that I have a fondness for protagonists with one-syllable names. As for her last name, I had help with that from Ruud van de Kruisweg, of Holland SF. He was interviewing me about Ammonite (my very first email interview, in 1994) and asked about my novel-in-progress. I told him about Lore, including her planned first name. He very politely did not burst out laughing but tactfully suggested that van de Oest might be closer to what I was looking for. I accepted his suggestion gratefully.

Aud's name, of course, hit me like an arrow between the eyes. It was 1991. I'd just had a dream about this woman who surges off her bed and kills an intruder with a flashlight, and had been idling wondering what kind of person could do that--just kill someone, whap, without hesitation. Frankly I had no idea, but I couldn't let it go. (I talk about this dream in a radio interview, which you can listen to here.) A few days after this dream I was browsing the stacks of the Gwinnett County (Georgia) Library. I came across a book on Norwegian architecture, which led to an old (circa 1940) Norwegian history text, which mentioned a woman called Aud the Deepminded. Without knowing anything else, I knew I'd found my character's name. "Aud," I thought (it rhymes with cloud), "Aud." And the idea of someone being so remarkable in her own time that she went down in history as The Deepminded fascinated me. Here, I thought, was a formidable person: intellectually, emotionally, and physically. I had an image of a woman whose mind was like a fjord, deep, calm, and cold. I had my character. I've no idea where her last name comes from. A guidebook, perhaps.

Hild's name--no choices there. That's the name of the historical character I'm writing about. The thing is, that's the short form of her name; no one knows the long form. Extrapolating from Anglo-Saxon naming conventions of the 7th century, my guess would be Hildeburh, or Hildeswith. But she was known as Hild. Happily for me it's a good, strong, one-syllable name I can work with.

Generally, though, I'm a bit cavalier about naming secondary characters. My classic example is the tribe of Echraidhe in Ammonite. Their culture is Mongolian. I wanted to use Mongolian names--but couldn't think of any (this was long, long before the world wide web, a decade before Wikipedia) and was in the white-hot writing place where I can't stop, can't stop, not even to do research. So I plugged in ancient Irish names and, well, when I had the first draft the characters had grown so entwined with their names that I couldn't cut them out without hurting them.

I learnt my lesson. Before even opening the .doc file for Hild, I assembled a lot of research on names: on Brittonic, Angle, Saxon, Kentish/Jute, Frankish, Irish, Pictish and so on naming traditions. So this time I think I'm getting it right--or closer to right than I've been before. So, hey, I'm learning.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

hair and beer and lovely green trees

Yesterday was one of those days. We woke up, looked at the ravine where some mysterious elf had come along and sprayed everything green overnight

looked at each other and thought, Ah, fuck it, and shelved all plans. We went and got our hair cut.

Well, I was supposed to get my hair cut but our stylist, Douglas at Cowboys and Angels, was also having one of those Ah, fuck it days. He decided he wanted to mess with K's colour and then do colour on my hair--all for free. Just because.

We've known Douglas for thirteen years, so we shrugged, said, Fuck it (are you sensing a theme?) and put ourselves in his hands. He had fun. We had fun: we got to sit next to each other at the shampoo station, then the colouring station, then under those alien-pod dryers with little bags on our heads, and hold hands and read novels.

I'm pretty much a wash-my-hair-with-cheap-shampoo-rub-it-with-a-towel-and-call-it-good kind of person. This is the first time I've had colour in my hair for, oh, six years. (Kelley, of course, is an old hand.) Anyway, after all the primping and fussing I felt a bit glassy eyed. We walked to the car--which was parked right outside one of our favourite pubs, the 74th Street Alehouse. We looked at one another. Fuck it. In we went. Beer was consumed. On the way home we picked up a bunch o' Netflix DVDs from the mailbox, went into the kitchen, opened the fridge and started hauling out vegetables. We found a chicken breast in the freezer. We put some rice on to cook (we only eat whole grain rice) and Kitchen Team NicKel swung into action. Half an hour later, we'd assembled the most magnificent stir fry, delicately flavoured with lime, white wine, and a dash of tamari. Here's a pic of me chopping veggies by the stove:

Yes, the top of my head is missing. Don't worry about it--working with my eyes half closed meant the tip of my finger could have gone missing, but it didn't. Things tend to work out okay. Here's a pic of K slicing up the chicken for the marinade:

Yes, her face is missing. I just wanted to show the pretty colours at the back. Here is the front:

Sorry it's so blurry but, well, once we got home we drank more beer.

Sadly, I don't have a photo of the stir fry, but it was damn tasty (and healthy, and--whoo hoo!--cheap). Then we tried to watch War, Inc, with John Cusack. What a load of crap. About six minutes we looked at each other, thought (go on, take a guess), Fuck that and summarily ejected the film from the cupholder. Then watched, ah, well, y'know I can't quite remember what we watched. Something with Keanu Reeves that wasn't very good but didn't require either effort or attitude, so, eh, it was good enough.

Today I'll be a Good Grownup and do my exercises, work on a short story, discuss the household budget with K and just generally do adult stuff. But having a whole day of Ah, fuck it every now and again is good for the soul. I can recommend it.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

little leather man panties

Last night I watched 300 for the third time. (I started watching it with Kelley; halfway through she fell asleep. Sadly, blood and bellowing and the bluescreen ballet-of-death don't delight her.)

300 is awesome. As long as you don't require realism in any sense: fight physics, character development, history.

I haven't read the Frank Miller/Lynn Varley graphic novel but there are a handful of scenes in the film that I know in my bones are visual set pieces lifted from the book: kicking the emissary down the hole; the tree of dead villagers; the tumble of Persians off the cliff. (Those familiar with the book please correct me. Also, feel free to describe other scenes common to film and book.) I'm also pretty sure that the book probably had more male nudity. Perhaps less female nudity--or perhaps not. But this is Hollywood, a reality where all girls have naked nipples and no boys have penises (or even bare bums--yay for red cloaks).

I found the endless rippling abdominals and little leather man panties very amusing. It's pleasing to see boys treated as eye candy for a change. (I couldn't decide how many of the six-packs were fake. Anyone know?) I didn't like the fact that all the characters (I use the word loosely) involved in girl-on-girl action were disfigured. I didn't think much of the monsters--I couldn't get them to make sense when the rest of the film stuck to pseudo-realism (are they in the book?). The orgy scene sucked. (No pun intended.) Why don't film makers pay attention to orgy continuity? Without continuity, the whole thing becomes senseless: we see a woman sliding down another woman *before* they've locked eyes. We see women magically reclothed *after* they've begun to have sex. No continuity = no story. Without a story to tell ourselves, we don't feel the sexual tension. No sexual tension in a filmed orgy = pointlessness.

But, oooh, the violence was *awesome*. I am a sucker for the all-or-nothing, beserk-in-battle, do-or-die-with-swords, one-against-an-army motif. (My favourite Xena episode was "One Against an Army.") I love witnessing people commit. The best part? No angst. Everyone knew what was right (for them) and behaved accordingly. No dithering. Fabulous.

It was fun, too, imagining fanboy emotional distress as Big Boy Xerxes stood suggestively behind Little Leonidas and talked in his creepy bass about kneeling. The symbolism of Leonidas finally piercing his enemy with a spear (then dying before anyone could Do Anything Bad to him) was not lost on me.

And of course it's cool to think (again, I use the word loosely) that a storyteller could make such a difference. I expect I'll watch this yet again in a few months.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

feeling stabby

I stole this from Per Omnia Saecula. It's the Plantaget family, by Kate Beaton. I was really tickled by it. Guess who is who...

Tomorrow, a post on either little leather man panties or the madness of listmakers (and followers). I haven't decided yet.

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robot teachers

From: Jo

Normally I'm all for technological advancement, but I just read an article about a robotic teacher that has made her primary-school classroom debut in Japan and it has me seriously questioning what the heck researchers are thinking. Though I have no children of my own, I've raised six kids and can promise researchers that there's no way a computer is going to be able to respond to children's human needs, let alone answer questions that only a contemplative six-year-old can dream up. The article gives props to the robot's 'lifelike facial movements', and goes on to say that such robots are also being designed to be companions to people with Alzheimer's. I've spent most of my life working with the disabled and feel that abandoning them to robotic companions who have human facial movements but no human warmth is a bad idea. As an sf writer, what do you think?

You don't provide a link for the article you mention, so it's difficult to respond to this specifically and with particulars.

Broadly speaking, then: as a human being, I think the notion of robotic 'companions', defining companion as 'a person employed to accompany, assist, or live with another in the capacity of a helpful friend', is so wrong-headed it's difficult to believe they're serious. Helpful friends, whether of the human or faithful animal kind work as friends by sharing emotion. You complain about your boss and the friend says, "That bastard! Have another drink." You're feeling tense, you throw a frisbee for your dog and his joy in eeling up into the air to catch that bit of yellow plastic lightens your gloom.

As an sf writer, I think a robot 'companion' for people with Alzheimer's might work, but only if we understand companion to be a euphemism for minder. And I think it would be inhumane. But it beats literally tying the person with Altzheimer's to the bed. Which happens.

As for teachers, the notion is mind-bogglingly stupid. People learn from people. Learning is a multi-faceted thing, multi-layered. It involves emotion, socialisation, behaviour patterning, memory (which in turns is influenced by all of the above) and so on. A clever piece of plastic, even if brilliantly designed, is just plastic. It is teaching only set things. It can't think/act/feel out of the box--which, as anyone who knows children understands, is what kids do; it's what they require in a teacher.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard died this morning. He's probably best known for books like Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition, and his memoir Empire of the Sun, but I found him through early (and definitely science fictional) works such as The Drowned World. His fiction did my adolescent and young adult head in. I'm sorry he's dead.

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Sunday in spring

It's Sunday. Spring is trying to creep into the neighbourhood--the trees in the ravine have a hazing of green, the tips of buds opening their tight wrappings--but is dithering. It rained last night. The sun is peeking from and ducking back behind its curtain.

I get a little impatient with Spring's shyness. She should just do it, just shout, ta-da! and leap onto the stage. No one will mind if she performs underwhelmingly. We just want her to get on with it. We've been sitting here waiting long enough.

Uh, so, anyway, it's Sunday, and I'm feeling Sundayish. Fuzzy, blank, wondering how I'll cope with the new comics section of the Seattle Times. (The Seattle P-I folded a few weeks ago; the Times has been gradually integrating the best of the P-I funnies into its own selection. They seem to have kept most of my favourites: Non Sequitur, Pearls Before Swine, etc. They've kept Kelley's favourites, too, Dilbert and Red & Rover. So we're coping.) Like Spring, I'm also dithering: toying with the notion of making another cup of tea and rereading some old favourite, or sighing and finishing the grant application I'm working on, or continue with cutting Hild, or getting back to the story I'm writing about lust, love, and biochemistry. I think I might dither some more. It's what Sundays are for.

It all depends on whether Spring gets over her shyness. If she suddenly runs on stage (I can hear her doing her breathing exercises, reciting her calming mantra) then, hey, I'm out of here: out on the deck and turning my face to the sun.

I hope your Sunday is as exciting as you wish it to be.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jedi police officers. really

A BBC report on Thursday:

Eight police officers serving with Scotland's largest force listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms, it has emerged.

Strathclyde Police said the officers and two of its civilian staff claimed to follow the faith, which features in the Star Wars movies.

The details were obtained in a Freedom of Information request by Jane's Police Review.

Strathclyde was the only force in the UK to admit it had Jedi officers.

(thanks, Cindy)

Sadly, access to Jane's Police Review is subscription-only. I think that might have been a Good Read. (And, oof, the BBC report was anything but. In fact it was unutterably lame.)

By the way, the Church of Jedism is real.

This all reminds me of the astonishing Jedi Gym video I posted about last year. Be sure to watch it to the end. (Oh, I love this one...)

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Friday, April 17, 2009

the perfect creative writing class

I've been having a conversation on my Facebook page about what the perfect creative course might focus on. Those who have responded so far are screenwriters (who mostly would like to learn to get of their own way, and to understand story better), but I'd love to hear from other writers.

If you could take one class, what would it look like? Three hours or two years? Part-time or full-time? Online or in-person? Workshop or lecture or MFA? And what would you like to learn? What's the single most important area you would like to focus on?

This is a question for editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, marketers, critics and readers, too. What do you desperately wish most writers knew but obviously don't? What do we need to be able to do that we can't? Where do most writers fail? Or, looked at another way, what wonderful things do we do that you'd like to see us do even better?

Please, be as honest as you can. Go as long or as short as you like. Feel free to include links or examples.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Serious Films About Anguished People

Some more questions asked in the comments of this post:

"How do you know when to quit and walk away?" (from DianneorDi)

I don't. I just find that I become less and less interested in something and/or another idea starts burning all the writing oxygen. This happens fairly often with short stories--I just sort of wander off. Years later I look at the fragment and think, Damn that's good! I should finish that! and then...I never do. Most of the time I'm pretty sure there's a good reason for walking away but I don't bother hunting it down. I trust my subconscious. Besides, my airspace is already jammed with novel ideas, circling like planes running out of fuel. I can only land one at a time.

"Have you seen Watchmen, and if so, what did you think? If not, are you even interested in seeing it, and if not interested, why?

Another...would you care to share a list of your 'Serious Films with Anguished People'? I don't know why this makes me giggle about you, and the fact that you capitalize each word as if it should be a book/movie title itself is giggle inducing enough all on it's own!

And then, maybe you could express your personal thoughts on why you don't care for those types of flicks. I for one, highly enjoy them, but for some reason it just makes me again, giggle like a school girl to hear you refer to them in this way..." (from Realmcovet)

Nope, haven't seen Watchmen. The trailers and reviews persuaded me it would be a mess. I expect to watch it on DVD at some point, but I'm not in a rush.

No no no, not *my* Serious Films About Anguished People. I loathe those things, such as Lost in Translation and Happy Go Lucky. They are confused, self-indulgent, etiolated, narcissistic neuroticisms and I want nothing to do with them.

Sadly, Kelley sometimes likes them. Sometimes (thank you, baby Jesus) she doesn't. We sat through Happy Go Lucky a few days ago and agreed it was the most pointless exercise we've had the misfortune to behold. A doughnut of a film: no there there, just a giant hole. Deeply vapid. No substance whatsoever: no story, no character arc, no joy, no excitement. Nothing. As provocative as a turnip. No, that insults turnips (which are very tasty roasted). HGL was more like iceberg lettuce that some talentless dimwit mistook for a vegetable of substance and steamed: a limp, slimy mess. I'd much rather see Galaxy Quest or Die Hard: lives hang in the balance, shit blows up, there are some jokes.

Life is short. Eat popcorn and watch someone get their head wacked off with a sword. Woo hoo!
_________________

If you have questions to ask or topics you'd like me to address, send me email at asknicola2 at nicolagriffith dot com or add a comment here.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Iris Murdoch, Terry Pratchett, over or under the roll, and more

At the end of last month, I asked if anyone had any questions. I've already answered one--about writer's block (a followup to this coming soon)--so I thought I'd tackle some of the others.

"Have you read anything by Iris Murdoch?" (from Barbara Sanchez).

No. I keep thinking I have. Then I keep meaning to pick something up, but I never do. Why? I don't know. Possibly because I've formed the impression that on some level her work is a little cruel. Possibly because most of the titles I've looked at persuade me that they're Serious Works About Anguished People, with a little twisty humour and irony thrown in. No doubt I'm wrong. But tell me what you think of her, and which novel I should start with.

"What, if any, is your favourite conspiracy theory?" (from Jennifer in Pittsburgh)

I like ancient Catholic conspiracies--the stuff of bad novels. Only I wish someone would write a good one. (It's on my list; one of the things I'll get around to if I live to be 120 with all my faculties intact.) Generally speaking, I don't think Grand Conspiracies are common; the human animal is incapable of keeping secrets, organisations doubly so. And the larger the organisation, the less able it is to keep things both organised and secret. When people talk about government conspiracies, I laugh. When people genuinely think that a corporation (like, oh, say, Amazon) is conspiring against a particular group, I laugh. Sometimes I laugh bitterly, but I can't take the notion of coordinated, secret action seriously. Idiotic policy with unexamined prejudices, yes, mistakes, yes, security weaknesses that the Powers That Be wish to collude in hiding, yes. Planned and efficient conspiracy, no.

I tend to think of those who believe in conspiracies are being a little developmentally arrested. It's a teenage thing, a paranoia thing, an untreated schizophrenia thing. But, oooh, if someone wrote a really, really good novel about the Catholic hierarchy keeping an enormous and powerful secret I'd be first in line. The Catholics, after all, really did run the world once upon a time. (And, yes, I read The Da Vinci Code. It sucked. His characters give cardboard a bad name. But I read it, all the way through. I watched the film, too; it was worse.)

"Boxers or briefs? Toilet paper over or under the roll?" (from The Promiscuous Reader)

Let me just say that when Kelley and I started living together resolving the second question was, ah, interesting. I hadn't had to deal with the notion before--which of course made me wonder if it was cultural/national or whether I had simply trampled roughshod over all previous girlfriends without even noticing. I prefer to think it's the former, but sadly am prepared to accept that this time I noticed because Kelley is as determined as I am.

"What do you think of Terry Pratchett?" (from Janine)

I've struggled through the first half of two of his novels. His humour and mine simply do not mesh. His popularity is a puzzle to me.

"Favourite poems that might make a good short film?" (from lonelypond)

Huh. That's a cool question. It makes me think about the difference between literature and film (a novel is about what people think and feel, a film is about what they say and do) and why I hate so many feature films so much--it's because they're trying to do what novels do, which is pointless. If you want your audience to think about what they feel, write a book. A film, in my opinion, is supposed to be a two-hour (or less) rollercoaster ride that is pure sensation. Pure fun. Some really long films work well because I can watch the DVD at home--but I can't sit in a theatre comfortably for much over two hours. And the long films have to be very, very good: Laurence of Arabia, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Most films these days are Serious Films About Anguished People and, frankly, a load of crap.

I'm not very familiar with short films, except the animated variety (which I like). So it's tricky to consider what kind of poem might make a good one. Poems are moments--emotional and contemplative, rarely action-based. The story behind the poem, or what I imagine to be the story, is what would make the film. What's the story behind Shelley's Ozymandias? What's the story behind many of Sappho's poems? What's behind Masefield's Cargoes, Grahn's Edward the Dyke, Oliver's Geese? I wouldn't mind seeing those on film--gotta be some sex or violence, though, not just bloody angst.

_____________

So that's it. Feel free to ask more questions, here in the comments or by sending email to asknicola2 at nicolagriffith dot com. Feel free, too, to suggest conversations we could have in the future.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Don't Believe"

What do I think of Amazon's latest attempt at PR? Not a lot. Judge for yourself. This is Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener speaking to the LA Times at 3: 03 pm 4/13/09:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

They've restored many of the rankings under discussion, including mine. So yay for that. And many thanks to all the Amazon programmers doing the real work, a lot of it on a holiday weekend.

But there's still no apology, and no credible explanation. There's a lot we're not hearing (see, for example, this Seattle P-I article), which makes me very thoughtful. One of the things I'm thinking is that I might use the IndieBound Affiliate Program from now on.

But I'm tired of talking about the pursed-mouthed PR prats at the Behemoth Up the Street. I don't believe a word they say...

...which coincidentally is the name of a song written and performed by Janes Plane many years ago. It was caught for posterity on TV cameras.

Here's a screenshot (yep, taken from the infamous 'Yikes! You look like David Bowie!' series):

And here's the audio:








direct link

Not the best thing we ever did (not even close) but, hey, we were all nervous: Live in front of 2,000 people! TV cameras! (We were very young...) Besides, the vague paranoia and fudged internal band communication (no, those bridges really aren't meant to be that long...) seems perfectly appropriate this week.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

amazonfail = managementfail

Kelley has done a great post over on her Humans at Work blog on the management lessons to be learnt from amazonfail.

Go read it. I hope Jeff Bezos does.

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update on amazonfail

illo lifted from io9.com--go read the article

No explanation as yet from amazon.com about their weekend 'glitch' which deranked LGBT books, including mine.

Here's a good roundup from Suvudu* of what's been going on. And here is io9.com, in which I demand a public apology from Jeff Bezos. I also do my best to explain, in 200 words, why this kind of censorship is so very dangerous.

If you haven't yet signed the petition, please do. If you haven't contacted amazon.com, please do.

Many thanks to all of you for your support. Now I'm off to do some actual nothing-to-do-with-amazon writing, and to munch some more on that chocolate Easter egg I didn't get to devote much attention to yesterday.

_______________________

* this post seems to have vanished, I wonder why...

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

google-bomb, amazonfail, and a little crucifixion

Happy Easter.

Here's what I woke up to this morning: amazon.com have stripped my books of their sales rank because of their queer content. This means my books are invisible to amazon.com search.

This means amazon.com are literally taking away my livelihood because my books have lesbian characters. This means I might starve.

Amazon.com are starving me because I'm a lesbian and write about people like me.

Read a coherent explanation here. (I'm too fucking angry to bother to write it all out). Then go sign the petition here. Then go read about Amazon Rank, and Google-bomb the fuck out of amazon. Also spread the word in any way you can. For example, join #amazonfail, or write to your agent and editor and personal contact at amazon. (I've written to people of VP level and above at Randomhouse, HarperCollins, and Penguin; I've signed the petition; I'm about to Tweet.) This is a bewilderingly idiotic policy that could result in real damage if it's not stopped now.

At the very least, I want a public apology from Jeff Bezos, and I want the resignation of whichever manager OK'd this idiocy. What I really want is a public crucifixion, but I'll settle for knowing the homophobic fool who thought queers don't really matter and weren't worth considering is unemployed and desperately miserable.

I am tired of being the low-hanging fruit that cretins pluck when they need to pander to Moral America. This time, I hope some people choke on their soft fruit.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

I really like amonite but I haven't finish reeding it

Oh, oh, I think I've found the earliest Ask Nicola question. My guess is it's from very early 1996 or even late 1995. Here it is, exactly* as I found it (yes, really, all caps and green font):

HI NICOLA, I REALLY LIKE YOUR BOOK AMMONITE, BUT I HAVEN'T FINISH REEDING IT AND I ALSO HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT SIX PAGE ESSAY, I HAVE THE BOOK AT HOME, BUT I DON'T HAVE TIME TO FINISH ON TIME AND TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING. SO IF YOU COULD HELP ME FOR SOMETHING, EVEN A LITTLE INTRODUCTION ABOUT THE BOOK AND THE REASON YOU WROTE ABOUT, WILL HELP. I KNOW IT WAS YOUR FIRST BOOK AND YOU WON AN AWARD, BUT I NEED YOUR HELP NOW PLEASE. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP

I'm sorry to hear you have so little time. Me too, which is why I'm not going to be writing a whole bunch of stuff for you to put in your essay. (There's plenty of material on the web page that might be useful--especially in the interview with Holland SF.) I'm biased of course, but I'd say that if you have limited time, you'd be better off finishing Ammonite and not bothering with the essay...

I've had fun today combing through the archives trying to assign rough dates to things. It's interesting to see how the questions (and the way I answer them) have changed over the years. Or not :)

________________

* I added the Holland SF interview link

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Strunk & White: grammar morons

Thanks to Victor J. Banis I've just read a wonderful article in The Chronicle of Higher Education in which Geoffrey K. Pullum explains why William Strunk and E.B. White, authors of The Elements of Style, are grammar incompetents. Here is Pullum's response to Strunk & White's proscription of the passive voice:

What concerns me is that the bias against the passive is being retailed by a pair of authors so grammatically clueless that they don't know what is a passive construction and what isn't. Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and how to correct it, a staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses. "At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard" is correctly identified as a passive clause, but the other three are all errors:

  • "There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground" has no sign of the passive in it anywhere.

  • "It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had" also contains nothing that is even reminiscent of the passive construction.

  • "The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired" is presumably fingered as passive because of "impaired," but that's a mistake. It's an adjective here. "Become" doesn't allow a following passive clause. (Notice, for example, that "A new edition became issued by the publishers" is not grammatical.)

I also really like his exploration of S&W's foolish notions about using the singular verb with the subject 'none':

An entirely separate kind of grammatical inaccuracy in Elements is the mismatch with readily available evidence. Simple experiments (which students could perform for themselves using downloaded classic texts from sources like http://gutenberg.org) show that Strunk and White preferred to base their grammar claims on intuition and prejudice rather than established literary usage.

Consider the explicit instruction: "With none, use the singular verb when the word means 'no one' or 'not one.'" Is this a rule to be trusted? Let's investigate.

  • Try searching the script of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) for "none of us." There is one example of it as a subject: "None of us are perfect" (spoken by the learned Dr. Chasuble). It has plural agreement.

  • Download and search Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). It contains no cases of "none of us" with singular-inflected verbs, but one that takes the plural ("I think that none of us were surprised when we were asked to see Mrs. Harker a little before the time of sunset").

  • Examine the text of Lucy Maud Montgomery's popular novel Anne of Avonlea (1909). There are no singular examples, but one with the plural ("None of us ever do").

It seems to me that the stipulation in Elements is totally at variance not just with modern conversational English but also with literary usage back when Strunk was teaching and White was a boy.

The article explains most of my fights with American copyeditors. Most of the ones I've had don't know a thing about grammar, and they have tin ears. We clash on just about everything, particularly verb tense. Verbs are subtle instruments.

This article filled me with glee. Read and be free!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

writer's block

From: Donna

I have a quick question. I'm stuck on a scene in my novella and I was wondering what you did to overcome "writer’s block?"

It might be a quick question but it's not a quick answer.

I see that you put writer's block in quotes. Does this mean it's a new concept to you--that perhaps you're a new writer? Or does it indicate that you don't believe in writer's block?

I'm not sure I believe in Writer's Block, per se, that semi-mythical crusher of careers, destroyer of confidence and eater of small children. I do, however, think writers get stuck. Especially beginners.

The most obvious obstacles are the physical ones: you're in a coma, you broke your wrist, you have a new job/baby/girlfriend and your life is suddenly not your own, you have the Viral Swarm and the OTC meds make your head feel stuffed with mud, your computer explodes. Happily, most of these problems fix themselves, given time and patience. The wrist heals, the job/child/girlfriend is no longer new, your cold fades, you save up for a new computer. (And, you know, you could always use a pencil. Just saying.)

Of the less obvious reasons for getting stuck, the most probable is that you've taken a wrong turn in the narrative and written yourself into a corner. Something doesn't feel right; every time you try to move forward it all falls apart. Generally, this means you've entered the scene wrong: started in the wrong place or from the wrong direction or with the wrong people.

This isn't difficult to fix, it just means doing some work. Go back 20 pages or so from your stuck place, start reading. At some point you'll feel a little uncomfortable, think something like, Well, it's not *so* bad, or Hey, it *could* work, mark that place. That's where you've already gone wrong. Then go back another 3 pages and reread until you see the initial misstep. Is a character behaving uncharacteristically? (The capable heroine suddenly allows herself to be rescued by a nerd, the MVP fumbles the ball for no apparent reason.) Have you made a moronic plot mistake? (No no no! You can't start a fire using sunlight and the glasses of a short-sighted person! Yes, I'm talking to you William Golding.) Should you have started the scene later? (Always start a scene as late as possible and leave as early as possible.)

Trust me, if you listen to your body, you'll know when it's wrong. I get all kinds of physical signals of stress, ranging from a vague restlessness to finding it hard to breathe. The instant you begin to feel that, draw a line through the ms. Delete everything after that line. (Put it in a separate folder, if you must--but I'm telling you, you'll never use it. May as well just throw it away.)

Sometimes we haven't made a misstep; the writing just doesn't work for us anymore. We can't go on because we're changing as a person and/or as a writer. (The two are inextricably intertwined. If your skill grows, you grow. If you change, your writing changes.) Writing--good writing--is infused with and animated by the writer.

So, for example, if you've just been through Clarion, if you've just had a myriad disparate techniques pumped into your head at high pressure, when you re-enter real life you will have to take the time to let those skills/practices/perspectives seep into your writing groundwater. (You have to hope it's not toxic to your existing skillset.) This takes time; there are no shortcuts. Just go eat ice cream and take long walks. Let it mix and shake and separate out. All will be well eventually. Really.

And then there's fear.

Fear of exposure and fear of failure visit us all. Some writers live with both all the time. I think that's why so many writers use and abuse drugs and alchohol.

For me, fear comes and goes. (My liver is grateful.) This week, for example, my nagging worries (none of them are anywhere near the DEFCON 1 status of fear) are that my Hild novel is crap; that, no, it's brilliant but no one will publish it because it's too big a risk in this economic climate; that someone will publish it but that no readers will buy it; that lots of people will buy it and they'll all hate it; that I'll be living in a paperbag under the viaduct before I can finish it; that even if I win the lottery, I'll never finish it. All this is perfectly normal--especially the negative capability of it's crap/it's brilliant. Mostly I roll my eyes at myself and just get on with it.

One particular and, thank god, very occasional anxiety drops from a clear sky. I've never been able to work out where it comes from, or why; it's a kind of magical thinking, a ridiculous superstition: that if I begin a scene and do it wrong, the whole book will wither and die. It's patently untrue. It's paralysing. And it comes from nowhere. Then it just goes away. But, oh, while it lasts it's totally crippling. And if it morphs into the lost-and-lalala version, where I don't admit I'm afraid, so I keep working, only I'm too afraid to look at, really see, what I'm doing, so everything starts veering from the true line, then, oof, it's vile. Only I'm too afraid to admit any of what's happening, so I just dig deeper into the hole.

This happened with the beginning of the first draft of Slow River. I've talked about this before:

Meanwhile, Slow River was growing in the back of my mind. I was terrified of it; I knew I didn't have the skill to translate my vision. I was right. Thirty thousand words in, I knew it wasn't going to work. I had become hopelessly muddled with flashbacks piggybacking on flashbacks, and dizzily escalating dream and nightmare sequences. Each time I sat down to work I felt queasy. The more I tried to consciously wrestle the book into shape, the worse everything got. It wasn't until I'd given up--or thought I'd given up--that I found the solution.

Kelley came home from work one night and found me sitting in a heap on the living room floor. How did your work go today? she asked. 'It's crap. I'm crap. I can't write. I've given up. I'll have to find a job.' I meant every word; my life, as I understood it, was over. Once Kelley saw that I was utterly serious, that I could not be consoled, she disappeared into the kitchen and after a long moment re-emerged with two frosty Dos Equis. 'Okay,' she said. I looked up. She held out a beer. 'This is a magic beer. When you reach the bottom of the bottle everything will be better. You'll find out how tomorrow.' I stared. 'Trust me,' she said. 'Just drink the beer. It's magic.'

I drank the beer. About one swallow from the end, I felt a stray thought break my brain surface and arrow into my subconscious. I didn't pursue it. I was trusting the magic.

I woke in the middle of the night, thinking 'Brazzaville Beach'--William Boyd's brilliant novel set in the Congo and written from two different points-of-view, though both from the same character. And the solution lay there, whole and perfect, in my mind. The next day I deleted those thirty thousand words and began again.

I don't remember how long it took me to write. Not long, I suspect. I was moving through an ecstatic dream. I printed the draft. Gave it to Kelley. She read it and burst into tears. 'Oh, honey, it's brilliant!' I smiled through my own tears and told her she gave good beer. 'Oh, god,' she said, 'I was so scared that day, I didn't know what to do, I'd never seen you like that before. The magic beer thing was sheer desperation.'

One common writer's fear is of being known. In self defence some writers take cover behind emotionally impenetrable fiction that hides even from itself; some take the opposite approach and write startlingly self-revealing, self-lacerating autobiography (the I'm-going-to-get-me-before-you-can tactic). As far as I'm aware, I do neither. (But I'm prepared to admit I could be delusional.) I've been accused a zillion times of writing autobiographical fiction, or wish-fulfillment fiction, or thinly-disguised romans-a-clef. I used to reason patiently with my accusers: Look, see, no, I've never been an heiress, or lived in the future, or reproduced by parthenogenesis, or lived in Norway; no no no, I just took that name/eccentric mannerism/sexual peculiarity from a movie... But no one believes me. So now I smile and shrug and say, Hey, believe what you want.

It astonishes me just how much people read into fiction: Kick is really Kelley, right? (Julia is really Kelley, right? And Thenike. Oddly, never Spanner...) I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but I always am. And I understand why some writers fear others seeing into their hearts because we do, in fact, expose ourselves horribly (as I've said, it's the writer who infuses and animates the fiction). But the thing is, readers always, I mean always, miss the real revelations. After a while it becomes a game, one giant sleight of hand. Enormous fun.

Back to your question: what do I actually do to overcome these Moments of Epic Stuck? I relax (go for a walk; have a bath; have a beer) and then turn and look, as honestly as I can, at the work. Sometimes I grin and think, Fuck me, that's good! Sometimes I think I'm going to throw up, and spend a day or two deleting months of work. You never know until you look. But that's the secret of good writing: you've got to look.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

six archived posts

Okay, here are six more archived posts, with guesstimate dates:

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

just for now

Yesterday the weather here in Seattle was perfect--a day stolen from early May. We went to the park (again). Kelley has a vile throat virus thing, but we thought a bit of sun might help bake it out of her system. For once, we remembered to take the camera. But when I stood on the front porch, everything looked and smelt so delicious I just plopped down on the step and admired our neighbourhood. Then I remembered the camera:

view from the front step

Because Kelley was all death-on-a-cracker, we didn't do much walking when we got to the park. Instead we sat like two frowzy old cats on our favourite bench and gazed at out over the water:

Puget sound and the Olympics

There were a bunch o' coots (or something like that) bobbing mindlessly over the wavelets, but frankly I couldn't be bothered to stand up and take their picture. I just held hands with K and zoned out. Careless of our view, this bird decided to rudely interrupt our peace and perform her courtship ritual for us: warbling song, some odd leaping in the air and landing in the same place. No idea what kind of bird:

some bird obstructing our view

Then the chipmunk that lives in the brush by the bench zipped along the fence. She was moving so fast that her legs were a cartoon blur. But if you zoom in and squint you can at least imagine she's there.

it's a chipmunk, really

On the way home I did what I've been meaning to do ever since we first moved here: I took a photo as we drove down our street to our house. Every time we drive down our street my heart beats high and an irrational part of me thinks, Oh, maybe this time when we get to the end we really will have a view! But inevitably the road dips and the mountains and the water slip into another dimension. I console myself that if this house had a view, we couldn't afford to live here...

driving down our street

Sadly, this morning was recycling day, so everyone's crap is cluttering up the road. But ignore that. See that tiny sign at the end? It says 'No dumping of any kind' and it marks the commons at the end of the cul-de-sac, a bit of grass running into the ravine. In summer we gather with neighbours for croquet and G&T--or we did once. Now we just do the drinking :) Our house is immediately to the right, hidden and snug.

getting closer

Imagine me sipping tea on the deck and eating homemade rosemary butter cookies; looking at the blossoming dogwood and the broad-leaf maples (no leaves as yet, though they're beginning to flower) in the ravine; listening to two Stellar's jays shouting at each other over something; knowing that pretty soon I'll go eat some focaccia made with homegrown herbs. (All wheaty goodness prepared by kind neighbours because K is sick and, hey, I don't bake. I do other intriguing, awesome things but I don't bake...)

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Go Vermont!

We're getting closer to a same-sex marriage corridor (and roaming free) in the northeast. This from the Washington Post:

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage _ and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote _ the minimum needed _ to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.

This is very, very cool. Go us. Go Vermont. Screw the governor. Yay!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

beautiful day

Apart from the vast majority of you thinking I look like David Bowie, yesterday was a lovely day. For the first time this year it was warm enough to sit outside with a book and a cup of tea.

Today, it should be even warmer--possibly even 70 degrees. Woo hoo. After I've been to the dentist (boo! hiss!) I'm hoping to get to the park for an hour of bumble bees, birds, and blue skies. I keep meaning to take some pix for our gallery to show the blossom on the trees in the ravine, but then it all just seems like too much bother; I'd rather read a book. But for you, dear readers, I'll drag out the camera soon. Promise.

Wherever you are, I hope you're having a lovely day.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

do I look like David Bowie? vote!

My computer is old. My software is broken. My brain is tired. Which is my way of saying: I still haven't worked out how to edit a bit of UK video and embed a clip here. (Or anywhere--because it's not the embedding that's the problem, it's the clipping, seriously: is it even possible to do this shit using only Windows Media? I tried downloading a WMP trimmer plugin but that gummed up the works.)

But I didn't let such a little detail deter me. For your delectation and delight I pulled some screenshots from said video and was happily making them into a slideshow when Kelley said: Yikes! You look like David Bowie!

I stopped work immediately, feeling crushed. So now I need to know from you. Look at these two photos, taken on stage at the Brixton Academy (or was it the Brixton Ace? I forget) in 1983 (or was it '82?):



and take the poll:

I really did have a mullet. The camera doesn't lie:

A dyke mullet. I am mortified.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

3 archive posts from 1996

Okay. I've lugged over the first of about a zillion (thousands, anyway) archived AN q&as. I'm pretty secure about the year for two of them, judging by subject matter, and the third feels about the same age. So here they are:

I've no clue when I'll do others, or how many I'll do at a time, but I think it's going to be excellent avoidance behaviour...

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Friday, April 3, 2009

preying on free-range housewives...

Holy shit: same-sex marriage in a vowel state! According to the Advocate:

The Iowa supreme court ruled unanimously this morning that gays and lesbians in the state have the right to marry, the Des Moines Register reports.

“The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa constitution,” the justices said in a summary of their decision.

According to the decision, “the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.”

In other s-s marriage news, the Vermont house yesterday voted 95-52 in favour (the senate had previously given the nod to the bill, with an overwhelmingly positive 26-4 vote). The governor of Vermont is threatening to veto the bill. This means that some time next week, the house and senate will have to revote. Given that the governor is Republican, and that such challenge votes usually follow party lines, the result should be interesting: 96 representatives are Democrats, 47 Republican, 5 Progressive Party and 2 Independents. Anyone want to take a bet? Read more here.

Personally, my guess is that pretty soon New England will be a s-s marriage corridor, sort of like a wildlife corridor, permitting married dykes to roam free from Canada to New Jersey, preying on housewives who have strayed from the herd...

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go spend yourself blind!

"This ain't your Mama's memoir."
-- Malinda Lo, AfterEllen.com

"A reflection of the mental landscape of an extraordinary writer."
-- Dorothy Allison

"Brave, forthright, illuminating, passionate, rueful, and celebratory."
-- Paul Di Filippo

"Crackles with intelligence, wit, and pathos."
-- Jeff VanderMeer

"
Remarkable, hypnotic, fiercely honest."
-- Gary Wolfe, Locus

"Doubles as a work of performance art."
-- Colleen Mondor

Yep, they're talking about And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer's Early Life, the "do-it-yourself Nicola Griffith home assembly kit," my Lambda-Award-winning multimedia memoir. And when I say multimedia I'm not kidding: essays, scratch 'n' sniff, crayon drawings, bad poetry, good songs, photos, a fold-out poster--everything I could think of to make my story feel to the reader "as if someone we barely knew had taken us up into her attic to rummage around in old trunks while telling fascinating stories about each artifact."1 Not to mention the superlong title that doesn't cost a cent extra.

Well, yes, I hear you say, but the book is nearly 2 years old, so why are you talking about it again now?

Because now you can buy the whole box of delights for the astonishing, astounding, remarkable rock bottom, it's-a-recession price of $35!

To get your copies of this "often funny, and always insightful" compendium, visit the fine people at Payseur & Schmidt who will then send you this "ring of gold," this distillation of a "world we all share that has changed as so many women and queers and deeply unique outlaw voices began to speak all the stories not told before."2

This is gob-smacking value for five volumes of text (yes, five--click on the covers above) plus all those juicy look- feel- and sound-nice things which will evoke/provoke/just plain poke admiration in and from all who see it. Plus, hey, the material costs are now covered (fancy-schmancy stuff like this isn't cheap), and as I'm on a profit-sharing trajectory with P&S, the more you spend, the more I get. Woo hoo! Go spend yourself blind!

To watch me read from the memoir, go here.

To listen to some songs and read an excerpt, go here.

For the big picture (photos of the lovely box and its contents, reviews, preface by Dorothy Allison, and more), go here.

And, again, to buy ** for only $35 ** go here.

Spend spend spend! Party party party! All proceeds will be used wisely. By me. On things like this.

_______________________________

1. Gary Wolfe, Locus
2. Dorothy Allison, preface

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

april snow, and Hild workouts

It's April. The dogwood blossom is pink. The climbing roses are shooting and creeping. And it's snowing.

I'd planned on going for a walk in the park but it looks as though it'll be Hild who gets the workout this afternoon. I've had some interesting realisations about what she learns from her mother, and how that affects her life--and consequently the lives of many people in Western Europe for the next fourteen hundred years. Not to mention the formation of US democracy. Am I reaching? Why yes. But that's half the fun.

Seriously, though, I spent the ten minutes of falling-asleep hypnagogery last night scribbling notes. Some are rather odd: 'House martins, snipping for flies over the pond', 'what do you see up a tree? badger paths...' Some contain an explosive kernel: 'not a sword, a club' and 'women and men team-->take care of people and things'. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, don't worry, I do. I'm going to be busy for a while.

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Economist theme park

As part of a strategy designed to broaden the revenue base, leverage content over new platforms and promote The Economist brand to a young and dynamic audience, The Economist Group is delighted to announce the development of a public-entertainment facility that combines the magic of a theme park with the excitement of macroeconomics...

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