Temporarily breaking radio silence because this is such pointless fun. (Via Huffington Post via @daj42.)
Some of you have seen this before but, eh, it's my favourite holiday card ever so please accept it as my Chrismukkah gift to you. I'm hanging up my blogging hat for a few days to spend time with family and friends--eating, drinking, and talking more than is strictly necessary. I love the end of the year, it's a kind of time outside time when we can eat dessert for breakfast and supper for lunch and sit in front of the fire and hold hands for no particular reason.
I wish you many delights and good dreams.
Perhaps this will surprise no one but I like the novel I'm writing. I've spent a 100,000 words taking Hild through childhood and am now poised to introduce her to young womanhood. Not a moment too soon.
Don't get me wrong. As I've said, I'm enjoying this novel--delighting in it, in fact. But writing that many words about a child has been a challenge. For one thing, there's no sex. I'm not used to parsing a character's world without the electric tightening of sexuality running through it. It's odd. Lots of people around Hild have been having sex--they're human, after all--but she notices this from the perspective of a person who doesn't know, on a visceral level, what that means. And then there's been the difficulty on getting the most basic information: where did they sleep? What did they eat, exactly, and when and with whom? How did they feel about dogs? Naturally, all this complicated by Hild's ever-changing status. She begins as the second child of an Anglisc prince-in-exile in the forest land of the British people of Elmet. Then she's in Deira, at the brand-new court of Edwin, her uncle. Then she's playing rag-tag-and-bobtail with a warband travelling north of Hadrian's Wall. And so on. Every time I work out one set of details, everything changes. I've lost count of the halls, camps, wagons, vills, ruins, settlements, wics (etc.) I've had to invent and then discard after ten pages. Then within each, say, vill, there's the byre, the dairy, the hall, the weaving huts, the smithy, the kitchens, the temple enclosure, the well or spring, the kitchen garden, the new church... And then different people use these places differently: the wealh and the gesith, the women and the men, the nobles and the priests.
However, I've reached the point where Edwin has been king of Northumbria (Deira and Bernicia), and then overking (of the Angles, and possibly some Saxons, and the probably-Jutish Kentishmen), for well over a dozen years. Hild is beginning to return to places I've described before, travel in wagons I've already mentioned, take ship in vessels previously encountered. I can sometimes write as many as fifteen pages before I have to go look something up (and then spend an entire evening getting crosser and crosser trying to reconcile radically divergent scholarly opinion or, worse, stare at nothing, just an empty hole where the data should be).
By now I've mostly worked out how to keep one foot in the not-contravene-what-is-know-to-be-known (particularly regarding gender roles) camp and one foot in the I-can-make-exciting-shit-up! camp while finding a good narrative through-line. I'm happy with my solution to the competition between my need to make Hild extraordinary and to give her agency, and for her to be absolutely representative of her time (and a child, and female).
So now, for a while, I get to play. Now I get to take Hild back to Elmet--the area around present-day Leeds. I was born and bred in Leeds. I love it on a DNA level. Now I get to imagine it fourteen hundred years ago, before cars and roads and train tracks, before power lines and grown-for-product forestry monoculture, before the wolves and the bears were all killed and the cloud systems were never formed by contrails. All that and sex too...
I'm deeply excited.
Kelley has agreed to lead the board of Clarion West for a year, beginning March 2010. As she says, "Clarion West is the best workshop for emerging professional speculative fiction writers in the world." I think Kelley is the finest person in the world. It's a good match.
Celebrity deaths don't normally touch me--I don't know these people, on some level I don't care. But for some reason, Brittany Murphy's death pinged something. Perhaps it's because I listen to one of her songs, "Faster Kill Pussycat," often as I jack myself up to write. So here she is, singing that song. I'm sorry she's dead.
Or just use this link.
"It Takes Two," originally published in Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse 3 a couple of months ago, has been chosen for inclusion in Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection. It will also be the lead story in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 4, edited by Strahan. So I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. Write it once, get paid for it three times. The little novelette that could.
I had such a blast writing that story. I'd forgotten how much fun short fiction can be. It's a full, glorious gallop from start to finish, nothing like the walk-trot, walk-trot and occasional tumble-pellmell-down-the-scree long haul of a big novel. I think I might have to try another one soon.
On Thursday we went to the park. It was quiet and still, and mild for this time of year (not too far from 50˚). What hit me when we got out of the car was the smell: loamy and damp and fecund, utterly alive. I grinned; I just couldn't help it. That scent will lighten anyone's heart. We pootled about along the creek for a while--no fish, birds drowsing in their drowsing places--then headed back to the car. And mist rose out of the ground like something from a bad horror film. Phhoom. One minute clear, the next minute mist a meter deep on the ground--and the air turned cold on the backs of our necks. We went up to the lookout and watched the gulls floating on the sound--no birds were feeling like flying that day--where, again, it was very quiet. Even the water seemed subdued, silky and thin rather than heaving and huge. But there was no sign of mist.
Then we went home, ate lunch, and I wrote 1,500 words of Hild: a rare, serene day for the end of the year.
I hope your days have been equally lovely.
I am a sucker, an absolute sucker, for this kind of film. Swords, ponies, and battles, fair maids, trees, and rivers: what's not to like? The only down side I can foresee is lack of jokes: neither Crowe nor Scott are known for their humour. So forget Alan Rickman howling "Cancel Christmas!" (Don't know what I'm talking about? You're not a Robin Hood fan.) Still, there is that great thumping music. We only have to wait until May...
Jennifer Durham has made a splendid offer to help the Lambda Literary Foundation raise money:
Any calendar which is purchased from this point forward, I will donate $3 from the profits to LLF.
And anyone who orders 4 or more calendars will get one free.
Get 'em while they’re hot! Still time for delivery before Dec. 24th!
Go look at the pictures, feel the little muscles at the back of your neck relax. Stretch. Smile. Tell me which one you like best. I like February and October a lot, and January. All that space...
Go buy one (note there are two shipping options). A new generation of LGBT writers will thank you. Also readers, and experienced writers, and publishers, and critics, and distributors, and librarians, and bookseller, and editors, and agents, and book designers, and, well, you tell me: who have I left out?
Do you like good books by queer writers? Of course you do, you're reading this blog. Alrighty then: the Lambda Literary Foundation wants your help to support those good books--and the people who write them. At LLF we're all working like dogs (happy dogs, it's true) to ensure the foundation moves into the next decade strong and sleek and ready to rock. Money, of course, is our most immediate need.
Here's a letter from Lambda Literary Foundation's Executive Director Tony Valenzuela.
Like virtually all nonprofits, Lambda Literary had its setbacks throughout 2009. The economy dictated postponement of the Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices; our new website was delayed; and we experienced a shift in leadership.
Despite all this, I have some great news to share.
As we say goodbye to 2009, a year of terrible hardship for many who are still struggling to find work and pay bills, a year when Lambda Rising Bookstore in Washington DC -the place where it all began for the Lambda Literary Foundation - announced it would close its doors after 35 years, Lambda Literary owes its existence to supporters who gave to us in this time of economic crisis, sometimes more than ever before. Some of our remarkable supporters kept their memberships going in the face of uncertainty, or even joined us for the first time. Lambda Literary has weathered the Great Recession even as we take in the sobering news that not all our venerable institutions will do the same. We continue to need your financial support and will put your every dollar to good use to strengthen our LGBT literary landscape.
To close out this difficult year and keep our operations going, will you help us raise a very needed $10,000 by December 31 with a year-end tax-deductible donation? Whether you are a reader, a writer, a publisher, a publicist, a bookstore owner, an agent, or an editor - any kind of book lover - please support Lambda Literary Foundation, the nation's leading nonprofit organization advocating for and celebrating LGBT literature since 1989!
Make a donation right now at LambdaLiterary.org. Your donation of $25, $100 or more - whatever you can afford -will help us continue our work of preserving, promoting and celebrating LGBT literature.
We've come through this difficult time together. Let's continue together.
Warmest regards during this holiday season,
So if you're giving to one charity this year, make it LLF. Ten dollars, twenty, a thousand--it's all good. And buy a book or two as well. Buy them new. And, please, pass this along to anyone who likes good books by queer writers.
From the Guardian, The iTunes-ization of short fiction is here:
The decision by the Atlantic magazine to begin selling some short stories, as individual downloads is, not, perhaps, the most obviously exciting item of books news you'll have heard this year [...] But the New York Times's Motoko Rich has spotted what could be the beginning of something big. "Let the iTunes-ization of short fiction begin," is the stirring apostrophe at the beginning of her news story on the subject.
So now we can make literary playlists to impress our girlfriends with our sexy erudition. We can do that Led-Zep-next-to-Groove-Armada frisson thing, only with words. If I were chatting up some gorgeous piece, I'd present her with a bunch o' James Tiptree, Joanna Russ, James Blish, and Ali Smith stories, and--if, in some alternate universe, she wasn't Kelley--some Kelley Eskridge.
From the New York Times:
HOUSTON — Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday night, as voters gave a solid victory to the city controller, Annise Parker.
To me it's perfectly obvious that people elect those they know. It didn't matter to the mostly conservative voters of a consevative state that Annise Parker is a right old dyke. What mattered was that she had been city comptroller for years and done an excellent job. The people of Houston got pramatical at the polls. It won't be long before that happens everywhere. The more of us that are out, the less bent out shape people will be about quiltbag rights. We'll be Just Folks.
I just wish tomorrow would arrive a little bit faster...
Friend of Ask Nicola Angélique Corthals drew this cartoon of me arriving for the first time in this country (in 1988) to go to Clarion.
I know I've told this story somewhere, but I can't remember where (if anyone can, feel free to send me the link and I'll add it later). So here the Reader's Digest version: I arrived in this country not knowing it was illegal for dykes (and gay men) to enter. (Didn't know that this fine country discriminated against us fine queer folk? It was illegal until 1990 or '91. It's only just--this year, this year--become legal for people with HIV to enter.) I had a buzzcut, an axe earring, big boots, and an attitude. (Eh, I was young.) The immigration officer started to give me a hard time; I gave him a What-stone-did-you-crawl-out-from-under? look and folded my arms. It turns out that ignorance is not only bliss, it apparently has protective powers. The immigration person didn't understand why I wasn't quivering. He frowned, reconsidered the wisdom of his approach (clearly the axe and Radical Debutante t-shirt meant something different to the English; perhaps I had some ace up my sleeve--powerful friends, perhaps?) then waved me through. I slung him an Asshole! look over my shoulder and strolled off, whistling. I shudder, now, to think how close I was to not being allowed in, to never meeting Kelley.
But, hey, that's my lesson: give good glare. Works for me.
Yesterday was my 20th anniversary of moving to this country: 20 years of living every day under the same roof as Kelley.
We spent the entire day eating more than was strictly necessary: a fabulous 3-hour lunch (leek and potato soup with creme fraiche and huckleberry coulis; duck breast with dollops of pureed pickled carrot, faro and other delicious things, some kind of chocolate and tangerine cakeness with a sorbet, and pear and, again, other yumminess), with, naturally, cocktails and a great wine (a 1998 Saint-Estèphe; don't remember the label--but it was a tarry, wild, autumnal kind of wine, very different to the structured hauteur of the Pauillacs we like that are grown a few miles away). Espresso, of course. And hours of conversation.
Yesterday also marked (eh, more or less) the 3-month anniversary of the launch of Sterling Editing. Sterling is doing well, we're helping a lot of people, so we drank a toast, and marvelled at how fast we've established our business routines, how strange--yet how familiar--it is to work with one another this way, how we're getting to use our very different strengths to the fullest in service of a mutual goal.
Basically, we spent the whole day feeling very pleased with ourselves. Life is good.
This morning at breakfast I ate my luxury version of porridge: steelcut oats cooked slowly, oh so slowly, in water, with a smidge of salt added in the bowl, chopped walnuts, and a handful of dried fruit (today all we had were raisins, but anything--apricots, prunes, apples--will work), finished with a big dollop of very fresh, very high-fat cream. Yum.
Now I have to make notes for a board meeting (oh, things are getting exciting at LLF; more on that another time) and then, with luck, I'll get some time to play with Hild this afternoon. Or maybe I'll, y'know, take a nap...
May your Saturday be a fine day.
Elliott Bay, one of Seattle's storied independent book shops, is moving from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill. It's good news for me. I haven't been able to give a reading at Elliott Bay for years; the old space is inaccessible and has no parking. The new digs, however, will have dedicated parking and will be fully accessible. So I'm happy. The retailers of Pioneer Square, though, are bummed: their daytime foot traffic will plummet without the famous destination-bookshop pulling in the tourists.
Kirkus Reviews is closing. Nielson, the parent company, is selling a bunch of other business-to-business media journals (Hollywood Reporter, AdWeek), but it's not even bothering to try with Kirkus: a sad commentary on the state of print publishing and its secondary market. Strangely, I'm excited. Change--real and serious change--is in the air for Publishing As We Know It. I'll find the time to talk about that in more detail at some point. But not today.
Today I want to talk about the closing of Lambda Rising.
Lambda Rising bookstore was where, in 1988, the Lambda Literary Awards were born. It's where the Lambda Book Report began. Those two programmes are what the Lambda Literary Foundation was incorporated to support. In other words, without Lambda Rising, without L. 'Deacon' Maccubbin, there would be no LLF. So this is the end of an era; sad in many ways. But it's not a calamity, not the End of Everything. It's the end of the beginning.
Lambda Rising and other LGBTQIA (quiltbag) and feminist independent stores were (and many, of course, still are) the incubators and hubs of thriving local queer communities. They function/ed as de facto community centres, places for us to meet others like ourselves, to know--by seeing real live writers and readers, by touching actual books, by laughing and crying in recognition at authors' stories--that we weren't alone.
But now we know we aren't alone; now we know we are everywhere: on TV, in Congress, wearing bishops' collars, getting married. We have the Lammy Awards, we have HRC, we have marches on Washington and websites galore. We are many, we are strong, we are fine.
We are pretty pleased with ourselves. More of our stories are being written and read than ever. They're just not being bought and sold on the High Street.
While most of our book commerce has migrated online, its community hasn't. Yet. But, oh, it will. The time is coming to take the next step, to pick up the torch kindled by Charis and Lambda Rising and Giovanni's Room and A Room of One's Own and OutWrite and Women and Children First and all those other stores, past and present: the time is coming to take this sense of belonging national. We know we're many, and strong, and fine. It's time for the rest of the book world to know it, too. Stay tuned.
Just sorta spaced on a blog today--too busy doing Other Things. I do have something to post tomorrow...
...and tomorrow is another big anniversary: I'll have lived in this country twenty years. I'm still a little stunned by the notion of being here. Tomorrow I imagine it will require many drinks to adjust, for example a French 75 and a splendid bottle of wine. (Yes, we're going to that restaurant again.) Aaaah.
Cheap, oh most definitely cheap at the price: a gorgeous calendar from FoAN Jennifer Durham. Twelve brilliant photos to look at all day every day for just $19.95. (Buy link and all 12 images here [it was broken, now it's fixed]; all the money goes to Jennifer. I'd say it would make a great gift but once you get it, you won't want to give it away. ) We'll be getting one. Every day over breakfast Kelley and I will be coordinating our day over those fabulous pictures. You could too. Treat yourself.
Here's a taste of June:
So busy my head might explode. But Real Blog Posts, possibly even about, gasp, books and writing, coming soon. For today, this:
A 13th century Welsh castle is set to be sold at auction today, despite efforts by local residents to stop the sale.
It sits on 24 acres (lovely), and was built by princes of Gwynedd. Family name, sometimes, of Gruffydd. That is, Griffith. So, you see, it should belong to me anyway. I want it. Feel free to buy it in my name. I'll let you have picnics there, sometimes, on Wednesday afternoons in February and March.
From the Daily Mail (thanks, Colleen), news of a TV drama about a woman nicknamed Gentleman Jack, taken from an intimate diary walled up by her embarrassed family. "Written in code, her confessions of bodice-ripping affairs with other women were so scandalous her family hid them for over a century. No wonder they're being turned into a new TV drama..."
The diary itself sounds, well, rather tedious (lots of Xs representing orgasms, and lots of whining about unrequited lurve) but the dramatic possibilities are vast. I'm looking forward to it. (Let's hope PBS picks it up and doesn't censor it as radically as Tipping the Velvet.)
Now I'm wishing for someone to remake The Wicked Lady, only this time moving the lesbian subext to full-bore dyketext. Huh. Perhaps I'll have to write that one.
From The Times, news of the election of the Anglican Communion's first lesbian bishop:
The Archbishop of Canterbury warned today that the election of a lesbian bishop in the United States raises "very serious questions" for the entire Anglican church.
Dr Rowan Williams added that the choice of Canon Mary Glasspool, who has lived with a woman partner since 1988, to be a suffragan in Los Angeles, had "important implications".
The fragile unity of the church will be further imperilled by Canon Glasspool's election – the second of an openly gay bishop in the US Episcopal Church.
A while ago, the Pope offered a place in the Catholic church for all those Anglican priests who are fed up of having their straight boy privilege nibbled away by the consecration of (ick) women and (oh, ack) queers to the priesthood.
I hope the Rev. Glasspool is confirmed in the position. I hope, as Canon Giles Fraser, Chancellor of St Paul's, says, it's "another nail in the coffin of Christian homophobia."
Do I believe in any kind of god? No. Do I think religious institutions are a good idea? No. But for those who do believe in a god, for those who do belong to this church, the election of a right old dyke to the position of suffragan bishop is nothing but good news. Apart from all the fighting that's going to happen now. I feel for Mary and her partner Becki. They are going to be in the crosshairs of all the wingnuts. But, eh, dykes are tough. I wish them the best of luck.
From PhysOrg, a possible answer to the question, Why do females live longer than males? "Researchers in Japan have found that female mice produced by using genetic material from two mothers but no father live significantly longer than mice with the normal mix of maternal and paternal genes. Their findings provide the first evidence that sperm genes may have a detrimental effect on lifespan in mammals." In other words, sperm kills! (Anyone else here used to read the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers?)
On Sterling Editing, links of interest to writers. Check out Noveller (note to the humour-impaired: it's a joke). The Follow the Reader conversation on subsidy publishing might be eye-opening to those who haven't considered the variety of perspectives.
Over at Band of Thebes, 56 queer writers name their favourite LGBT titles of 2009. "Last June 16, when a reader asked the Washington Post for recommendations of “new gay books,” critic Dennis Drabelle responded in writing, “Not many of these are being published anymore, mostly, I think, because the great gay storyline — coming out — isn't such a big deal anymore and has been done to death.” Drabelle’s only suggestion was a British boarding school novel from 1967 long out of print. Redressing that failure, Band of Thebes asked a few dozen authors ranging from eminently established prizewinners to emerging kickass wunderkinds to name the best lgbt books of 2009." You might recognise a couple of the names.
Today is the day Washington's domestic partnership measure kicks in: here, we are everything-but-married. It means a lot, yet it means not much. It means that as long as I don't cross the state line, K and I will be treated like spouses in purely domestic matters such as testifying against each other in court, visiting each other in prison, and telling doctors what to do when the other one is dying. (Cheerful stuff.) These provisions are particularly important for those of us with children or who are planning to have children.
They mean nothing, zero, on the Federal level. COBRA isn't guaranteed for domestic partners. Immigration rights are laughed at, social security is ignored, and just fucking forget joint filing with the IRS. Also, delete everything in the first paragraph if we go to Florida and other queer-hating states. If you're in the military, you are still screwed: yep, you can die for us, but you can't talk about it and we won't give your sweetie the medal you won dying for us--or the pension.
Still, it's worth having; I'm glad I have it with Kelley. And pretty soon folks in DC will have it there, too--just not in Florida and all those other places. Though sadly those in New York just got kicked in the gut.
Marridge is good, but I still want marriage.
I woke up this morning to light shining on the wall. "What the fuck is that?" I scrambled out of bed, blinking, realised, "Holy shit, the sun is shining!" I looked outside: hard blue sky, glittering sunshine, frost all over the deck and the tidy lawn.
This happens every year in Seattle: a month's thick pewter-coloured cloud, endless deluge, then, whap, the spigot shuts, the cloud is swept away, and a sharp cold snap drops in.
Sun! It's worth celebrating. So in between all our zillion things today, we went to the park and said hello to the two chum salmon in the creek, and to the Olympic mountains which stood looking white and magisterial across the sound.
Life is good. You?
Okay. My life is going to be insanely busy the next three weeks. At some point I hope to organise my thoughts sufficiently to work out ways to blog in the interstices but, y'know, today is not that day. So here is a little pretty:
a tweetcloud of the last year or so. It read a bit like a sad poem. (I am not sad.) I find the last lines particularly apt: blog publishing soon times, doing stuff yeah.