Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recently read

At the weekend I finished reading:

Fever of the Bone, by Val McDermid. Val is a friend of mine. I've enjoyed many of her books. I enjoyed this one. It's the latest Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novel, with the usual mix of hard truth and easy reading, and a surprisingly affecting ending. I was mildly surprised that it won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Mystery, though, because while it does have some lesbian characters, they play secondary roles. I can definitely recommend this as a summer read.

Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next, by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. This is a strange book. The authorial tone is unlike anything I've encountered before: written by Greg Lindsay but conveying the ideas of John Kasarda. It felt a little like watching a puppet show--where the puppet is a little willful and occasionally snide. (I liked those parts.) It was also longer than it needed to be--but perhaps it wasn't designed for the kind of reading I do. I read it as narrative non-fiction: beginning to end. Perhaps it's meant to be a dip-in-and-out read for people pondering whether (and where) to relocate their business in Indonesia or the Emirates. Lindsay can write pretty well, and the snippy tone livens things up as he explains Kasarda's Very Serious (and often apparently world-weary) thinking about air transport and how we do and don't adapt to it. (Here's a schematic of an aerotropolis. It will save me explaining the concept.) I came away convinced of three things. One, air travel (of people and goods) is essential to our current civilization and will only become more so. Two, any polity that doesn't commit to aerotropoli will be left in the dust (like towns decaying along the old Route 66 once the interstates were built). Three, that a) we have to find alternatives to oil-based energy for all tethered power use, b) the remaining old reserves need to be funneled to air travel...and if that doesn't happen, if we can no longer sustain our growing globalisation, we are fucked. Read it and learn.

The Carhullan Army, (known in this country as Daughters of the North) by Sarah Hall. It won the 2007 Tiptree Award, but I suspect I'll have to read it twice before I make up my mind about its approach to the body. It's beautifully written but oddly old-fashioned, employing feminist and dystopian tropes common in the seventies and early eighties, and sfnal narrative techniques from even earlier decades. And it's short. (I read the Kindle edition, with no page numbers, but I'd guess it to be 60,000 words or so.) In this regard, it punches above its weight. Hall's descriptions and integration of the natural world (atmospheric Cumbria) into her characters' change is wonderful. As I say, I'll be rereading this one. Expect a fuller review sometime this summer. Meanwhile, though, definitely worth your time.

Next up: the The Origins of Political Order, by Francis Fukuyama, and Sarah Hall's first novel, Haweswater. Maybe also Framing the Early Middle Ages, by Chris Wickam, depending on my patience with non-fiction.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Game of Thrones: You Win or You Die

I enjoyed this one thoroughly. Much of the exposition (so deadly in television) is now done. The writers are feeling more free to invent scenes that aren't in the book, in order to explore relationships more deeply--also, in the case of a brothel scene, to explore, er, other things more, er, deeply.

All the actors are doing a good job. I'm beginning to enjoy Aiden Gillen's performance as Littlefinger; his part's beginning to warm up (cough). And John Bradley is beginning to find his feet (or perhaps the writers are...) as Samwell Tarly. It was great to see Charles Dance--nifty bit of casting, and strong writing for his introductory scene. I loved the deer business. I do miss Harry Lloyd--though, of course, we're going to miss a lot of them before this season's done. I would like to have checked in briefly with Bran but I understand the difficulties inherent in this kind of multi-viewpoint tapestry.

A minor irritation: having Ghost bark and run about like a dog. Ghost is meant to be a scary, silent direwolf, not a police dog bounding joyously into the fray.

A question for those of you with musical expertise: has the opening theme mix changed? It sounded different to me this week. I heard the drums more. I'm perfectly prepared to accept that a) I'm imagining it, or b) the fact that we weren't watching the HD version might make a difference in sound quality but it would be great to hear from others on this.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cheesy lesbian vampire deliciousness

Oops, meant to post this last week:

(via Autostraddle)

This looks...well. Bad, in a good way. It would make a good drinking game. Fangs! (Slam.) Leatherette! (Slam.) Gun! (Slam.) Half naked girl in a cage! (Slam.) Yum! (Slam...)

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

A shocking UK sf 'favourites' score: men 500, women 18

Yesterday, in the Guardian , Damien G. Walter asked readers to list their favourite sf. And they did. In a follow-up blog piece, Walter estimates that more than 500 books were mentioned. I scanned the Guardian comments--yes, all of them--and counted only 18 women's names. Eighteen. Out of more than five hundred.

I admit, I could have missed one or two. For the sake of argument, let's say there were exactly 500 novels mentioned. Let's say 20 of them were by women. (Yes, some respondents mentioned titles, some author names. Apples and oranges. Sue me. Or, better, take the time to parse the comments yourself and then share.)

The ratio of women to men is 1:24. About 4%. I'm quite aware of gender bias in literature (see, for example "Hard Takes Soft" and "Girl Cooties") but this ratio, frankly, shocked me.

In a subsequent Twitter conversation, Walter ventured that this ratio reflects a reader bias towards naming Classic SF, that he believes a similar US-centric poll would reflect the same boy-bias. I disagree. That is, I don't think the bias would be as strong. I think the US is closer (though still not very close) to gender parity than the UK. But I'm guessing; I don't have numbers.

In the Twitter discussion, others (Cara Murphy, Kevin McVeigh, Karen Newton) suggested that women didn't write much sf in the classic days. Also that the recent British Library sf show included few women. That in a BBC Culture piece about that show, no women at all were mentioned. Bias in action.

Or, as Joanna Russ might have put it:

"She didn't write it."
"She wrote it but she wrote only one of it."
"She wrote it, but she isn't really an artist (sf writer), and it isn't really art (sf)."
"She wrote it, but she's an anomaly."

These are just a few of the classic arguments, so beautifully exposed by Russ, used by critics to suppress women's writing. (If you haven't read How to Suppress Women's Writing, your education awaits.)

Clearly, women's sf is being suppressed in the UK. Oh, not intentionally. But that's how bias works: it's unconscious. And of course sometimes it's beyond a reader's power to change: you can't buy a book that's not on the shelf. You can't shelve something the publisher hasn't printed. You can't publish something an agent doesn't send you. You can't represent something a writer doesn't submit. Etc.

But, whether this bias is active or passive, it's time to attack it on several fronts:

  • reexamine and rewrite Best Of lists to take into account women who have been relegated to also-rans (this will involve public discussion and reevaluation)
  • rexamine and republish Classics to include those women who, through the process Russ delineates, have slipped down the rankings (ditto)
  • revive the old-style Women's Press list of sf, historic and contemporary, by women writers
  • acknowledge, in media pieces, likely inherent bias
  • writers, stop self-censoring
  • agents, stop narrowing the funnel
  • editors, consider balancing your list
  • booksellers, pay attention to your readers and categories
  • readers, give books and writers a chance
  • etc.

And always, always name the behaviour around you: we can't change behaviour until it's named.

Once this bias against women in sf was named in the Twitter conversation we were able to move on to the beginnings of what I hope will become a fruitful discussion of how to mitigate said bias. I want to continue that positive discussion here. To begin with, we need numbers: ratios of women/men being published as sf in UK, US, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, and other English-speaking territories. Ratios of historical publication of same. Reviews of same. Of book format. Of cover design. Of sales. Of awards. And so on. Anyone got any of that to hand? Anyone got a platform through which they can put out a call for same?

FYI the women writers mentioned by Guardian readers were:

  • Ursula K. le Guin
  • Joanna Russ
  • Julian May
  • Gwyneth Jones
  • Doris Lessing
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Anna Kavan
  • Marge Piercy
  • C.J. Cherryh
  • Mary Gentle
  • Anne McCaffrey
  • Mary Russell
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • James Tiptree Jr.
  • Karen Joy Fowler
  • Zenna Henderson
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Diana Wynne Jones

I've read them all. Every. Single. One. (I was delighted to see Anna Kavan. Her Ice completely turned my head.) Some I like, some not so much. But none of the names are new to me. Which, I think, speaks volumes.

ETA: Follow-up post, "Taking the Russ Pledge"

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Lambda Literary Award winners

The 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards were held last night in New York. Here are the winners.

Lesbian Fiction
Inferno (A Poet's Novel), by Eileen Myles, OR Books

Gay Fiction
Union Atlantic, by Adam Haslett, Doubleday

Lesbian Debut Fiction
Sub Rosa, by Amber Dawn, Arsenal Pulp Press

Gay Debut Fiction
Bob the Book, by David Pratt, Chelsea Station Editions

Lesbian Memoir/Biography (TIE)
Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life, by Barbara Hammer, The Feminist Press
Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures, by Julie Marie Wade, Colgate University Press

Gay Memoir/Biography
Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Sexual Renegade, by Justin Spring, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Lesbian Mystery
Fever of the Bone, by Val McDermid, HarperCollins

Gay Mystery
Echoes, by David Lennon, Blue Spike Publishing

LGBT Anthology
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, edited by Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman, Seal Press

LGBT Children's/Young Adult
Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

LGBT Drama
Oedipus at Palm Springs, by The Five Lesbian Brothers: Maureen Angelos, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron, Samuel French, Inc.

LGBT Nonfiction
King Kong Theory, by Virginia Despentes, The Feminist Press

LGBT SF/Fantasy/Horror
Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories, by Sandra McDonald, Lethe Press

LGBT Studies (TIE)
Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism, by Scott Herring, New York University Press
Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality, by Gayle Salaman, Columbia University Press

Bisexual Fiction
The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet, by Myrlin Hermes, Harper Perennial

Bisexual Nonfiction
Border Sexualities, Border Families in Schools, by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Rowman & Littlefield

Transgender Fiction
Holding Still For as Long as Possible, by Zoe Whittall, House of Anansi Press

Transgender Nonfiction
Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, edited by Noach Dzmura, North Atlantic Books

Lesbian Erotica
Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino, Cleis Press

Gay Erotica
Teleny and Camille, by Jon Macy, Northwest Press

Lesbian Poetry
The Nights Also, by Anna Swanson, Tightrope Books

Gay Poetry
Pleasure, by Brian Teare, Ahsahta Press

Lesbian Romance
River Walker, by Cate Culpepper, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Romance
Normal Miguel, by Erik Orrantia, Cheyenne Press

Here are photos. I was particularly pleased by Eileen Myles, Barbara Hammer, and Val McDermid. Congratulations all!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We need their voices

Busy day today, so I thought I'd link to four things you might find interesting:

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day trailer

Torchwood: Miracle Day:

One day, nobody dies. All across the world, nobody dies. And then the next day, and the next, and the next, people keep aging -- they get hurt and sick -- but they never die. The result: a population boom, overnight.

With all the extra people, resources are finite. It’s said that in four month's time, the human race will cease to be viable. But this can’t be a natural event – someone’s got to be behind it. It’s a race against time as C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson investigates a global conspiracy. The answers lie within an old, secret British institute. As Rex keeps asking “What is Torchwood?", he’s drawn into a world of adventure, and a threat to change what it means to be human, forever.

This looks great. Very filmic. Make sure you watch it to the end: "I'm Welsh!" Whap.

Clearly, Starz has higher production values than the BBC. Its other high profile f/sf show, Cameldung Camelot might be terrible, in terms of storytelling, but it is most definitely pretty. So I'll be there when this premieres on July 8th.

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Problems with Blogger

I don't know what's going on but I'm having trouble with Blogger--I'm unable to comment on my own posts. I can only assume that many of you are having this problem, too.

My apologies. I'll try to figure out what's going on. If any of you know what the problem is, please let me know--assuming you can, y'know, leave a comment...

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Amazon are serious

Yesterday, Richard Curtis broke the news that Amazon have hired Larry Kirshbaum, ex-CEO of Time Warner Publishing, and now (soon to be ex-, I assume) literary agent and manager, to run their New York general interest publishing operation.

Kirshbaum has tried digital publishing before: he started iPublish in 2000*. It was a smart move. Shutting it down again when it didn't get instant traction was not so smart (though I'm guessing he had corporate bean counters yelling at him).

I'm trying to work out who this move is aimed at. Amazon always, always has a game plan. And it's always, always based on the numbers. They're smart, they're ruthless, they have the customer data. My guess (yep, I'm just making stuff up--why not?) is that this is either a) part of a long-term tighten the headlock on publishers strategy: put the fear of Sauron in 'em for future negotiation purposes, or, b) a serious attempt to go vertical, to own the entire publishing ecology and cut out the Big Six with their anti-digital agency pricing.

Right now, honestly, there's no way to tell. No doubt all our favourite book pundits will weigh in this week. I'll do my best to keep up.

But right now I'm thinking: Oooh, this is interesting. I have a novel that I'm finishing (about Hild of Whitby). I have a contract for it, kind of, sort of (it's complicated). It's a good contract. It's a fine publisher. It's an editor I like and respect. But the publisher might not be able to sell this book to their usual customers. It doesn't have an easy and obvious hook. It's a huge novel, set in the 7th Century, about a woman most people have never heard of. Actually, it's part one of a novel about the girl who becomes the woman most people have never heard of. There's no magic. No monsters (except the human kind). No gender-bending (she doesn't pick up a sword and fight her way into a fabulous new life). It's one of those novels that have gone out of style: a huge, good old-fashioned literary read. Think Kristin Lavransdatter, but better. Think Wolf Hall, but with a more reader-friendly point-of-view. (It has to be: the culture is more alien, and it's about a young girl in a very difficult position.)

Anyway, if it turns out my publisher isn't convinced they can do a good job for Hild, then I'm guessing no traditional publisher could, and Amazon might be where I'd turn next.

So, yes, this move has my attention.

*Edited to reflect Tim Pratt's comment--thanks, Tim.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Both kinds of music...

Inspired by a post on Dear Author (where I also stole this LOLcats pic) I've been thinking about reading tastes--specifically, how we wear a rut in our reading road and occasionally have to be rocked free.

I've lost count of the number of people who tell me 'Oh, I read everything! Science fiction and fantasy.' Very like those who say, 'I'm omnivorous, I gobble Mysteries and Thrillers!"

I read all kinds of things, about all kinds of people, from all kinds of points-of-view with all kinds of narrative arcs. But if I'm honest I can see one giant rut: I prefer not-here-not-now fiction. Speculative, supernatural, criminal, historical, exotic. Mundane fiction--mainstream litfic--with a small town, crowded metropolitan, or campus setting, makes me claustrophobic. (It also bores me rigid.) I like open air: a beach on an alien planet, a wind-swept moor in times past, clinging to a rain-wet 50th storey balcony with the stolen flashdrive in my pocket, or hacking my way through the jungle in pursuit of the ancient mystery. I need to breathe. I can't cope with being cooped up.

So what's your rut? What do you avoid as a reader?

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

We touched the 70 and yearn for more

Yesterday in Seattle, for the first time in 2011, we touched 70 degrees. We touched it for one and a half minutes. Today it's raining and might--ooh, might--get as high as 60 degrees. Tomorrow it's back to the 50s.

Yesterday was a truly beautiful day, just lovely. I live in hope that we'll have another. Soon. You should hope for that, too, so that I'll write about something other than the weather.

Still, miserable rain means that today I'll get some work done on Hild--whom I have neglected sadly the last couple of weeks due to international wheeler-dealing, a variety of other commitments, some health nonsense, and occasional partying. This weekend, though = writing. I'm looking forward to it.

I hope you're looking forward to something, too. (No, nonono: we will not talk about The Rapture, though I'm fine to discuss rapture with a little 'r', or raptors screaming down for the kill.)

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Friday, May 20, 2011

How is publishing change treating you?

Via PW: Amazon just announced that it now sells more Kindle books than paper books:

Since April 1, Amazon says it has sold 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books, soft or hardcover, including print titles that do not have Kindle editions. The figures do not include free Kindle titles.

Change isn't coming, change is here. We're in it.

My publishing career is stirring strangely and threatening to turn into a wild ride. I've been negotiating two deals that please me--details when they're finalised. They could turn out to be just what I need--or, y'know, not. Sometimes you have to just throw the dice and make the bet. But, hey, life isn't boring.

Right now, the trickiest thing for me isn't lack of opportunity, it's an embarrassment of riches in terms of choice. But each opportunity is so different, each with its own variables: prestige vs. money; money now vs. money later; short term vs. long; risky vs. relatively safe; new paradigm vs. old; just writing vs. full-bore entrepreneurship.

And that's just the fiction. My head feels quite bulgy these days.

How about you? How's your ride? Scary? Exciting? Satisfying? Confusing? I'd love to hear from writers, readers, booksellers, editors, agents, critics, publishers, publicists: everyone involved in the book biz. Let's talk.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beautiful with blossoms

It's been a beautiful day here in Seattle (yes, technically it's night or--oops, morning now--as I type this). Blue, blue sky, birds and bees, beef for breakfast (long story). Then I got a haircut and came home to the most delicious scents: brine from the Salish Sea, drifts of tree blossom, lilacs, sunshine on new-mown grass. One of those, How lucky am I? moments.

Then it got better: scents of toasting almonds and marmalade and lime marinade, and then--joy, rapture, delight--baking chocolate cloud cake.

Then the most delightful Italian wines and conversation about Schrödinger's Art...

Then the fucking freeloading cat yowling outside as we put the rest of baked salmon in the fridge for tomorrow. But, eh, we won't go there. (Visions of tree chippers dancing in my head.)

...And soon to sleep. Breakfast tomorrow: baked salmon and chocolate cloud cake. Life is so good I think I might deliquesce.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I see...a 7!

An agony of anticipation (yeah, I've been spending way too much time with George R.R. Martin's work): the seventies are coming! Bear in mind that Seattle hasn't seen 70 degrees for over seven months and you might get a sense of our need here.

I saw that 7 in the forecast yesterday and I nearly had a stroke. Fingers crossed, people.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Microbial food action: Old World vs. New

photo: Vonda McIntyre, courtesy of Nancy Kress

At lunch this weekend with a bunch o' writers, Vonda McIntyre asked a question I couldn't answer. I could paraphrase it for you, but Vonda's blog over at Book View Cafe puts it more elegantly than I could:

In the pre-Columbian Eastern hemisphere, what we used to call in geography class “The Old World,” most of the staple foods are based on the action of microbes: Bread, beer, wine, yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kefir, injira, miso. Fish sauce.

In the pre-Columbian Western hemisphere, this is not true.



When I ask the question, whether I pose it to historians, anthropologists, foodies, or friends I’m hanging around with over a fermented beverage, everybody else says either, “Huh, I never thought of that!” or “But Native Americans had corn beer.” This is true. They also had chocolate, whose production includes a fermentation step. But none of the fermented foods in the Americas before Columbus were staple foods, as far as I can make out. They were ceremonial. Chocolate was reserved for the nobility, and the male nobility at that.

My first thoughts are in two sets.

First: the issue of plenty and/or climate. If you have a great balanced diet of grains (maize) and pulses (all those beans), it's not as important to be able to break down the grains with fermentation to free extra nutrients. Also, I think that big chunks of the New World are arid, so perhaps preservation of food (dry those beans, parch that corn, air-dry or smoke that buffalo) was as much of an issue and so lessened the need for bacterial cultures as a preservation strategy. (And various bacteria do less well in arid conditions. Though, hey, the south and its humidity renders all those arguments moot.) Then there the question of whether the lack of dairy goodness (cheese, yoghurt) is a function of lack of domesticity of milk animals or the other way around: did no one bother to domesticate animals whose food they couldn't store long-term?

Second: photosynthesis. Specifically, the difference between C3 and C4 photosynthesis. There's a lot more C4 photosynthesis in the New World than the Old. It just seems as though that should have something to do with it. (I cheerfully admit those many of my 'intuitions' about science are wrong.) I just don't know enough biochemistry or botany to figure it all out.

Anyone got any thoughts on this?

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Monday, May 16, 2011

My life has just reached a satisfying full-circle

The other day I was complaining about not winning a chocolate typewriter or big chocolate ammonite for the Tiptree Prize back in 1994. And then along comes these: tasty little Belgian chocolate ammonites. (Thanks, Elaine!) I'm in seventh heaven. Now I just need to find a chocolatier who will make me a throne-sized ammonite, something hugeous enough to break chunks off and gnaw two-fisted. A dream come true. But, hey, so are those little ammonites. Off to buy some right now. Happy!

Just goes to show: all things come to those who whinge...

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Tiptree plate

This week I finally got my Tiptree prize back from the EMP|SFM, where it's been on display for eight years. (I won for Ammonite in 1994.) I don't think I've shown it here before. It's a ceramic by sculptor Jean Van Keuren representing a scene from the book:

Marghe came up from her not-dream. She felt stiff from standing still so long, and her pattern singers were gone, except for Thenike. Marghe smiled at her, but said nothing; she did not want to talk yet.

In silence, Thenike helped her walk through the evening shadow of the trees until her joints unstiffened. Undergrowth rustled beneath their feet.

Marghe felt she had been gone a long time. Much longer than the two or three hours it had taken for the world to turn away from the sun and towards the arms of evening. She had been inside herself in a way she had never thought possible; listening to her body as a whole, a magnificent, healthy whole. And she had done more: reliving memories of her childhood she had forgotten, experiencing again days she had never been wholly aware of. Now she knew how it felt to be a baby just ten days old, and that baby had been as alien to her as any species she had encountered since. There had been more: what felt like days of communication between herself now, and herself of many thens. She had sent a question down all the avenues that opened before her: what is my name? And echoing back had come: Marghe. And again: Marghe. And then, whispered in a voice she knew: Marghe, and more.

She was on a thin and misty beach; her mother walked from the shadows and held out her hand. On her palm was the ammonite.

"Primitive cultures thought they were coiled snakes, petrified, and called them snake-stones," Aquila said. "But the word 'ammonite' comes, of course, from the medieaval latin, cornu Ammonis, horn of Ammon, due to its resemblance to the involuted horn of Ammon, or Amun, the ram-headed god of Thebes." She put the cold thing in Marghe's whole right hand. "His name, Amun, means 'complete one.' He acquired the power of fertility formerly invested in Min, the ancient Egyptian god of reproduction." She looked amused. "Min was very popular. But his time passed."

Her mother had faded, leaving the ammonite. Marghe had not been surprised when it sank into her hand. And now she was herself, and more. The complete one.

Marghe smiled. "I have been so many places..."

"Yes," Thenike said. "Mind this root here."

"I see it."

Two more chia birds called back and forth. The same ones? Marghe stopped and tilted her head to listen. "Do many women keep their child names?" she asked.

"Some. Not many."

"What was yours?"


"Gilraen..." She considered the woman next to her, with her rich hair, pinned up, her soft brown eyes and strong fingers. "A nice name, but not yours."


They started walking again. After a moment, Marghe said softly, "My name is Marghe Amun."

The complete one.

Every year's winner is presented with something unique. Here'e a close-up:

Every year, the winner is also presented with chocolate. Every year except mine. No chocolate for me. (One of my life's biggest disappointments: you've no idea how much I've longed for a chunk of chocolate big enough to gnaw on. I used to dream about it. Seriously. And early Tiptree winners got a chocolate typewriter. I was ready.)

Now I'm simply determined. One day, I'm going to find a chocolatier who will make me some chocolate ammonites. Big ones and little ones. Bet on it. Meanwhile, I'll have to figure out a way of displaying this plate safely. I had no idea I'd been missing it but now that's it's back, I want to keep my eye on it. It feels like some kind of harbinger. Life is strange but good.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Lilac, with cat (and possibly fairies)

Here's a picture of our new fence and what's left of the lilac finally--finally!--blooming. (Not sure what those little light chevrons are: some lens thing I assume. Or, y'know, fairies.)

And here, for your delectation and delight, is a photo of Chow Ciao ("Eats, shouts, and leaves," a/k/a Chow Mane) who seems to be back, and thinks lurking amidst the lilac waiting for tasty little birds is a fine thing.

No, we're not going to adopt her. She's an irritatingly skittish cat, and too vocal for our tastes. But I suppose at some point we'll have to find her a good home. Don't suppose you're interested? (The skittishness would go away, I'm pretty sure, once she had a safe place, a place to belong.) Just let me know.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Needed: a recipe for chive blossoms

Our chives are blossoming. I picked one and broke it open and, oh, the aromatic nectary goodness nearly made me pass out. Anyone out there cook with these? I'm thinking either some kind of stir fry with a whole bunch o' spring veg, pork or chicken, basil (we have a lot of that) and perfectly-done rice. Or perhaps a pasta: light cream, again with basil and mushroom and chicken and, maybe, some kind of white wine. Or, hey, perhaps some roasted vegetables (sweet potato? asparagus?) with the fresh blossom tossed on top just as they come out of the oven so they can steam slightly for thirty seconds before serving.

But I'm just making shit up. Anyone out there got any tried and true (and cheeseless) recipes?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My To Do list is breeding

I'm tired of no sun. Tired of seeing doctors (don't worry, it's just routine, and, y'know, tedious). Tired of having my veins poked and blood drawn and almost passing out (I do that). Tired of dealing with fiddly crap. Just bloody tired. So tired, in fact, that I'm in danger of being tired of partying. Unprecedented. So pray to your local deity that the Seattle sun comes out to play soon or Bad Things will happen.

Weatherwise this has been a vile winter and spring. It doesn't help that my To Do list, current and 3-month (and one year, and two year), seems to be breeding. It's just that all the things on it are so bloody interesting. It's hard to say no. But today I realised that, starting now, I'm going to have to say no even to interesting things. My plate is officially full. Just FYI.

May your To Do list be just as full of interesting things as you wish it to be. May your spring be progressing beautifully. Feel free to gloat.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Last night at Elliott Bay

The Lambda Literary Award finalists reading last night went well--great performances in front of a great crowd and then a dozen or so people hanging out drinking beer in the cafe afterwards (almost always my favourite part...)

Actually, when I'm doing a reading, the Q&A is usually my favourite part (especially when I can drink beer at the same time). But last night wasn't about me, it was about the Lambda Literary Foundation and about the finalists. I just sorta emceed. And drank beer. And beamed benevolently over the proceedings. And bullied people into buying the readers' books. And harangued people to donate money to LLF.

Did you know that on there's a nifty PayPal button that means you can donate without even bothering to look up your credit card number? Well, now you do. Go give something. Feel the convenience...

Sadly I forgot to take my iThing and so couldn't take photos. You'll just have to imagine the fabulosity. Or, even better, go buy one of the finalists' books and enjoy the work in private.

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Columbia Gorge

Kelley and I just got back from a trip to the Columbia Gorge. We've lived in Seattle for sixteen years and had never got down there. We saw that there was a patch of good weather heading our way so it seemed like a good time to give it a go. We found a deal at some nifty cabins, rented a car, and off we went.

Here's the view of the Gorge from the deck of our cabin. Yes, that's ice glinting from the tops.

Here's a closer view:

And right on the shoreline:

On the river the sun was shining but the wind was blowing: straight off those still-icy hilltops. It was bitterly cold. In July, with the ice gone, I imagine it's stunning.

The cabins were in a small town called Carson, set back a bit and sheltered from the wind, facing the Gorge on one side and a little meadow (with a zillion birds, and one cat) on the other. We visited a couple of restaurants and cafes in nearby towns and found that the wine was incredibly cheap. Pinot noirs that would have been $50 in Seattle were less than $30. One of the benefits of drinking locally. So we had long, lazy meals with fine conversation, interspersed with fabulous scenery, reading Modesty Blaise in the sheltered sunshine, and wondering what wonders our innkeepers would produce for breakfast. My favourite: a sausage and sweet pepper and hash-browns baked thing, with an peach-and-oatmeal cobbler. With choice of banana or satsuma for later. (As usual I ate several thousand calories a day more than was strictly necessary.)

The real bliss, of course, was being off the grid: no phone signal in the cabin, no WiFi, just sun, books, wine, each other. I can recommend it. Go spend some time with the people you love.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Sunday at Elliott Bay Book Company

This Sunday, May 8th, I'm hosting a reading of Lambda Literary Award finalists at Elliott Bay Book Company.

The finalists are:

  • Carol Guess, for Homeschooling (Lesbian Fiction)
  • Jen Currin, for The Inquisition Yours (Lesbian Poetry)
  • Tom Schabarum, for The Palisades (Gay Debut Fiction)
  • Anna Swanson, for The Nights Only (Lesbian Poetry)
  • Elizabeth Colen, for Money For Sunsets (Lesbian Poetry)

These writers are travelling from all over the Pacific Northwest for this. For you. So come and get yourself a glass of wine or a beer (or a cookie and a cup of tea) and take part in an evening of delicious and cutting-edge queer literature.

It starts at 5 pm but I'm guessing some of us will be around early if you want to introduce yourself. There'll definitely be an opportunity to chat afterwards, with a Q&A and book signing.

It's free. Join us.

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A new Luc Besson film, out sometime in autumn:

Thanks, Dianne

I hadn't heard of this before. Anyone else? While watching it, I was struck by how few (any?) films there are of women assassins who kill people just because they're good at it and/or it pays well. I get a little tired of them always having to have suffered Childhood Trauma. Note to screen writers: women can make choices. We don't always have to be damaged and obsessive. Find another way, people. Find it soon.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SF = al-Qaida = 7th Century = bloody strange

Read here an article in the Guardian about al-Qaida and science fiction:

It has become synonymous with the terrorist attacks of September 11 - but what is the origin of the name al-Qaida? Giles Foden on how Bin Laden may have been inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation...

Follow with this lovely smooth chaser from Cheryl Morgan about the science fiction threat:

An emergency police operation today resulted in the detention of many of the leaders of a shadowy, underground organization known as science fiction fandom. The arrests were made under the Prevention of Terrorism Act...

Then ponder Michelle of Heavenfield's ruminations on how proving one's enemy is dead has changed (not) since the 7th century:

It strikes me this evening that proving your mortal enemy dead is incredibly important. The proof has evolved over time. For the seventh century kings that this blog is mostly concerned with, that proof was literally the taking of a head. Kings Edwin and Oswald were both beheaded, presumably after death in battle, and carried off to show the supporters of their enemy...

Clearly, the world is getting damned odd. I need a break. Luckily, that's just what I'm doing this week. Starting now. I'll be off the grid until Thursday. Have fun. Build some good conspiracies!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

UK Prime Minister wants to ban queer TV kissing

According to The Advocate, David Cameron, the leader of the UK's coalition government, wants to ban same-same kissing on TV until after 9 pm. And this is from the leader of the party that's said it believes firmly in equality.

This is a head-scratcher. There are a zillion queer couples of British TV and as far as I can tell, no one cares (except to say: Aw, that's sweet!) See, for example, the lesbians in lurve on Coronation Street:

No more kissing for you--at least until after your bed time...

So what's going on? Is this some weird, badly-time stab at pandering to the conservative base? And why now, right after the Royal Wedding (favourite photo of that here)? Anyone want to take a guess?

ETA: FoAN Jac Hills, on Facebook, says:

Done a bit of research - it seems that it's the department of education commissioning the Mother's Union (WTF?????) who for some strange reason have a bloke called Reg Bailey in charge - to carry out a review of all media (including billboard ads) and report back to them - they're worried about the sexualisation of children - especially with some of the dance videos that are around these days.

So, okay, it's the 'different but equal' nonsense again. (See this article from the Daily Mail.) "Oh, of course it's okay for queer people to kiss, just not in front of the children! They's so innocent, you see, and must be protected."

This is why we need marriage, not marridge, rights for same-sex couples. If you have to call something by a different name, it's not the same. If it's different, it's not equal.

ETA: Oh, dear. According to the Pink Paper, a Downing Street source says Cameron 'has yet to express an opinion on the matter'. Looks as though I jumped the gun. The fact that the Advocate did, too, doesn't lessen my (mild) embarrassment. Sorry. But, hey, you got a nifty video out of it. Though now you probably have Lady Gaga stuck in your head. I do, anyway. Sorry about that, too.

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Osama bin Laden

He's dead. Will it make any difference?

In the national and international political arena, yes. Internationally (and to its citizens), the story of the US is now that it's the country that did what it swore it would. It is now a nation with a will of adamant and unbreakable purpose. This might give other countries pause. There again, it might not--rational thinking is not, historically, part of the worldview of extremists, and some countries are still run by same. In domestic political terms it makes a big difference. No serious Democrat will now mount a challenge to Obama. And a good chunk of Independent voters will now no doubt think Obama is tough enough on security and crime (and reasonable enough on taxes and spending) to vote him in for another term.

In non-govermental practical terms, I'm not sure it will make any difference. I think we'll probably see more instances of terrorism, not fewer, as various groups duke it out for bin Laden's mantle. Getting through security at the airport will get more difficult, for a while.

I just don't know enough, I can't see past the propaganda, to be certain of anything else. If anyone out there has information to share, I'd like to hear it. Just play nicely.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunshine and perbs

It's going to be a beautiful day here in Seattle, warm and sunny, and like the rest of the population I'm going to be away from my desk. I thought I'd leave you with two photos of our perb survivors.

The first is of the chives which, as you can see, are flowering. I love chive flowers, so today while I'm out and about I'll be pondering some kind of light pasta dish I can make to highlight their delicious flowery goodness.

And here's the sage, which I thought might not survive the wet winter. But it hung on, and now that the sun is here, it's putting on new growth:

No doubt I'll enjoy munching this up, too. I'm thinking some kind of pork-with-sage dish. If only the plums were ripe, that would make a mouthwatering sauce. But, hey, all I have to do is wait...

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