greygirlbeast: (Default)
Spooky and I just made a deal, that we would never again both smile at the same time. It was just all kinds of wrong. And we weren't even really smiling. We were sort of grimacing. So, we're really agreeing never again to bare our teeth like that at the same time.

Kind of muggy and sticky and too warm here in Providence.

I just got the artwork from Vince for Sirenia Digest #58 (and I love it). But it seems very unlikely that I'll be able to find time to get the issue out before we leave for Portland. Again I apologize. I hate being late with anything, ever. Tardiness just irks me. I am a punctual beast.

As for yesterday's interesting email from my agent, let's just say that not all unexpected opportunites are good, and so we move on.

I'm trying to be higgledy-piggledy without the --- dividers. Seems more honest.

Still much too much to get done before we leave in the morning. I have a very long list. Yesterday, we drove to South County, to Spooky's parents' place. We have a housesitter for the days we'll be away, but Spooky's mom will be coming up to give Sméagol the malt-flavored prednisone he takes for his plasma cell pododermatitis. So, we took her a key. On the farm, wild grapes and ferns were going yellow with autumn, and there were autumnal bursts of red in a few trees. It was raining and windy, and I thought about the much worse weather in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut. I visited the steamsquid, who's getting along quite well, a year and a half after we rescued himherit. Afterwards, we drove to Warwick, and I looked for a couple of pairs of pants at the thrift store. I have developed an almost religious enthusiasm for thrift stores of late (in spite of garish overhead lighting). Anyway, I found two pairs, including an absurdly large pair of brown corduroys. I almost got a pair of seersucker pants, but it's late in the year for seersucker.

I read two more stories in Haunted Legends, Steven Pirie's "The Spring Heel" and Laird Barron's "The Redfield Girls." I liked both, but found the Pirie story especially effective. And we finished Kristin Hersh's Rat Girl last night, which is truly excellent, and which I strongly recommend.

I also finished Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age late last night, when I should have been asleep, but was, instead, awake. My opinion at the end is pretty much the same as it was halfway through the novel. Wonderful worldbuilding, an intriguing (if far-fetched) future, an interesting quasi-Dickens pastiche, but not a single act of characterization in sight. The novel is actually more like a long outline for a novel. It's a great mountain of plot and ideas. This happened, and this happened, and this happened. But...we are never allowed to see into the people to whom all this plot is happening. Sometimes, we're told how someone feels, but we're pretty much never shown. Which makes this only one half of a good novel; I can't even consider it finished. It's sort of amazing, that a book can be so devoid of characterization. Anyway, I think I'll read the new China Miéville next. And probably a bunch of other stuff, because I seem unable to read only one book at a time.

This will be my last entry until after Portland, and I feel like I'm forgetting shit.

I read "Pickman's Other Model" aloud last night. It's the piece I want to use for my reading on Sunday. The reading's an hour long, and reading the story at a leisurely pace, it came in at about fifty-five minutes. So, I don't know. I'll either read it, or something from The Ammonite Violin & Others. Oh, and DO NOT FORGET. This weekend is be kind to Spooky weekend. Oak moss and voodoo donuts. I'm serious. Just don't try to hug her, because she bites.

And while I won't be tweeting, or blogging, or facebooking (???) on this trip, I will be taking tons of photos, and will post a bunch of them afterwards.

Now, I think I need a bath.

Oh, fuck! It's National Coffee Day!
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Yesterday was wretched. Not much point watering down the truth. My head wasn't right, and my guts were worse. I spent a good bit of the day in bed. No writing was done. I didn't go Outside. Nothing was accomplished.

We shall see what today will be.

There were a few "slits of light" to yesterday. Peter sent me a copy of The Juniper Tree And Other Blue Rose Stories (Subterranean Press). The mail brought a very small royalty check from Steve Jones in London, for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.

Then last night, after trying to sit up awhile, I went back to bed. Spooky and I watched the newest episode of Project Runway (I really, really love Mondo). We watched two episodes of some exceptionally ridiculous Animal Plant cryptozoology series. The first imagined a plesiosaur in Monterey Bay; the second was about the "Oklahoma Octopus." Gotta say, if I were younger, I'd start a punk band called Oklahoma Octopus. Anyway, then we watched J.T. Petty's The Burrowers (2008), which, quite unexpectedly, turned out to be marvelous. It belongs to that all too neglected genre, the Weird Western. There are a few missed notes: the start is a little slow, and I could have done without the final shot, which was unnecessary. But, all in all, well acted, well filmed, and creepy as hell. It's one of those rare dark films where things start out very bad and just keep getting worse, spiraling down to a place no one and nothing can ever escape. The Burrowers can be streamed free from Netflix. Check it out.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Thanks.

---

A comment from [livejournal.com profile] dragau, from day before yesterday (or the day before that), back to the subject of the lack of characterization in Neal Stephenson's novels:

Often when I read Stephenson, I feel the omission you describe, that his characters are indifferent toward their mindless drudgery of existence, and they follow their paths as pawns lacking anything better to do, their lives predestined. For the Baroque Cycle, I was hoping for a novel on par with Gary Jennings. Instead, we got an extended soap opera like War and Peace with its cookie-cutter characterization. After my disappointment with Anathema, I will be waiting to buy used paperbacks of his future novels.

As a measure of comparison, I think Stephenson serves better in contrast with your own stories. Many of your own characters also experience the drudgery and recognize the futility of fighting their fates, but you seize that oppression and wring from it every emotion and metaphor. You mop the floor with the tears and self-pity of those who surrender. Meanwhile, your strong characters rally themselves with the adage "I can fuck plenty with the future," and then they act, win or lose.

Conversely, Stephenson's protagonists are often mere witnesses to great events or they are catalysts. When they do perform a climactic act, their achievement really is being in the right place at the right time. This is progressively more so in his later novels, whereas you got the manipulative plot tropes worked out of your system early, and now for example, although the reader may know your main character will commit suicide, the paths leading to that eventuality will have many branches of uncertainty.


The only point with which I would disagree is that I don't make a distinction between strong and weak characters in my stories. Sometimes, surrender requires more resolve and greater courage than does fighting.

---

Come here, pretty please.
Can you tell me where I am?
You, won't you say something?
I need to get my bearings.
I'm lost,
And the shadows keep on changing.

And I'm haunted,
By the lives that I have loved
And actions I have hated.
I'm haunted,
By the lives that wove the web
Inside my haunted head
-- Poe, "Haunted"
greygirlbeast: (newest chi)
Here we go with the higgledy-piggledy again. It's a coolish day here in Providence, but sunny. After the anticlimax of Hurricane Earl, summer collapsed like a leaky balloon. Now it's sweater weather again.

I love that William Gibson tweeted "Johnette Napolitano is my Anne Rice. Seriously. Wonderful writer."

Yesterday, I finished writing my story for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, though it still doesn't have a title. Which, I suppose, means that, technically, it's still not finished. I wrote 1,171 words yesterday. This story has been tedious to write, but I like the end result. It has required the constant consulting of texts, on subjects as diverse as pop culture, bog mummies, Arabian mythology, Irish and French geography, owls, early 20th-Century occultism, X-ray microtomography, the chemical composition of claw sheaths, weird fiction in the 1980s, rogue taxidermy, social constructionism, and Parisian ossuaries.

My new passport came yesterday, so no more worries about photo ID. This new passport is oddly high tech. I know it's being used to track me by satellite. It won't have to be renewed again until I'm fifty-six, and I imagine by then the world will hardly be recognizable.

---

Still reading Kristin Hersh's memoir, Rat Girl. There's a bit I want to quote. She's writing about writing music, but it applies (for me) equally to writing prose:

Music's making me do things, live stories so I can write them into songs. It pushes my brain and my days around. A parasite that kills its host, it doesn't give a shit about what happens to a little rat girl as long as it gets some song bodies out of it. It's a hungry ghost, desperate for physicality.

I'm not writing songs anymore; they're writing
me.

♋ close your eyes

i'm sliding really fast
my hands are full of snow

i don't understand
i don't understand puzzles

And every time a song is done, you can go now...you aren't needed anymore.
-- Kristin Hersh

I like to lie about writing being like this for me. I've often declared that writing fiction is, for me, nothing like this.

---

Still reading Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. And I'm also still thinking about the problem posed by A is for Alien, how it didn't do as well as all my other subpress books (i.e., it hasn't sold out). And between the reading and the pondering, something has occurred to me, and maybe it should have occurred to me before. Stephenson's book is, undoubtedly, marvelous. The worldbuilding is first rate, from the tech to the sociology (even though I think he's slightly too optimistic). And he truly has written a post-cyberpunk pastiche of a Charles Dickens novel. But, I find the book oddly lacking in emotional content and depth. The characters aren't precisely flat. But there's very little insight into how they feel about the world about them or about each other or about themselves. At times, they seem to exist in order to show us the book's technology and history and so forth. They're almost no more than plot and setting delivery devices. I feel like they're all living out a tragedy they're never allowed to recognize as such.

I have often heard it said that science fiction is the literature of ideas. Fair enough. But I don't think it ought to be the literature of ideas to the exclusion of exploring pathos, delight, fear, and so forth. And it certainly didn't used to be. But I haven't read much sf after the cyberpunks of the '80s. So maybe things have changed. Or maybe I'm placing too much weight on a single data point (though that matter of "mundane sf" rears its head). Anyway, my sf is primarily concerned with human emotion, with the characters, and only secondarily concerned with science and technology. Often, the science it is most concerned with is psychology, and I'm just wondering if that's part of what I'm trying to make sense of here. I recognize I may be barking up the wrong tree; but I need to check all of them, all these trees.

---

Good rp in Insilico last night. And an interesting ooc conversation right before I logged of SL, a conversation with Blair (the person I'm mostly rping with these days) about living vicariously through our roleplay characters. We both acknowledge that's what we're doing. Me, I'm exploring various issues of identity by having an android pass through various incarnations, becoming progressively human. Anyway, it's mostly interesting because I've known a lot of people who are very resistant to the idea that rp involves this sort of therapeutic vicariousness. But I think it's where the true value of rp lies, in allowing us to explore secret parts of ourselves. Now, admittedly, it can also allow us to view the world through alien eyes, through minds not our own, and try to become people we aren't. But the best we can ever manage in those situations it to try, because all our characters will always only be splinters of us.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
To quote the ever quotable Malcolm Reynolds, "So here is us, on the raggedy edge." That seems to have a different meaning to me every day. Today it means we're bracing for Hurricane Earl. Right now, we have a Tropical Storm Warning, just upgraded from a Tropical Storm Watch. Right now, the Weather Channel has us in the red zone, at a "high" threat level. Fortunately, we're on a hill outside the evacuation zone, so at least we probably don't have to worry about flooding. We'll be going out this evening to get supplies, just in case. Meanwhile, it's still hot as hell.

And neither of us slept much last night.

All day yesterday was spent on Sirenia Digest #57. But last night our PDFer began having technical difficulties, which is why, if you're a subscriber, you don't yet have the issue. We're trying to sort this out as quickly as we can. But with the storm on its way, it's not impossible that it may be Sunday evening before the issue goes out. Never in its four-year history has an issue of the digest been so late (which is sort of amazing, really), and I hope everyone will bear with us. We'll get it to you as soon as is feasible, promise.

I'm reading Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, and liking it so far. It's more than a little on the techno-fetish end of SF, but I'm fascinated by his future Victorians and the idea of the primer. I'm also doing something I pretty much never do. I'm reading one of my own published books, The Ammonite Violin & Others. I'm reading the stories out of order, just as they catch my eye. Right now I'm reading through "In the Dreamtime of Lady Resurrection." I think these stories have held up very well, and I usually can't stand reading my own stuff in print.

Also, some good rp in Insilico last night.

And now, I must go sweat some more. And answer email. While I sweat.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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