Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Test Post

Today is May 12, 2020. I am two months into the coronavirus lockdown and thinking maybe I will try to post to my blog. One problem is all the spam comments, which I can remove one by one, but what a drag.

Friday, September 20, 2019


I have been doing facebook instead of my blog for the past year. The blog feels like me speaking into a void. I like the interaction of facebook. The neat articles other people find, the comments and discussions, the cat pictures, the breakfast news.

The other thing I like about facebook is how transitory and in the moment it is. I can describe a sunset or my breakfast and that seems fine. A blog seems more formal. I could post a photo of a sunset, as John Scalzi does. But a several line description seems less appropriate to a blog. Do blog readers care?

Last night there were (or was) a row of cumulus clouds low in the NW. They were blue at sunset. Above them and to the west were high, thin clouds. pink in the last light. So -- low, bubbly, blue cumuli and high, gauzy, pink clouds, and the sky gradually darkening around them.

Also, breakfast this morning was the usual toast and marmalade and coffee.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


My favorite apple is the Haralson. (See above.) Patrick likes the Prairie Spy. (See below.) I clearly need to get down to the Farmers Market this weekend. In some ways, this is my favorite time of year for produce: apples, winter squash, onions, carrots, potatoes, kale...


I will be at Gaylaxicon in Minneapolis (October 18-20) and at Icon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (November 1-3).

That's it for the year.I am thinking about ICFA in Florida next spring, but we shall see...

Aging Writers 4

There is a current discussion about changing the name of the Tiptree Award, since Tiptree/Alice Sheldon killed her husband before killing herself. The two Sheldons apparently had a suicide pact, but we don't know how serious it was and if Sheldon's husband had really agreed to die. Sheldon herself was deeply depressed and had apparently thought of suicide.

So was it a suicide pact or was it one of those strange exits where the killer -- usually a man -- wants to die and feels that he cannot leave his family behind? A compounding issue is the Sheldons' long years of working for the CIA. That has got to give you a strange attitude toward violence and the value of human life.

How Sheldon and her husband died has been known for decades. The question now raised by some people is -- do we want to have an award named after a woman who was a killer and whose victim was disabled, at least to some extent?

I have a personal involvement in this, because I won a Tiptree Award. In fact, I won the very first Tiptree Award. I have felt the last few years -- maybe the last decade -- that Second Wave Feminism is being written out of SF history, along with a lot of older women writers, including me. Changing the name of the Tiptree seems -- to me -- to be part of vanishing Second Wave Feminism and maybe feminism as a movement. In addition, once the Tiptree Award is gone, I will not have won it. That matters to me.

This is an interesting variation of older women's sense that they have disappeared. Even Le Guin felt this.


I keep going back to Brexit, I think as a way to avoid thinking about American politics. This leads me to the Gramsci quote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” Gramsci was writing (I assume) about the rise of fascism in the first half of the 20th century. But it applies now. The most morbid symptom of the 20th century -- fascism -- was beaten back; and capitalism -- a remarkable resilient economic and political form -- survived and went on to a kind of golden age. But now we are back in crisis, with morbid symptoms appearing on all sides.

One could argue that the old methods of economic and political control are no longer working. Neoliberal economic policy has proved a failure. The postwar political parties have fallen -- or are falling -- apart. Those in control -- let's call them the ruling class -- are forced to ever more extreme methods of control, including a reemerging fascism. At the same time there are attempts to break free of the old system. These attempts are often ambiguous. Are the gilets jaunes on the left or right? Are the demonstrations in Hong Kong a genuine popular uprising or is the CIA involved or both? In addition, there is froth on top of a turbulent era, ideas and organizations that I would call wrongheaded or loony.

So where does this leave us? Trying to understand what's going on. A good analysis always helps. And acting to address the problems as best we can. Most of all, we need to act on global warming. Acting on that will clarify a lot of political issues, because we will see who is opposed to saving the planet.

The smart capitalists will come out in favor of saving the planet. However, the drive to grow -- which seems basic to capitalism -- is (almost certainly) in opposition to the changes necessary to save the planet. "Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets.”

Le Guin

I'm reading a collection of interviews with Le Guin and thinking about the ways our writing is similar. (I have been called Le Guin-like plenty of times.) In some cases the similarity is due to direct influence. Her two tour de force novels -- Left Hand of Darkness and Wizard of Earthsea -- came out when I was just starting to become a real writer. I suspect I might be as impressed by The Lathe of Heaven if I reread it. (Maybe I should reread it.) I think there is little question that her work influenced me.

But as I have aged I have wanted to be my own writer, sui generis. And I think -- hope -- that at the core Le Guin and I are different.

I will probably read some Le Guin essays and think about the ways we are different. She usually sounds so sane and calm and smooth to me, and my sense of myself is -- I am probably sane, but I am not calm nor smooth. And I hear French behind her English, though I may be wrong about this. I hear Old Norse behind my English, at least in many stories. My brother says he can hear the sagas in all my writing. Le Guin is bien civilisé. I don't think I am. I have certainly done my best to get away from American professional middle class civilization.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fall in Minnesota (with Global Warming)

I rode the bus out to the Megamall (aka the Mall of America) for mall walking. The sumac is turning red, and there are lots of wild flowers along the freeway: sunflowers and goldenrod and other bright yellow flowers I don't recognize. The temp is ten degrees high for this time of year, thanks to global warming. A reason to be inside. It was not pleasant outside: both hot and humid. Still, a handsome day. I had lunch with my friend Theresa and then we walked.

After looking at my bank account, I decided I am bought out, so nothing was purchased aside from lunch (and groceries later). I got home a little after two. Then Patrick and I went grocery shopping. Since the weather is so warm, we bought summer foods that don't need cooking: grapes, green peppers, hummus, yogurt, cheese and bread.

Patrick really dislikes heat and humidity and keeps mentioning this. I point out that at least we not in the town in Pakistan where the temp gets up to 125 F.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hello, there!

I have decided to reactivate my blog, in the hopes of reaching more people than I reach on facebook.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Aging Writers 3

This was not entirely new. Advertising goes back to the 19th century. One of my two favorite Dorothy Sayers' novels is set in an advertising agency in the 1930s. But as people got enough, more money had to be spent convincing them to buy more. This society of newness, of constant revolution (in style, if not substance) does not leave much place for the elderly.

More on change: "Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."

This was written before advertising got serious. Now, instead of facing one's real conditions of life, one can play a video game or go to the mall and buy more clothes.

I seem to be saying that cutting edge art is the art of capitalism. I'm not sure I want to say that. I think it's time to read something old: either Sayers' Murder Must Advertise or Jane Austen.

Aging Writers 2

More from facebook:

This is more about a discussion I had yesterday -- in reaction to someone who found most SFF that was more than ten years old 'problematic.'
This got me utterly bent out of shape, since most of my fiction was written and published more then ten years ago. Today, I am more reflective, so I wrote:
I probably overreacted to 'problematic.' Figure that I am an age where mortality becomes an issue, and I have no children. So I think about what I have done with my life and what I will leave behind. I get upset when I think people are dismissing the older generation. And I genuinely believe this culture has close to no interest in or liking for the old. Acquired knowledge is not valued in a society that changes so fast -- and more important, this is a society where people matter as long as they produce something of commercial value. If they cannot, then they have no use and should please go die.
Children are valued (though not treated well) because they are the next generation of workers and because families with children are seen as good consumers.
Retired people do in fact spend money, but are resented because they don't earn this money. (It's the Social Security and pensions and savings they piled up through decades of work.) And retired people do a lot of socially useful work: childcare, care of the elderly and disabled, volunteer work... But money does not change hands, so this does not count.
Oh, and I looked up 'problematic,' because it is a problematic word:
constituting or presenting a problem or difficulty.
"the situation was problematic for teachers"
synonyms: difficult, hard, taxing, troublesome, tricky, awkward, controversial, ticklish, complicated, complex, knotty, thorny, prickly, vexed;
"the pest control in this building has gotten very problematic."

Well, maybe I am okay with the synonyms. My work can be seen as difficult, hard, taxing, troublesome, tricky...

Aging Writers

From facebook:

Someone who shall be nameless wrote elsewhere that she figured most SFF written before the last decade is problematic, I assume for political reasons. This calls into question most of my writing career. This is why we need a Senior Meetup at Wiscon and maybe other cons. I need a place to vent. I am trying to come up with a name for a Wiscon Meetup for seniors. "Second Wave Feminism in a New Wave World" is possible, though not quite right.

I do not think this is a huge issue, except that I worry about the older women writers vanishing. They worked hard and deserve to be remembered, though obviously they can be criticized as imperfect.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Once again I have let two months slip by without posting. We are mostly unpacked now. A guy came yesterday to install new blinds, which look really good. That was the last step in renovating the apartment. We are now home.

I just finished proofreading Ring of Swords for a new edition, due to come out this spring.

My military space opera short story got picked up by Gardner Dozois for his Best SF of the Year collection.

Otherwise, we keep trucking. I write. Patrick is doing some pro bono work for the local neighborhood council. (They are worried about homeless people, and he is an expert of homelessness, a word which should not ever exist. There should be no one without a home.) Life goes on.

I made my usual resolutions for the New Year: Exercise more. Write more. Pay more attention to nutrition. Get out to museums more. Get out more in general. The past year -- since the last election -- I have been huddling at home and worrying. Neither is useful.

I'm planning on attending the usual local cons. I'm a guest at CONvergence, the big local con. I always attend Wiscon in Madison, Wisconsin. And I hope to make IceCon, the Icelandic SF convention, in October. Though I am bit worried about their organization. They don't have a con hotel and their site does not list recommended hotels -- just "there are plenty of good hotels in Reykjavik." The site also does not list the convention location, so we can pick a nearby hotel.

We shall see.

John Oliver Simon

I just learned that John Oliver Simon has died. I knew he was in poor health, but this is still unexpected. John was in my class at college. When I got to college, I wanted to be the person in class recognized as a poet -- the class poet, though there wasn't one officially. Then I met John. One of my memories is him sitting in a tree playing a recorder. I know I could not compete with him. He was clearly the class poet. He remained a poet and seems to have gone on have a good, useful, interesting life. I reconnected with him recently through facebook. I will miss him. I now have to go online and buy all his books.

I have been googling John and wishing I'd had the wits to do this years ago, when I could have emailed him. He liked some of the poets I do, Gary Snyder and Lew Welch. (Lew Welch has a poem about Chicago which is amazing.) John talks in an interview about Sharon Doubiago, who I met years ago. She was a friend of a friend. As I recall, she didn't like me at all. John says in the same interview that d.a. levy was the most important poet in the US when he killed himself, I think in the early 1970s. I heard that levy had been killed by the police. In any case, levy's poetry hit me like a bolt of lightning, when I read it in a couple of mimeographed collections that my friend Bobby lent me. John and I could have found things to talk about. I'm going to pick up a couple of his books -- one of poems he wrote on a trip through Latin America back in the 80s and one of poems about his granddaughter, which is recent.

I found a book of translations by John, which came out a year ago from Red Dragonfly Press, a great local press here in the Twin Cities.

Anyway, the moral is -- if people stick in your mind, maybe you should make an effort to contact them or at least google them.