Wednesday, March 22, 2017


This post is in response to a Fran Lebowitz interview in the NY Times. Ms Lebowitz said, "Books are better than life."

I replied:
I want to argue with the line "books are better than life." No. Books require a plot (usually) and meaning (often). SFF books usually require action and excitement. I like reading about action and excitement (a lot of the time) and debtor's prisons and wretched humans beings such as Mrs. Norris in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. But do I want to encounter all this in my life? No, except in books. Most of the people in Jane Austen's novels would be boring or enraging or both, if met in real life. Being inside a Dickens' novel would be a nightmare. London in the 19th century? Ghastly poverty? Amazing pollution? Inedible food?

What life has going for it is drinking coffee in the morning and reading facebook, talking to Patrick, seeing friends, making dinner, seeing a work of (so called) art such as Captain America: Civil War and discussing why it is so lousy. Life can be painful, because you can't close it like a book and say "that's enough of that, I can find something better on the shelf." In that sense, books are better, I guess.

Though I enjoy the minutia of life a lot. I couldn't write an entire book about activities of daily life, because it has no plot or meaning. It would have characters, but they would be doing nothing much, living ordinary lives. What makes books appealing is -- they are not life. They are different. The two can't be compared.

You can have books in life. (Always good.) But not life -- real life -- in books. I think I have that right. I think I will pull out a laptop and write.
Dust bunnies. There are rarely dust bunnies in books. Piles of filth, yes. Gigantic spider webs. Gigantic spiders. Dinners are rarely spoiled, unless the author wants them so. In books, the author has complete control. The reader has none. You cannot save Little Nell.

P.S. A friend of mine points out that it's possible to save LIttle Nell with fan fiction. True enough, and maybe one of the reasons for fan fic. It enables the reader to exert control.

New Post

I have not been on this blog for a month. Nothing much has happened. We had a mild -- too mild -- winter with almost no snow. I've gotten a little writing done. Did I mention before that I am a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award? If not, then I am. The same book -- my collection of hwarhath stories -- made the Honor List for the James Tiptree Jr. Award.

No other news that I can think of. I am about to brew tea in a lovely handmade pot I got from a friend who is a potter and then settle down to revise a story.

P.S. A friend points out that I have a new story in the March Issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It is titled "Daisy" and is about an octopus who does double entry bookkeeping.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Our part of Minnesota has no snow. These photos are of my brother's place in Upper New York State after the recent storm there. Those lucky people!

(I thought the blog needed more photos, and I thought winter needed some snow.)

Monday, February 13, 2017


Usually I take quick showers, one before I go to the gym and one after. Today I felt like a long shower after the gym, so I had one, with much scrubbing and standing in the hot spray.

I get my hair cut at a saloon with Aveda products and over time I have bought many of these, most of which I don't use. Today I used the body wash, the face lotion, the hand lotion... Boy it felt good. Then I got dressed, putting on my new cream-colored Smartwool socks. The socks will go with an Elise Matthesen necklace that I bought years ago, which combines amber colored beads and small figures of cats, carved (I think) from bone.

An editor at one of the New York houses disliked my work, in part because there is so much drinking of coffee. Yes, there is a lot. There are also descriptions of showers and meals and other small things that make life comfortable. As far as I know, I am the only SFF writer who has described a dragon flush toilet (in detail).


In other news, the short story got accepted. The contract will arrive soon. A couple of us did go out to a Korean restaurant on Sunday. It was good. I ate more than I should. All those little side dishes are irresistible. Pickled everything.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I have a list of careers I might have liked, but didn't take up -- art historian, forensic accountant, paleontologist, space cadet, revolutionary thinker... I have added a new one after looking at a pair of Smartwool socks. I want to design socks -- not the shape or the fabric, but the patterns. It would take more graphic design training than I have, I think. But imagine spending your days designing lovely patterns to go on socks...

Friday, February 10, 2017


My blog doesn't have enough pictures. Here is a photo by Wendy Davis, which comes via Frans de Waal's public facebook page. Ravens in love.

More February News

I have decided that my current problem is not the cold, which is mostly over, but my usual midwinter malaise. My mood always drops when the darks are short and dark. In addition, I have not been getting out enough, due to feeling crummy, and that makes my mood worse. Plus there is Donald Trump.

I have a meeting of my poetry workshop Sunday, which will get me out. I hope to convince the other members of the workshop to repair to a Korean restaurant after. Patrick and I are running errands Saturday morning, followed in the afternoon by Carmen, broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. The music is terrific, but I really dislike Don Jose. He is a stalker. I want the end slightly revised, so Carmen grabs the knife from Don Jose and stabs him to death, then flees back to the Roma smugglers in the mountains. I think a couple of lines would have to be rewritten, but not much. Anyway, opera on Saturday, poetry on Sunday. Monday I get back to writing.

February News

Once again I have lost track of the blog. The election of Donald Trump really distressed me, and I got an ugly cold in January. The cold is mostly gone, but Trump isn't going anywhere at the moment. Though he looks miserable in every photo I've seen of him since he became president. I don't think he likes the job. I figure he may stop trying to do it, and let other people run the country; or snap and take revenge on the rest of us for making him miserable. I don't think he'll quit, though that is possible. Will he be impeached? I don't think the Republicans will do him that favor, though you'd think they would be happier with Pence.


I just finished a story for a military space opera anthology and sent it off, having no idea if it will be accepted. I don't like war and see no reason to make it romantic or meaningful. So it's a dark little tale about PTSD. I'm not sure I like it, except it has a truly wonderful African Giant Pouched Rat.

Next I move on to another story for another anthology. This story is bleak in a way that doesn't bother me. It's Icelandic saga bleak, and it has lovely trolls and awful elves. I don't like elves.


I got out my eight inch Wurthof chef's knife this morning. I bought it years ago and have barely used it. I wanted a six inch chef's knife, but the guy in the kitchen store convinced me an eight inch knife was better. It feels awkward. I really did want the smaller knife. Anyway, I have decided I need to give the chef's knife another try. Green bean and carrot curry tonight, which requires much chopping.

I can tell I'm getting over the cold, when I start to think of cooking... And house cleaning. The dust bunnies are having litters of dust bunnyettes.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Inauguration

According to Esquire the Trump Inauguration has lined up the Rockettes (some of them), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (some of them) and the 16 year old winner of a TV talent show to perform.

This is proof of my argument that the rightwing has no culture of its own. It tries to steal from classical culture, which was mostly aristocratic, and from contemporary popular culture, which is hard to describe, but is mostly made by people who are not rightwing: black people, gay people, members of other minorities and so on. It mostly fails. As I said once in a poem:
You've taken all our money,
And you've taken all our time,
Working in the Wal-Mart
Or working in a mine,

But you don't get Johnny Cash,
And you don't get ol' Merle.
You don't get Bruce Springsteen.
You don't get Steve Earle.

Make your own damn art and music.
Make your own hopes and dreams,
Sitting in your counting house
With your money making schemes.

Make a choir of bosses singing
"Greed" and "war" in tune.
Put on your white shoes
And dance with Pat Boone
Along the rising ocean,
Under a waning moon.
I once asked my father, a distinguished art historian, why official art/salon art became so awful after the French Revolution. My father said, "The bourgeoisie have no taste."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Write

From facebook:
I am going to talk more about writing, because it's better than talking about politics. I have a lot more control. I have been mulling and brooding over why I write. I never wrote for money, because I always thought it was a hugely unreliable source of income; and I never wanted to have to rely on publishers. What happens if the publisher wants changes you don't want to make, and you have to pay the rent? What happens if the payments don't come on time, and you need to pay the IRS?

I think I have written for undying fame, though I'm not sure that was ever an serious plan. The trouble is, only a handful of people become famous and even fewer remain famous, and there is no way one can tell whose work will survive or be discovered later. Well, Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare wrote for all time. So sometimes you can tell, if you are Ben Jonson. Even short term -- in your lifetime -- fame can fade, if you ever get it.

30 years ago I told the editor John Douglas that I wanted to be respected by the people in the field I respected. John made a polite, dubious, Canadian noise. I think an evil fairy was listening and gave me exactly what I asked for.

archy the cockroach wrote "expression is the need of my soul." I always remember this quote as "self-expression is the need of my soul."

If you write and spend time in the SFF community you quickly learn that your chances of fame and fortune are not good. So why write? That's the question I ask, as I age and have less energy. I guess I could argue that writing is mental exercise. If you hold a novel and half a dozen short stories in your mind and work on them in your mind, the mind is certainly getting exercise. I know parts of my memory are in really good shape.

Self-expression is important, as archy the cockroach points out. I have always used writing as a way to cope with a world that often confuses and angers me and to make something beautiful and intelligent (I hope) in a world that often seems ugly and stupid. I am talking about the human world here. There are things about the natural world I don't like -- tape worms, parasitic wasps, cancer, horrible infectious diseases -- but they don't bother me the way human folly does.

Love of making stories up. I made up stories before I could read or write and told them to my long-suffering kid brother. They were about a community of squirrels who lived in a grove of oak trees and struggled with evil cats.