Saturday, June 30, 2007

More Economics

This is from an essay in Mother Jones by James Galbraith, the son of John Kenneth, and an distinguished economist in his own right:

WHAT IS THE REAL NATURE of American capitalism today? Is it a grand national adventure, as politicians and textbooks aver, in which markets provide the framework for benign competition, from which emerges the greatest good for the greatest number? Or is it the domain of class struggle, even a “global class war,” as the title of Jeff Faux’s new book would have it, in which the “party of Davos” outmaneuvers the remnants of the organized working class?

The doctrines of the “law and economics” movement, now ascendant in our courts, hold that if people are rational, if markets can be “contested,” if memory is good and information adequate, then firms will adhere on their own to norms of honorable conduct. Any public presence in the economy undermines this. Even insurance—whether deposit insurance or Social Security—is perverse, for it encourages irresponsible risktaking. Banks will lend to bad clients, workers will “live for today,” companies will speculate with their pension funds; the movement has even argued that seat belts foster reckless driving. Insurance, in other words, creates a “moral hazard” for which “market discipline” is the cure; all works for the best when thought and planning do not interfere. It’s a strange vision, and if we weren’t governed by people like John Roberts and Sam Alito, who pretend to believe it, it would scarcely be worth our attention.

Galbraith is describing an economy which will always solve its own problems and return to an optimum state (that benefits all) automatically, without intervention from outside. As he suggests, it's a pretty strange idea, but important because people who argue for it fill university economics departments and (increasingly) the government and court system.

Galbraith then goes on to describe predation in economics and the government. As it turns out, companies and governments do not always stick to the straight and narrow if left to themselves and the market. Fear of a bad reputation does not keep congresspeople and CEOs -- some of them, at least -- from stealing everything not nailed down.

Many people who commit crimes do not expect to be caught. They don't expect to face consequences, so they are not deterred by consequences. This is especially true (I suspect) of white collar criminals, who do not live in an environment where many people go to prison.

And then there are the people who are unable to recognize when they have done wrong. Scooter Libby and his defenders may belong to this class. If I did it, it can't be wrong, no matter what it is. Obviously, someone like this is not going to be deterred from wrong-doing.

This is one of the many ways that human behavior is not smoothly self-regulating. Humans are not all alike, and we are not all rational in ways we all would recognize as rational.

There is the joke about the physicists who can't get work in their field, so get jobs at a dairy. After a while, they decide to present a paper on what they have learned at the dairy. The paper begins, "Assume a spherical cow of uniform density..."

I may be wrong, but I think we need to know how crazy current economic theory is. Kim Stanley Robinson makes some snippy remarks about economics in Sixty Days and Counting. One of the messages of his book is: our current analysis of reality says we can't change; there is no alternative to the world as it exists now. But in order to survive, we need to change, and that means we need to see the resources and options we actually have.

We need economic theory and political theory that puts people -- and our one home planet -- in the center and which realizes that human systems do not run themselves like ant societies or planets orbiting a star. We have to talk, argue, plan and make conscious changes in order to run our communities and our world. Newtonian physics is not a good model for human behavior. Ants are wonderful, but we don't work the same way they do. It's probably the reason we have large brains and big vocabularies. If we could solve all our problems with automatic behavior, we'd presumably have the brains and language skills of ants.

Slow Weekend

I'm having a slow weekend.

Patrick and I moved some furniture around, hung a picture and did some dusting. I made tabouli with a tomato from the Farmers Market and finished reading Sixty Days and Counting, the third in Kim Stanley Robinson's series of eco-thrillers. I guess the series is over, though there is still plenty to tell. Now I'm reading Kelley Eskridge's collection. I could get a lot more writing done if I didn't spend so much time reading.

I realized this morning that the new section I'm writing for the novel is not going to fit. The chronology is off, which means I have to go back and give my narrator a different mother and a different degree of kinship to Ettin Gwarha.

Which is good. There is something creepy about the section as now written. It's a view of Ettin Gwarha's family which I don't like. My goal is to write nice stories about nice things happening to nice people.

Like P.G. Wodehouse or Jane Austen.

Of course, P.G. Wodehouse writes about humiliating events happening to idiots; and Austen writes about a world of icy calculation about money.

But basically they write about nice things happening to nice people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bus Poems

I don't have a car. Either I hitch rides from Patrick or I take the bus. I started writing poems about my experiences on buses a few years ago. They form a sequence titled "Bus Poems." After a long period of silence, in which I wrote no poetry, I have returned to the sequence.

Also recently, I have been reading a collection of Adrienne Rich's poetry. Her work in the sixties has the tense, angry, edge-of-sanity quality that my poetry of the time did, though hers is better. It occurs to me that I ought to be writing similar poetry now, because we living in a scary time with a terrible, unending war and a government that seems to be very much an enemy of the American people.

So I am trying to find my inner rage and craziness, while writing about what happens on buses.

Here is one example. I overheard a woman say, "I have a daughter in Arkansas," and go on to describe the rain down there: it doesn't sprinkle, when it rains; it pours.

This led to the following poem:

I got a daughter in Arkansas,
Prettiest girl you ever saw:
One eye blue, the other green,
Hair the color of aubergine:
And the rain falls down like rain.

Pistol in her panties, razor in her boot,
Can she cut, and can she shoot.
Can she sing, and can she play
The low-down blues on a rainy day,
When the rain comes down like rain.

Fish in a barrel, frog in a well,
The rich on a train to the bottom of hell,
Me on the platform waving goodbye.
Gonna sing and dance until I die,
While the rain pours down like rain.

I don't know what to say about it, except I'm happy to have gotten "aubergine" in.

It would make a good song for a story about some gritty future. You know, the obligatory bar scene with aliens, guns and guitars...

Bird Report

I went walking by the river at lunch yesterday. The grass on the flats is dry and brown, and the geese are gone, looking for a place where the grass is watered and green and succulent. Instead, I saw sparrows. Most were the ordinary, city sparrows, but there were a couple of birds that were distinctly smaller and looked to be grayish brown with no markings I could make out. They were shy and flew off when I watched them, finally flying into a pine tree. Once safely out of sight, one of them called. It was a chittering or buzzing, insect sound.

When I got home, I got out the bird book. As often happens, I did not find a bird exactly like the ones I saw. The closest was the grasshopper sparrow, which is an inch shorter than the English (or city) sparrow and has an insect-like call.

But the photo showed a brownish bird with markings, not vivid markings, but none the less...

But the only other bird that was possible was the clay colored sparrow, and it's bigger. These were definitely small birds.

So a tentative pair of grasshopper sparrows.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Paprika and Serenity

I liked Paprika, though it's hard to describe. A movie about people getting lost in dreams, which is -- I think -- also about getting lost in our current media world, in movies and the Internet and so on. The reviews I read complained that it didn't have a plot, was all spectacular images. I don't think this is true. But it is hard to describe, since the plot is full of twists, and the process of getting lost in dreams in told from the inside. Reality keeps shifting, events are not what they seem, people are not what they seem.

The message about dreams and the media is not clear to me. It's not as simple as reality = good, dreams = bad. I suspect the message is -- dreams can be shaped for good or ill, we can use dreams and the media to help or harm.

But I'm reducing a thought-provoking movie to something simple minded.

Serenity gave me nightmares Sunday night, after I saw the ending. I think it's a deeply disturbing movie.The Alliance -- so sweet and sane on the surface, so crazy and violent underneath -- is disturbing. The Reavers are deeply disturbing. They ended in my dreams and made for a very uncomfortable night's sleep. Especially bad was the ordinary people won in my dream and then had to kill all the surviving Reavers, including Reaver children and babies. The heroes of Serenity are damaged people. Both Mal and River are scary.

The name of the movie is deeply ironic. There is nothing serene here.

I woke up Tuesday morning with Serenity still on my mind and sense that I might have had more bad dreams, though I didn't remember them.

Maybe I shouldn't see two movies in one day, especially since both are -- in different ways -- challenging.

It's occurred to me that another problem might be the section of the sequel to Ring that I'm currently writing. It's the autobiography of a rather odd hwarhath male. He's an important figure in the novel, and Timmi Duchamp (my editor)thinks we need to know more about him. I don't know if this autobiography will be in the novel, or if it's back story.

Anyway, right now I'm describing his childhood, or rather he's describing his childhood, which isn't a bad one. He grows up in his grandmother's huge house, cared for by many loving female cousins. But he isn't close to his mother, who is Ettin Gwarha's aunt Aptsi; and he isn't close to his aunts, who are Gwarha's aunts Per and Sai. Should this be a problem? Why does Gwarha, who grew up in the same house, have no doubts about the strength of his relationship to his family, while this young cousin feels isolated and remote from his kin?

I keep wanting to have Gwarha comment on the autobiography the way he comments on Nicky's journal. "This isn't the childhood I remember. What is wrong with this young man?"

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Brief Report on Serenity

The DVD stopped part way through, at a cliff hanger moment, when we were learning what happened to the (mostly very deceased) people on the planet Miranda. Patrick carefully cleaned the disk. We put it back in and got another minute or so of the movie. Then the DVD stopped again. It was obvious, looking at it, that it was pretty badly scratched.

We're taking it back to Block Busters. With luck, the store will have another copy. I don't think I want to buy the movie, but I do want to see the end.

My pirate name is Filthy Jenny Flint. Patrick's name is Red Jack Bonney. I am jealous.

Now I'm going back to working on the sequel to Ring of Swords.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A quiet Saturday

Patrick and I ran errands this morning. I am accumulating tools for revising the sequel to Ring of Swords: a three ring binder and matching notebook, a Lamy mechanical pencil and extra leads, three different kinds of eraser. I've decided to try working in pencil with eraser, rather than using a pen and making an ungodly mess, which is my usual technique: lines written up the side of the page, then crossed out and more lines written in.

Don't I revise on the computer? Sometimes. Usually I revise as I'm writing -- each time I go back to a story, I revise what I wrote the last time, then move on.

In this case, I haven't been able to find the disks with the novel on them. I'm mulling over whether I want to pay to have the novel scanned, which will be expensive, or input it myself, which will be tedious.

There is a moral here. Always move files to your new computer, and make sure your new word processing program can read them. Do not put your only electronic copy on disks, which you then misplace.

We are home now. I have been fixing food, while Patrick uses the Internet to find out how to talk like a pirate.

He's moved on to a pirate name generator, which I am going to have to check out.

Tomorrow, I go to see Paprika, an anime film by the guy who made Millennium Actress, which I really liked.

Tonight we are going to see Serenity on DVD.

If we were more energetic, and it wasn't 85 degrees, we'd go out and listen to the Twin Cities jazz festival, which is happening in downtown St. Paul tonight.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I think I have to admit it’s summer. The temperature has been close to 90 for five days in a row. In places where the grass isn’t watered, it’s turning brown. The slopes along the freeway are thick with flowers: thistles, crown vetch, milkweed, bindweed, yellow sweet clover and all kinds of other flowers I can’t identify.

Vegetation has a specific summer smell. Part of it is cut grass, but there are other aromas. The air smells like summer now, when I walk on the parkway along the river.

I haven’t seen a lot of butterflies. I don’t know if this means anything.

The Farmers Market has broccoli, cabbage, napa cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, lots of lettuce and spinach and scallions.

I need to remember that -- with all the looming problems the world has -- life is pretty good for me now.

Apology for Economics

I feel apologetic about posting about economics, a topic which bores most people. But it does matter. I wonder if the dismalness of this famous dismal science is a way to repel ordinary people.

We really should know how the wealth of nations is created and distributed.

After I wrote the above, I remembered Bolivia, where important economic issues can bring people into the streets. The new president had to reassert Bolivian national control over the oil and gas industries, because that’s what the masses of indigenous poor people wanted.

My favorite story about the last Bolivian presidential election was the tin miners who had sticks of dynamite taped to their hard hats. They said, “If Evo Morales (the new president) doesn’t do what we want, we’ll throw him out and get someone new.”

What’s important about this remark is – the miners are not looking for a savior. They are looking for an employee.

And when guys with dynamite taped to their hats say this, it sounds truly serious.

I don’t know if Americans can ever emulate the Bolivians. We seem to live in a dream world of video games, TV, radio talk shows, mall shopping, gangsta rap…


GFV posted a comment on my Warnings from the Future post, quoting the U.S. Geological Survey on the discovery of new zinc reserves.

I Googled zinc reserves and found that there is a severe current shortage of zinc, due to increased demand worldwide; but the earth's crust seems to have a lot of zinc. (The USGS says it's the 23rd most common mineral in the crust.) The problem is, how accessible is it and how expensive to mine. Obviously, if there is a shortage of zinc, the price will rise and that will make more expensive mining profitable.

Enragingly, I can't find the sites I found yesterday. But I did find the USGS Minerals Yearbook, which is useful.

I was kind of hoping that mineral shortages would force us into space. But recycling and finding substitutes is probably more practical.

As GFV pointed out, there is increased zinc -- and other metal -- recycling.

What can I say? New Scientist may have been a tad bit hysterical about an impending lack of zinc.

One of the sites I found yesterday and can't find today was for a company that is (the site says) developing the largest unexploited zinc reserve in the world -- which is in Iran (the site says).

I found a site today that listed minerals in Afghanistan. There are a lot, apparently, due to the Indian subcontinent crashing into Asia. That mixed sea floor and continental deposits and put the mixture under a lot of heat and pressure, producing -- among other things -- a lot of extraordinary gemstones, and pushed much of this stuff up where we can get to it. Interesting.

I guess the moral is, I need to take some of what New Scientist says with a grain of salt. Fortunately, there is no shortage of salt.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Post-Autistic Economics

There was a recent article in The Nation on "Heterodox Economics." It was followed by an online discussion at the Talking Point Memo Cafe, involving several more or less famous economists such as James Galbraith and Brad Delong. The discussion happened only a week ago. You should be able to find it on the TPM Cafe site, if you are in any way an economics junky.

In any case, the discussion led me to Post-Autistic Economics, a website which has a fine, brief discussion of what is wrong (in their opinion) with current, neoclassical economists, who suffer -- apparently -- from physics envy and want economics to be as mathematically rigorous as theoretical physics.

This is from the Post-Autistic site: a description of neoclassical economic theory...
The dream of a determinate model of the economic universe was realized in the 1870s by William Stanley Jevons and, especially, by Léon Walras, both of whom were in part physicists by training. Called the model of general equilibrium, this elaborate mechanistic metaphor, proudly devoid of empirical content, remains the grand narrative of economic theory for students and economists everywhere.

The model, which invariably is expressed in language so metaphorical that it would make a good poet blush, works by laying down a priori, like Euclidean geometry, a set of axioms.

1. The economic universe is determinate.
2. It exists in a void rather than in an ecosystem.
3. All relations in an economy are self-regulating, in the sense that any disturbance “sets in motion forces tending to restore the balance”.
4. These “forces” result exclusively from the behaviour of isolated individual agents.
5. The behaviour of these agents conforms to certain mathematical properties. For example, consumer choice is characterized by transitivity (if X is preferred to Y and Y to Z, then X is always preferred to Z), completeness (out of the set of all possible bundles of goods given her income, she considers her preference between every pair of them) and independence (consumers are not influenced by the choices of other consumers).

Why do I care about this stuff? Because what I read about economics in the media sounds insane, and I want to understand why it's insane. How do people come to conclusions that strike me as obviously wrong? The simple answer is, neoclassical economists are shills for the status quo. But I want a more detailed answer.

There are a number of things about the above premises which strike me as odd. Society is not made up of isolated individuals, but of complex relationships. This is especially true of modern capitalism, which includes the entire world, full of all kinds of people organized into all kinds of groups. Premise four reminds me of Thatcher's famous remark that "there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and families."

Premise three is also extremely weird. Capitalism is most dynamic system humans have ever created. It is all about change: scientific, technological and social. The change is so rapid that it's obvious to everyone except small children. Remember before the Internet, when no one had personal computers? Remember when you had to call the public library to get the answers to questions, instead of simply googling?

I remember luxury passanger trains in the US, transatlantic steamers, the arrival of TV and jet planes, Detroit when it was a city full of car plants instead of empty lots and boarded up buildings. I remember when half the industrial production in the world was in the US, when there were no freeways in the Twin Cities and no suburban sprawl, when the south was segregated by law, women were supposed to stay home and raise kids, and everyone gay was in the closet.

Government intervention has smoothed out the business cycle and made panics and depressions less deep and obvious. Social movements such as Civil Rights, Feminism and Gay Rights have made society more humane.

But the rapid technological and social change continues. I don't think you can say capitalism is self-balancing. Maybe feudalism was, and maybe traditional tribal societies were. But capitalism? Is the deindustrialization of America an example of self-regulation? Is NAFTA's destruction of the rural economy of Mexico (through flooding Mexico with cheap, subsidized American corn) an example of a system that tends to restore balance?

Another Movie Report

We have now re-seen V and The Matrix. I was wrong about The Matrix. The problem isn't bad science. It's bad dialogue. I prefer V, I think. The enemy is far more real, and the way the enemy gained power is plausible. It's a more visually striking movie. There are images from V which are staying with me. But The Matrix is mind-bending. You sit there with your mouth open.

Both movies seem to argue for revolution. I wonder what the people who made them were thinking. Back in the 1960s my friends and I used to look at movies for signs of the time. Now -- I don't know.


Another bright, warm day. Patrick and I went out for coffee and cruised through the Farmers Market. I'm not sure how to punctuate Farmers Market. Farmer's Market? Farmers' Market?

There are fewer vendors on Sunday than on Saturday. But I managed to find and buy two packages of asparagus. The guy who had the asparagus also had boxes of radishes. I bought one. I'm not sure we can eat that many radishes. But they are so round and red and luscious looking! Being Minnesota radishes they will have just a little bite, which is fine.

Timmi Duchamp has an interview with me posted on her Aqueduct blog. I am enjoying the blog. There is a terrific post by Carolyn Gilman about women and war, based on her research on Native American history; and another fine post by Gwyneth Jones on going to a performance Cosi Fan Tutte.

The people posting on the blog are Timmi and the authors she publishes. This is a very interesting group of people.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ring of Swords

In answer to a question in the comments... Aqueduct Press is going to publish the sequel to Ring of Swords, after it has been thoroughly revised. I gave up trying to sell it, because I was not satisfied with it. But Timmi Duchamp at Aqueduct thinks it's fixable.

If things go as expected, I will be working a four day week beginning in July. This means a 20% cut in pay, but the free time will be wonderful. I think I can finish and sell enough stories to make up for most of the pay loss.

I have the Ring sequel done in first draft, two Lydia Duluth stories done in first draft, and several other stories partially done -- another hwarhath story, another Big Mama story, and a couple of free standing stories.

All I need to finish these is time and discipline.


We're staying in town again this weekend. Patrick slept in, as did I. I finally rose and dressed and went out for coffee when my caffeine headache became irritating. The coffee shop I go to is by the Farmers' Market, so I took a quick tour. It's mostly flats of herbs and flowers right now, but there is also asparagus, radishes, lettuce, scallions, hothouse tomatoes, cheese and eggs.

I'm not sure what season we are in. Late spring? Early summer? The roses and peonies are blooming; vegetation is vivid green; and people are working on their gardens. Traditionally in Minnesota, you do not put sets in the ground until Memorial Day, for fear of a late frost. I'm not sure that rule still holds, though people act as if it does.

I am currently reading Liz Williams' third Inspector Chen mystery. The series is set in Singapore Three, a trade city on the China coast, in the near future in a world where the traditional Chinese heaven and hell exist. Inspector Chen's partner is a vice cop from hell -- literally. In the current novel, they are escorting a lovely maiden from heaven to hell for a visit, I'm not sure why. The vice cop from hell is a handsome, golden eyed demon; and Inspector Chen is a decent, hard working cop, who gets odd assignments because he is married to a demon, whom he rescued from her family in hell.

A terrific series.

For some reason, the Inspector Chen books are connected to The Matrix and V for Vendetta in my mind. Maybe simply because I've just seen the movies and am reading the book.

How might they be alike?

They are all subversive of our sense of reality and our sense of moral norms -- how things are done, how things ought to be. The Matrix says our consensual reality is a lie. V for Vendetta gives us a reality where law and order are fascistic; and the hero is a terrorist, who wears the mask of the most famous terrorist in English history. Like The Matrix, the Inspector Chen books subvert our sense of reality. Like V, they subvert our sense of right and wrong.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More Warnings from the Future

The most recent issue of New Scientist has a cover article titled "The World Stripped Bare." It's about the depletion of metal reserves worldwide.

My novel A Woman of the Iron People is about an Earth which has used up its metals and has to rely on other materials, among them ceramics and wood. My space ship is ceramic with bamboo and rattan furniture. I thought this was utterly cool.

I was wrong to think we could run out of iron. But other elements -- aluminum, antimony, chromium, copper, gold, hafnium, indium, lead, nickel, phosphorus, platinum, silver, tantalum, tin, uranium and zinc -- may run out within ten to fifty years. Many of these are essential to current technology and life as we know it in the industrialized nations. Platinum is used in fuel cells and catalytic converters. Indium and gallium are used to make semiconductors "at the heart," New Scientist says, of the next generation of solar cells. We have maybe 15 years worth of platinum left, and less than 10 years of indium.

The article is really worth reading. Especially interesting to me is the map of where rare elements are. Africa (outside of South Africa) has almost none. I suspect that's because they haven't been found, though this is only a hunch. I know nothing about Africa's geology.

The U.S. imports 90% of its rare earth metals from China. Think about that for a while.

I feel I am living in a hundred SF disaster novels at once: vanishing bees, extremely multi-drug-resistant TB, melting glaciers and an ice free arctic in maybe ten years, crashing fish stocks, the oil peak, wheat rust, pandemic flu... It goes on and on.

The sequel to Ring of Swords starts on Earth and is partly about how the various environmental crises of the 21st century changed Earth. But I grossly underestimated how many chickens were going to come home to roost all at the same time. I will need to revise a lot...

I need to add, as encouragement to my readers, that I think most -- maybe all -- of these problems can be solved. I am less sure we can deal with them coming all at once. I am close to certain that the current economic and political system cannot solve the problems in a timely fashion.

A system that relies on individual greed and government by markets is simply not up to the future we have coming.

But the resources created by capitalism are enormous. I am really inclined to think we could solve all the world's problems, if those resources were used for humanity as a whole, rather than for the satisfaction of individual greed.

What Does an Author Owe Readers?

I didn't answer this question on the panel. We spent too much time talking about Harry Potter and our reactions as readers to books. Ellen Kushner said writers owe readers the truth, which I guess is true.

I would say the writer owes readers -- and herself -- the best job she can do.

I tend to believe that the writer owes readers a work that will make their lives better, something they can use in dealing with life.

What do I get from the books I like? -- Hope, beauty, surprise, energy, a sense of possiblity, a belief that humans are worthwhile beings and that a humane society is worth working for.

The books I don't like bore me or discourage me or leave me with nothing I can take back to my real life.

I dislike books that tell me there is no hope and no alternative to what exists now.

I dislike wish fulfillment fantasies, because there is no way to take their "lessons" back to the real world. Everything would be better if I was 25 and beautiful and had super powers and a tall, manly lover who was king of the universe... Everything will be better after I slay the nameless, pointless evil that threatens my cute, rural kingdom...

The Weekend after Wiscon

After all the excitement of going to a four-day con, we are having a really quiet weekend. We ran errands yesterday. The plan for today is housework and a tiny bit of grocery shopping. We saw V for Vendetta before going to Wiscon and rented it again yesterday. I wanted to rent Matrix, which Patrick has never seen, but the video store didn't have any rental copies in. But they had a copy for sale, so I bought it. I think V is a better movie, all in all, but I want to compare them to be sure. My problem with Matrix is the lousy science. No way humans could function as electrical generators, unless we were extensively re-engineered. Even then, I'm not sure living organisms ever generate enough electricity. We'll find out, doubtless, as the rest of the world's oil vanishes. Scientists are looking for new sources of energy everywhere already.

I thought there were a number of plot problems in V, but nothing as awful as the bad science in Matrix. I'll find out when I see them both again.

I am slowly digesting Wiscon, like a python which has eaten a really big goat. The feeling of uncomfortable fullness is gone and now I am beginning to fondly remember. I have moved from "that goat was way, way too big, how could I have eaten it?" to "that was a very tasty goat."

This is my usual response to cons I like. There is too much input at the time, and I have never figured out how to pace myself. Wordsworth said poetry was emotion recollected in tranquility. I guess that's what I treasure about a good con -- the recollection afterward.


The Wisconsin Science Fiction Convention, the only feminist SF con in the world, was last weekend. Patrick and I went, as we do every year. As usual, I found it a bit overwhelming -- so many wonderful writers and critics and scholars and fans, all in one place. Not that I am complaining, except that it happens only once a year.

We arrived around dinner time on Friday, having taken our time driving down from the Twin Cities, and had dinner together in the hotel's fancy restaurant. Patrick went up to the room to read and smoke his pipe. I hit the Aqueduct Press and Tachyon parties, then went to bed.

I was scheduled for two panels and a reading on Saturday afternoon, then had dinner with Timmi and Tom Duchamp, who are going to publish the sequel to Ring of Swords, once Timmi and I finish revising it. Then Patrick and I attended the Tiptree auction. Ellen Klages is the MC every year, and she is a very funny stand up comic. She's also a fine writer, though not always funny.

Sunday I did very little, except check out the very fine shop in the Madison Contemporary Art Museum and do one panel on what (if anything) a writer owes readers. The panel was prompted by rumors that J. K. Rowling is murdering -- has murdered -- Harry Potter. One of the panelists said she had just been on a book tour. Everywhere she went, she asked booksellers if they had heard the rumor and how did they feel. "Oh, God, we hope it's true," they replied.

I would prefer that Harry live. Frodo did, after all, though he was never the same. Sam lived and stayed in Middle Earth and prospered. Theoden died, but he was old, and he died like the old Beowulf, fighting against something that threatened the people he ruled.

I don't kill important characters, because I don't like unhappy endings in fiction. To me, my endings are never unhappy -- wry, ironic, ambiguous maybe, but the characters are still alive and are going to keep trucking.

Also, Patrick does not tolerate unhappy endings. He has worked with seriously mentally ill people most of his adult life; and for the past 10+ years he has worked with people who are seriously mentally ill and homeless. Many of these people have been likable and admirable. Many have died too young. He doesn't want more death in the fiction he reads.

I didn't make it to the Wyrdsmiths party Sunday night. (They are my writing group, and I really should have been at the party.) I lay down in the late afternoon for a nap before the Guest of Honor Speeches, having watched the Indy 500 with Patrick. He watches it every year. We don't have a TV at home, but there was one (of course) in our hotel room. It was not an especially satisfying race, since it ended early due to rain. Danica Patrick came in 8th and got up to 3rd at one point. Patrick wants to see her win. She's very young and keeps getting better, so there is a good chance she will win sometime soon.

When I woke from my nap, it was 11 p.m. I decided it was too late to go anywhere, except back to bed.

Monday we left a little after noon and drove home along Highway 12, a two lane that parallels I-94. This turned a five hour drive into a seven hour drive, but there was no traffic, and it's a lot prettier to go through forest and fields and small towns.

We took the same route going to Wiscon and saw three wild turkeys, one on a lawn in a small town, the other two crossing the highway. We are very fond of wild turkeys, in part because they are no problem to identify. Nothing looks like a wild turkey except a wild turkey. They can also be very funny, though I don't think they plan to be.