Monday, December 09, 2013


Our state senator has a neice visiting her from Texas. The neice was in Minneapolis and outside for ten minutes without a hat or gloves. She ended in the ER with frostbite. I am cautious about saying the weather is cold, since I think the word "cold" should be reserved for serious coolness. Frostbite after ten minutes is cold.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Weather Report

From facebook:
A sultry 7 F above at the moment. It has snowed again and is still snowing. I got nothing useful done yesterday, except exercise and a load of wash. We watched the PBS Mansfield Park aka Jogging Fanny (thank you for that name, Catherine Lundoff). We liked it better this time and had a nice discussion after on the book. In some ways, it's a hard book to like. Patrick likes the Crawfords much better than Fanny and Edmund and thinks the book ends in exhaustion: the marriage of Fanny and Edmund is a down note. I suspect that the book's title tells us this is an ensemble piece. It is about the entire MP household.

We will probably go to a mall today, since I have some Barnes and Noble coupons, if they haven't run out. Why not Uncle Hugo's you ask? It's farther away, and the route is likely to be more icy. Then a stop in a shoestore to look at Smartwool socks. Do I need more socks? No. This cold snap could end, and I'd be stuck with too many pairs of wool socks. But looking is fine.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Short Posts

I need to work on more short posts. I don't think long essays work especially well on the Internet. I know I will often not begin posts if they are long. It might be something about reading on a computer. In any case, short posts look so much more attractive on the screen.


A glorious day. Cold and crisp, with a bright blue, cloudless sky. There is fresh snow on the ground and rooftops and the branches of trees.

I have finished packing up manuscripts for the time being and have cleaned out another magazine rack, plus the pile on top of the magazine stool. This time of year, with catalogs pouring in, I have to remain vigilant. If I don't, magazines and catalogs will take over the apartment. Most of my holiday shopping is done. Now I have to figure out how to pay for it. Two essays to finish today, plus some fiddling with the new story.

The big tasks -- clearing my writing desk so I can actually use it and dread filing -- still remain.

A great quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery from Jim Hines' blog: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.“ I figure this is what writing is about.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Day

It's been snowing all day. I exercised in the morning, then went to a local coffee shop and worked on a new story, came home and packed manuscripts to ship to Northern Illinois University, cleaned out a magazine rack, made dinner and watched a Miyazaki movie. Now I'm tired and have a headache. I think I will go to sleep.

LeGuin Interview

The current issue of The Paris Review has an interview with Ursula K. LeGuin. LeGuin is always interesting, though I did not feel she was much engaged with this interview. The interviewer knows too little about SF. I don't know if this matters to LeGuin, but it matters to me. He talks about 1960s as hard SF, full of physics. I remember the 1960s as New Wave. Before that was the Boucher and Gold era of the 1950s -- writers such as William Tenn, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick and so on. Yes, there was hard SF, but there was a lot more, and the most exciting SF -- to me -- was not hard SF. He talks about SF as stylistically plain. Well, yes, Delany has written about this. But when Bester was describing telepathy in The Demolished Man or teleporting and synesthsia in The Stars My Destination, he did quirky things with style. He had to. He was describing quirky events.

Delany published his first novel in 1962, and rapidly became an important writer, who challenged SF ideas about style, content, gender and sexuality. "Aye, and Gomorrah" was published in 1967. I'm picking only one story. I could pull out my edition of Driftglass and name many more.

The interviewer refers to the 1960s as the SF "Golden Age." NO. The "Golden Age" was the Campbell era of the 1940s. And he seems to think LeGuin tranformed SF single handed. The feminist wave of the late 1960s and 1970s had many people besides LeGuin. Russ, Charnas, Tiptree, Sargent come immediately to mind. And if I pulled out Sargent's and Salmonson's anthologies, I'd come up with many, many more names. I hate this process of tranforming history into a handful of towering figures with the rest of us like ants around their feet.

Post script:

I checked Wikipedia. The feminist wave in SF appears to have started in the early 1970s, rather than in the late 1960s. This means I am part of it. I thought I came slightly after. A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968 and Left Hand of Darkness in 1969, so LeGuin was a bit ahead of the rest of us. I still think it was a group effort.

Star Trek brought a flood of women into SF fandom, and at the same time -- in the late 1960s -- the second wave of feminism was emerging in the general culture. As far as I can tell, these two events -- Star Trek and second wave feminism -- led to the feminist SF of the 1970s. Women had always been present in SF, but they became far more numerous, obvious and feisty; and they were good writers. As Theodore Sturgeon famously said, "All the good new science fiction writers of the 1970s are women, except for James Tiptree Jr."

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Note on Brave

I did some checking on Wikipedia. Brave has wild bears, kilts and tartans. Wild bears became extinct in Scotland in the 9th or 10th century. Kilts date from the 16th century, tartans from the 17th century. And the horses are huge. They look like the chargers that carried armored knights in the 15th century. Earlier horses were more like ponies. So the movie is ahistorical in large ways. This blows apart any argument that we can't have people of color in the movie, because it's ahistorical.

The movie is a fantasy idea of Scotland. It doesn't have people of color, because our fantasy image of Scotland is white guys running around in kilts. Well, maybe this fantasy needs to be modified. The kilts and tartans and bears and big horses are all fun. Keep them. But make the people different colors.

Brown-skinned Scots are more likely than plaid kilts in the 10th century.

Note: My friend Ruth suggests that kilts and tartans probably existed before they were formalized in the 16th and 17th centuries. But I am pretty sure about the horses.

Re Another Question

How does one introduce non-white characters in such a way that readers don't see them as white?

This is problem, if the author is white. I mentioned that readers see Li Li-xia in A Woman of the Iron People as white, in spite of her name. Granted, she has spent much of her life in the Middle West, so she comes off as a Midwesterner. Many people seem to think Midwesterners are all white. They apparently have not heard of Chicago or Detroit.

I suspect readers also see the heroine in Ring of Swords as white, though her name is Anna Perez, her skin is brown, and I mention that she has a Mayan profile.

It's comparatively easy to introduce a non-viewpoint character and make clear how he or she looks. Just say it: the character is black. The character is East Asian descent. Of course, you have to assume a society that still notices these things.

In my Lydia Duluth stories, most humans are dark brown or black, due to genetic modification to protect their skins from the radiation of many different stars. My heroine -- Lydia -- is light brown, because she comes from a conservative colony that does not believe in gene mod. She uses a product called Dixie Plum Skin Darkener when she is on a planet with radiation that worries her. I mention some or all of this in each story.

With a viewpoint character, you may have to use techniques such as looking in a mirror. It's tedious, but it gets the message across. A simple statement of where the character is from may help. If she is from India and her last name is Chatterjee, people really should figure out that she is Indian.

You may have to make the point more than once, since white is the default color -- at least for white readers reading a white author. Talk about the ancestral home on the Bay of Bengal, which got flooded when sea levels rose. Talk about favorite foods. (This will allow you to do research in Indian restaurants, a bonus.) Look up Indian holidays and mention them. If the character is several generations away from India, you need not do a lot of research. But favorite foods often last for several generations, as do holidays...

Re a Question

Is my epic poem available?

The poem is not available. I have thought of self-publishing it. It's an allegory about a maiden knight on a quest to find and overthrow the evil giant Greed, who holds many people prisoner in his castle. It's full of such goodies as the Caravan of Hope and the Garden of Idle Delight and Greed's brother, the evil giant Stinginess...

Hope and Charity are characters in it, but not Faith. It is not a religious poem.