Thursday, February 26, 2015

Old Venus

I have a story in the anthology, which is why I'm posting this. I have read a review, and it genuinely sounds like a good group of stories by an impressive group of writers. I always like being in good company.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Re the story "Moby Quilt"

This is a reply to Timothy, who commented that he liked"Moby Quilt."

"Quilt" is the fourth Lydia Duluth story. All four have been published. The first, "Stellar Harvest," was a Hugo finalist and maybe a Nebula finalist. I no longer remember. Anyway, it's in one of the Nebula Awards collections, edited by Kim Stanley Robinson. In addition, there are three stories set in the Lydia Duluth universe, but not about Lydia Duluth. All of these have been published. One, "Knapsack Poems," was a Nebula finalist and has been reprinted several times.

There are three more unpublished Lydia Duluth stories, which I'd like to get out to editors in the next month or so.

The final plan is a collection titled The Adventures of Lydia Duluth, which would include all ten stories. But first I have to get the hwarhath collection out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Privilege and Weather

And maybe I should let go of 'privilege.' It's apparently useful for other people.

Outside, there's a clear blue sky and a lot of sunlight. Predicted high of 30, which is pretty warm. The rest of the week the highs are going to be below freezing and above zero. No snow forecast. I really could use some snow -- not eight feet, like Boston, but maybe six inches and then a series of light dustings to keep the snow white.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Several Thoughts on Privilege by Me from Facebook

I am thinking about privilege, a word I am not crazy about. I suppose it's useful. It comes from the Latin for 'private' and the Latin for 'law.' It means a law passed for or against a private citizen. Now, per Merriam Webster, it means (1) a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others
(2) a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud
(3) the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society.

I'm seeing it used mostly as definition # 1, though I think a number of people are blending definition # 1 and definition # 3. This makes sense, given the fact that Americans have a really poor sense of class, which also make sense. For generations Americans have been told that we are all middle class. Or at least all white people are middle class. We do see people of color as different. This is especially true of African Americans. They are seen as poor and probably criminal, even if wearing a three piece suit and a Phi Beta Kappa key. I find this unbelievable, but it's obviously true. Large numbers of Americans -- including, apparently, most cops -- cannot see class markers. I've seen this confusion in action at panels I moderated at SF cons. A discussion of race and class is close to impossible, since -- here in the US -- race is code for class and class is code for race.

I don't know where this thought is going, except talking about issues of privilege is this blurry mess is not easy.
I am old enough so I can remember when it was assumed that most Americans would have food, shelter, clothing, medical care, transportation and enough money to get their kids through college. It was not called privilege. It was called having a union job. When you call a decent life, earned by hard work, privilege you are doing the Koch Brothers' work for them.
I don't like the p-word because it's fuzzy and because it replaces the idea that all people have a basic right to a decent life with some kind of weird hierarchy of suffering. You are privileged because your life is better than the lives of some other people, even if your life is maybe not so great. At the same time privilege means, per one dictionary, "a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by one person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich." (This is one of several definitions, that blur together and make it hard to be sure what we are talking about.) So it's possible, using this word, to slide from 'at least I don't live in a war zone' to 'break out the caviar.'

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Previous Book

Here is a photo of the previous book, which came out in December. The teapot is by Rachael Hoffman-Dachelet.

I am uncomfortable doing self-promotion. I figure it will be easier if I promote someone else's work as well.

From Aqueduct Press

Three early novels by Eleanor Arnason
I'm pleased to announce that Aqueduct Press has just issued e-book editions of three, out-of-print novels by Eleanor Arnason: The Sword Smith, To the Resurrection Station, and Daughter of the Bear King. Each includes a new afterword by Eleanor.

The Sword Smith tells the tale of Limper, a master sword smith running from an oppressive boss-king who forced him to make expensive junk, and Nargri, his young dragon companion. Written in the early 1970s, and published in 1978 by Condor, The Sword Smith is an anti-epic fantasy. In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes the characters as "mostly fairly ordinary people, rather than heroes, wizards, and kings. Their problems are ordinary problems, rather than a gigantic struggle between good and evil. There is no magic. The dragons are intelligent therapod dinosaurs, and the trolls are some kind of hominid, maybe Neanderthals. In many ways, it is a science fiction story disguised as a fantasy."

To the Resurrection Station, Arnason's second novel (written in the 1970s), was first published in 1986. On a planet far from our Earth, it begins a Gothic tale: a moldering mansion full of secrets, a disturbing master of the house, a young and innocent heroine, and the mansion's robot servant, who drives the story. A motley crew escapes to Earth (now overrun by interesting intelligent machines, except for a clearly crazy spaceport) where they land and begin exploring the ruins of New York City.

In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes Resurrection Station as about people who can't fit into social roles. "Claud can't be a traditional Native. Belinda can't be a straight young woman or a traditional heroine. Shortpaw is not an acceptable giant mutant rat. Without being especially heroic, they all refuse to give in or give up."

Not your everyday fantasy, Daughter of the Bear King clearly arises from Second Wave Feminism. A middle-aged woman discovers that she has a role in an epic struggle between shoddiness and integrity. And her battle flows across time and universes.

On a Monday morning, Esperance Olson is suddenly transported to another world where dragons fly and wizards divulge her heritage: daughter of the ancient Bear King, she is a shape-changer with magical powers. This strange world runs on magic, and the wizards have summoned Esperance to fight a creeping and shadowy menace. Her epic journey transports her back and forth between her birth world and Minneapolis, where the magic and monsters follow, wreaking havoc.

Samples of each book are available for free download at Aqueduct's site, where the books are available in both epub and mobi formats for $7.95.

Love Poems (and a Novel)

From facebook:

Patrick and I went to Barnes and Noble Sunday, so I could buy him the new Samsung nook for his birthday. While we were there, I bought a notebook for myself, because it was on sale and had WRITE on the cover. Always good advice. And I bought a translation of Neruda's 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I had looked at it before and passed on it. I love Neruda, but I worried about his love poems. I've now read three or four of the poems. The problem is, he describes the woman as a landscape. I get no sense of a person. These poems were written long ago, when Neruda was a mere kid, so I will forgive him. But love poems that treat the loved one as a thing are creepy.

I can't remember ever thinking of Patrick as a landscape. I usually think of him as a cute, funny, clever, crabby person. (I added crabby, so you won't think I am uncritical.) I put him in a novel (To the Resurrection Station, now out in e-version) as an intelligent giant mutant rat, still a person.

If you think I am pitching To the Resurrection Station, you are right. The rat is named Shortpaw. At least one person who knows Patrick says it is a true portrait.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Postscript to the Vanishing Women Post

One of my friends thought the comparison to Hollywood (in my vanishing women post) is wrong. New SFF writers don't get attention because they were young and foxy. They get attention because they are hip and the next big thing. This sounds correct. I withdraw the comparison to Hollywood.

Being a Writer # 2

A writers list that I belong to is having a discussion about networking and self-promotion. It's well known that publishers do very little promotion of most books. The big guys only promote the books they expect to be best sellers. The independent presses simply do not have the resources for promotion. So it's up to the author.

There are two problems. One is that many writers are introverts and do not like networking and self-promotion. Among other things, it feels pushy and obnoxious to be always talking about your work.

The second problem is, it isn't clear that self-promotion works. It seems to in a handful of cases. But when authors get together, they talk about all the things that don't work. Forget about having postcards and bookmarks and refrigerator magnets made. They do nothing. Appearances at bookstores might work a bit, but organizing your own tour is difficult; and it's always a drag when three people show up for a reading, all of them relatives.

I am thinking of making business cards, which I do need, with the cover of Hidden Folk (my latest book) on one side. I have e-editions of my first three novels, all long out of print, coming out from Aqueduct Press. I'm thinking of having bookmarks made to publicize them. I am serious in saying I don't think bookmarks work, but I like bookmarks. They are useful. Business cards and bookmarks celebrate my publications and help me remember that I am, in fact, an author.

Maybe I will do this, and maybe I won't. I do need the business cards.

I don't enjoy readings or signing and don't go looking for them, though I will do them, if asked to.

(One big rule in self-promotion is, do what you enjoy. If most of it doesn't work, then have fun.)

I maintain this blog so people can find me on the Internet. I once lost a sale to Harper's, because the person who wanted to buy a poem of mine couldn't find me. Never again. I've made a handful of sales because people could find the blog and the email address associated with it. I've gotten a few pieces of fan mail. That is all to the good.

If you have a blog, you need to keep it more or less up to date. People won't revisit a blog, if the last entry was two years ago. They may suspect you are dead or in a nursing home. So I try to post every week or so. I try to make the entries entertaining, though I do not have John Scalzi's gift for chat at all.

Blogs are supposed to be out-of-date as methods of promotion. We are all supposed to tweet. I will stick with my blog, thank you. My natural length seems to be novelettes or novellas, and the same goes for posting. I like room to say what I want to say.

I do facebook, because I enjoy facebook. I haven't gone out looking for facebook friends, so I have only 700. Almost all of them are members of the science fiction community: writers, editors, publishers, critics, reviewers, fans. This is because most of my social life revolves around writing and science fiction. I treasure the handful of facebook friends who are not in the community. They remind me that there is a larger world.

Most of the time, I don't push my writing on facebook. Instead, I talk about the weather, what I've done during the day. Trivial material. There are also photos of Iceland and cute animals from around the world. I usually link to at least one political article a day, though I try to limit these, since so much news is unhappy-making.

Always pushing your career makes you seem, well, pushy or a narcissist.

I go to local conventions and to Wiscon, in order to meet with friends. I do panels, because I enjoy doing panels, and they get me a free membership. Once in a long while, I go to out-of-the-region cons. I belong to a couple of e=mail lists, one made up of SF writers, the other made up of feminists in the SFF community.

I do a column for Strange Horizons six times a year. I took me a long time to get in the swing of writing those, but I have now written three columns ahead, because they were fun to write: one about Chinese detective stories, one about Ghost in the Shell and one about vanishing pieces of SF history.

I have probably written most of this entry before, because writers are always mulling over self-promotion.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Being a Writer

Lyda Morehouse has a post on the Wyrdsmith's blog about the dark side of being a writer. Scroll down a bit to find the post.

For most writers, writing is a lot of hard work, often while holding a day job to pay the rent; and the return is dubious. Even most published writers don't make a living. There is always the fear, if you are midlist, that you will become unpublishable. The publishers aren't making enough money from your books. You aren't breaking out. You will never (it seems) become a best seller. The publishers will drop you.

If you are published by independent presses, then it's almost certain that you won't make a living.

I suspect most people go into writing in the hopes of becoming famous and financially comfortable, maybe even a little bit rich. At least doing well enough to quit the day job. So, what do you do when you realize it isn't happening?

I think you think about why you write.

There is love of craft. There is love of telling stories. There is the pleasure of whatever praise you get. Sometimes, you touch people. They write and say your work meant something to them, made them happy, helped them through a rough time.

For me, writing is a way to cope with a world that often seems way too dark. It's full of unmaking -- governments that don't work, infrastructure that is crumbling, wars that destroy nations, neglect that destroys individuals. So I make something. I try to make it funny and hopeful.

In my community, the SFF community, being a writer counts for something, which is another reason to write. You get to be on panels. You get free memberships to cons. People even sometimes ask for autographs.

So, it's worth it. But check out Lyda's post.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Vanishing Women

I'm thinking through the question about why women and minorities prior to 2014 have vanished from the popular history of SFF.

Patrick suggests it's because people don't read enough and don't know the history of the field. This is possible.

Part of the reason may be -- it's more dramatic if women and minorities suddenly appear, rather than becoming slowly more numerous over decades. It makes the new writers seem more radical and heroic. They have smashed down barriers and suddenly broken through! Before them there was nothing except a vast wasteland of straight, white, male writers. Now, they are here! Ta-ta!

Most of the writers who are being vanished from SFF history are women, and this brings up another couple of issues. I've been hearing from mid-career women writers who feel they are having a lot more trouble than male writers of a comparable age. The women say they feel they are being pushed to the side to make way for younger, more attractive, cooler young women. The men continue to get attention, even if they are no longer young -- and maybe never were good looking.

This would be comparable to Hollywood, when male actors can play leads for decades, but women actors (most of them) are finished when they look past 35.

Someone in the discussion (a guy) asked if this problem in SFF was related to the general problem of women being ignored as they age. The women in the discussion said definitely yes.

I suspect we need a Third Wave of Feminism in the SF community. This time there are a lot of aging women writers and critics and fans, so this time we need to address prejudice against elder women.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Addendum to the Chopped Chicken Liver

Lyda Morehouse and I are discussing proposing a panel on the writers -- especially women writers -- who have been disappeared from the current version of SF history, which says the field was a vast wasteland of straight, white, male writers until 2014.

Obviously, our oxen have been gored, and the best response -- I think -- is to start a discussion.

Our current plan is to propose the panel idea to CONvergence.


I haven't posted for the better part of a month. What is there to say? I am still proofreading -- at this point, the last of the three out-of-print novels which Aqueduct Press will be publishing in e-versions. This project has taken way too long, which is mostly my fault.

Other than that, we are having a mild winter with little snow. I would sooner have a cold winter with lots more snow, but I am stuck with what we have.

Patrick and I had a wonderful dinner with a couple of friends last night, then we went grocery shopping for a few essentials, and I picked up a small orchid in the grocery store. My sister-in-law gave me an orchid for a present the Christmas before last. (I have mentioned it before.) It has bloomed twice so far, but is not blooming now. So I wanted another orchid. This one has deep pink centers and pale green petals. Four blooms and four buds. I hope it does well.

The hoya has nine clusters of flower buds and almost ready to bloom again. (It bloomed last in December.) In addition, we have a vase full of cut flowers -- bright yellow poms with green centers. Flowers help in the winter, especially a mild, gray winter with little snow.