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|Saturday, September 3rd, 2016|
|advice about short stories
Wow, I've been doing the editor thing for some time now, and I continue to love it. I get to work with amazing people, both as magazine staff and as authors. Kelly Link won the Sturgeon Award for "The Game of Smash and Recovery" and that was delightful. (Basically I did nothing to that story except figure out how to get it into our site's HTML, because it came in as an incredibly clean and polished manuscript; the HTML was actually non-trivial, but I think it came out okay.)
Anyway, I've noticed that as I read slush, the things that I tell people when I'm writing encouraging rejection slips-- you know, the kind of rejection slip where you're like 'I liked x, I liked y, z was prohibitive, send me more of your work', as opposed to sending the form letter-- these things do, in fact, boil down to a few suggestions that I would like to tell writers* in general because maybe it would help. I'd like to get them out of my head, because maybe they will help, and maybe it will be less frustrating that I do not have time to write a full critique letter to every single slush author. There are several, but I'm going to go over them one at a time, because if I try to write them all up at once I'll never manage.
The really major one is length.
My magazine theoretically accepts anything up to 10,000 words. We buy longer lengths rarely, because anything longer than about 6K is going to be run split over two consecutive weeks, and therefore must not only be amazing enough to take up the space, but also have a splitting point where we can break it for serialization. But we do take up to 10K.
You will notice there is no limit on how short a piece can be. This is intentional.
Over the last year-and-change, I have lost track of how many times I have said 'That needs to be shorter'. I have lost track of how many times I have said 'This would be great if it lost 2K words'. I lost track of that within three or four months of starting as an editor.
Over the same amount of time, I have said 'This needs to be longer'-- not 'There's one element that needs to be expanded and others diminished', not 'This doesn't include the scene that would really interest me', not 'You stopped before the ramifications of the plot played out', all of which can and should be fixable without changing a piece's length, but 'You wrote this too efficiently and it flat-out just needs to be longer'-- once. ONCE. I was shocked to discover myself saying it at all.
What I'm talking about here isn't specifically actual length, as an objective thing, so much as it is a pacing issue. From what I've seen, the amount of content (plot, characterization, setting, backstory, etcetera) that new and newish writers tend to put into their short stories tends to be spread out too much over too long a length. Generally, the longer a piece is, the more drastic a length cut it could sustain. When we get a 10K piece, it could often be 5K and have exactly the same content in every way
. If it comes in at 6K, I'd like to see it at 4K, or at 3.5. If it comes in at 4, I'd like to see it at 3.
And so the main piece of advice I have for new short story writers, based on editorial experience, is to get a submission draft ready, the best one you can, and then sit down and remove half the wordcount while changing absolutely none of the content. It will be difficult. It may well physically hurt. You may feel as though you are hair-splitting by rejuggling entire paragraphs to get rid of only two or three words. You will believe that it cannot be done, or that if you manage it the thing will proceed to suck. Think of it as a hard boundary, the way 10K is a hard boundary for our magazine, a boundary where we throw everything out unread that goes over it, and persevere.
After a while, you will find that you are able to pry fewer and fewer words out of your drafts, because you won't be putting the extraneous ones there in the first place. This is how you internalize the kind of word multitasking, the way that every scene and every sentence does more than one thing to help the story move, that makes a professional. This is how you get the kind of density that really sucks your readers in and makes the piece come to life in their heads.
And this is how I get to write fewer 'I love it, but it's three thousand words too long' rejection letters. Seriously. Halve your wordcount, keep your content.
Best advice I have. * If you're selling short stories reliably, you probably are not my audience for this, although it's always worth checking to see whether this advice happens to apply. But it probably doesn't, because you learned how to do this already.
You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
Dear everyone I know in Britain and/or who is British: I am so incredibly fucking sorry. Maybe we can all just agree to rewind 2016 to, like, somewhere in February or March and try it again from the top.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Tuesday, June 21st, 2016|
|a genius unappreciated in his own time
Our Lucien-cat is still alive. Ruth and I went to Provincetown for the weekend, and I thought
I had just about managed to cat-proof the kitchen before we left, but this turned out not to be the case.
The thing is, Lucien's medical issues mean that he never, ever stops feeling hungry-- his body has literally forgotten what it is like to feel full-- and he is applying all of his considerable intellect and energy to the question of getting more food. It is really very draining to live with. We are already feeding him as much as he can physically process, and have no way to reason with him further. And it's difficult to tell what human food he'll think is food, and what his mobility restrictions actually are at any given moment (I suspect that last one of varying by the day, too).
Therefore, the list of things he has tried to eat in the house recently includes incidents like the time I found him sinking his fangs into the outside plastic of a packet of ramen, just like a little kitty vampire. I told him sternly that he was not a graduate student, but he kept trying, so now everything pasta-like has been added to the long, long list of things that cannot be stored anywhere cat-reachable. The list already included all pastry and bread products, all dairy and cheese products, avocados, and sorbet, as well as, of course, anything meat or meatlike and all forms of fish and shellfish. The problem is that 'stored anywhere' also means, for instance, 'put down on the counter while I get something else out of the fridge', or 'the spoon I have left in the pot between intervals of stirring', and such-like. He is an incentive to work clean in the kitchen in a way the chefs of my acquaintance would envy, because absolutely everything that one is not both holding and
looking at has to be washed instantly before it becomes the subject of an Act of Cat.
Spent about an hour one night literally carrying him around everywhere I went, under one arm, as there was no other way to stop him from ninja-ing, and nobody liked that, I tell you what. Rearranging the entire kitchen is problematic due to limited space and the fact that his idea of food seems to keep expanding. He can't be kept out of the kitchen entirely, as he has to pass through it to get to the litterbox, and also it doesn't have any doors. Sigh.
So Ruth and I went away from the weekend, and everything I thought might be remotely of interest to him was either in the fridge, with a child safety lock on it because he can open the fridge, or in a cabinet, that we're duct-taping closed every time we use it because he can open the cabinets.
His actual cat food, the wet food in cans, we buy a flat at a time, still in the plastic, and stack in the kitchen. I'd known for a while that Lucien knows that food comes from cans, because he'll rub up against the flat burbling plaintively; I had vaguely considered moving the entire flat somewhere totally away from him, because I didn't want him to get frustrated having it just sitting right there. But then I figured it would be better to have him focusing on that then on, I don't know, the peanut butter, so I left it.
This was a mistake.sovay
and the cat-medication person we hired to come in and do the high-level cat-medicating while we were away can both corroborate:
Our cat has learned. How. To open. His own. Cans.
ALL BY HIMSELF and with NO OPPOSABLE THUMBS.
This is a multi-step process which involved him
a) digging through the plastic covering of the flat of cans
b) making sure not to pull the can he was after out of the flat entirely, because the other cans had to kind of wedge it in place so he could get some leverage
c) pulling up the pull-tab on the can lid somehow, probably with his teeth
and d) tugging on the pull-tab with his jaws as he pushed the can away from him with his front paws, which was, because the can was as I have mentioned wedged among other cans and the plastic, enough force to get the thing open.sovay
caught him during d), because it was apparently very loud and clangy and it was also four in the morning. After some understandable boggling, she put the open can in the fridge and hauled the flat into a we-hope-cat-inaccessible closet, thus at least temporarily ending his merrie games & tricks.
He has been telling me ever since I got home that I knew he was this intelligent when I left the house, and what did I think he would resort to when we
only feed him two-and-a-half entire cans of insanely expensive prescription wet food per day
never ever feed him. And I have been saying that there is a difference between knowledge in the abstract and in the, shall we say, concrete, and that if he has to be the Einstein of cats, maybe he could apply himself to more generally socially acceptable goals overall, and here we sit, staring at each other.
HE CAN OPEN A CAN BY HIMSELF.
I just. I don't even.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Tuesday, May 31st, 2016|
|Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary novels
I have a long and somewhat contentious relationship with Elizabeth Hand's work. There was a lot of it in the library when I was young and reading my way through the local branch, and I found her stuff an odd combination of things I really liked and couldn't find almost anywhere else in fiction and... things that are not that. I can dissect in detail what I find good about each of her early and middle-period novels, but also dissect what I consider giant, book-breaking, tear-your-hair-and-scream flaws in every single one of them. Mortal Love
, for instance, is trying really hard to do genuinely unknowable and inhuman Faerie, and approaching it from a direction completely different from Hope Mirrlees or
from Susannah Clarke or even from Sylvia Townsend Warner, and also Swinburne is a major character. But the protagonist's arc relies on that old, terrible, baseless mental-health canard of 'true magic and mystery can only be accessed if you stop taking the pills that cure your mental illness', and that trope is so toxic and so cliched that I snarl every time I think about that plot point. Despite the novel being good enough otherwise that I went out and read John MacGregor's The Discovery of the Art of the Insane
because it was in the works cited, and that's one of the best pieces of art history anything I've ever read. You get the idea.
There's always been a certain kind of decadence that Hand is the go-to for, though, rather like Tanith Lee, but in a modern setting. Her novels have the sort of parties in them where everyone is in such an altered state of consciousness that the paranormal slips in unnoticed around the back, in the welter of various drugs and sex and people trying and usually failing to become Great Artists. On account of this vein in her work, it's never surprised me when she gets filed under dark fantasy or under horror, because she describes a lot of the sort of thing that happens when the party circuit goes wrong, the shadow side of sixties utopianism. But I've also never thought of her as particularly dark, or particularly disturbing. I mean I had never found anything of hers disturbing, myself, though I don't know if this is one of those things where I am coming at it from a different angle than the general consensus. I've never been disturbed at least partly because one of her major flaws has always been what feels to me like a reluctance to go over the top and really commit to things, a tendency for some bit of a story to be built up as a Huge Dark Secret and then turn out to be not only quite mundane and usual but exactly what one was expecting. She'd put on the brakes when I wanted the accelerator, and I'd come away admiring the competency of her craft, but with a sense of vague annoyance.
In 2008, though, she started writing a series of crime novels.Generation Loss
, the first one, is fine. It's pretty much exactly like all the other Elizabeth Hand novels. I enjoyed it in that way where I forgot literally everything about the plot the instant I put the book down, and noted mentally only that she had distinctly turned down the presence of the overt supernatural in the story in favor of layers of subtext, but that this didn't seem to help. I'll probably reread it eventually. It's skippable. I didn't expect much from the follow-up, if she was going to write more of them, but then at some point in there I went to hear Hand give a lecture at Readercon about Norwegian and Scandinavian black metal, and my expectations rose for her next book, cautiously.
Hand is a very good
lecturer, by the way. I knew precisely nothing about Norwegian black metal, and in the course of about an hour she gave a packed room of people a precis of its major players, the various bands that have become famous and their wide-ranging occult, criminal, and racist affiliations, the distinctly terrifying imagery surrounding the music (including some photographs which raised the hair on the back of my neck), and the horrible things that have happened to various people involved, mostly at each others' hands. Only at the end, when we were all sitting and wondering why any human being would get into this whole scene, did she break out the audio and play us some of the most shatteringly beautiful and surprising music that I have ever heard. I came away feeling that if her next book shared the good points of the lecture, she would really have something there.Available Dark
(2013) met all my expectations and more. There isn't a single thing wrong with it; it's plotted and characterized perfectly, it all ticks together like clockwork while still containing the messy human unpredictability of fallible people. Its center is Cassandra Neary, forty-odd, alcoholic and speed freak, still something of a name in photography circles for her single collection of pictures of her scene of doomed teenagers because that scene happened to be at CBGB. Cass is dishonest as all addicts are, basically shit at adulting, and ekes out some bare consolations in a bleak existence through trying to make and experience good art. Her eye for photos is much of what she has remaining. The novel takes her to Finland and to Iceland, where her eye for photos gets her tangled up in a perfectly mundane set of crimes, but also.
The thing is, this book is filed under Crime; nothing in it has
to be supernatural, except for how it obviously is. Cass Neary, thief, cheat, and chooser of the slain, tangles with a set of symbols, ideas, and forces far older than the surface layer of the book would suggest up front, and those forces tangle right back at her. It's an impressive book, a winter book, cold and refractory and vertiginous. Until this year, I considered it Elizabeth Hand's best novel.
This year, the third one came out, Hard Light
This is the part where it becomes difficult to write a review, because this book got me where I live. It has another perfectly mundane set of crimes, this time in London, and it works as crime fiction; it continues the layer of brilliant supernatural subtext, without losing any of its predecessor's power (there is a level on which much of this book happens because there is a baby shaman living in the middle of nowhere country who really needs
somebody to talk to, and isn't Cass surprised to be that someone). There's a layer of pop-culture references, because Cass and her circles live surrounded by jukeboxes and swiped photo books and the apparatus of underground any-and-every-art, and the references that are real are so perfectly on-point that the references Hand invents slip in absolutely seamlessly. And there's a brilliant thing that goes on for the whole book, in which every single physical description of London is both accurate, something I've heard about from people who've been there or seen in photos and on the news, and at the same time is the description of a chilling techno-dystopia which reads like an Iain Sinclair wet dream. But none of that is what I found so frightening.
I don't talk about it much, but the place I grew up in was not a good place, and when I was a teenager the group of people I spent my time with was not a good group of people. I come from the kind of city that gets described as 'a good place to raise kids' because there is nothing for those kids to do and therefore theoretically no way for them to get in trouble. This is underestimating teenagers, drastically. If there is nothing that they are allowed to do that is productive and interesting and that they feel is worth their time, they will invent entire new categories of trouble to get into, and also start chewing off their own paws like so many foxes in a suburban bear-trap. I was never heavily into drugs myself. I tried a few and they didn't do much for me and I stopped, stuff that I think of as fairly normal teenage experimentation. But the people I ran with--
The crushing futility of having nothing to do but get high is part of what people try to escape by getting high. It doesn't work. The futility springs right back out afterwards. So some people, especially the sort of bright, bookish, cooped-up kid I spent my time around, will also try other avenues that might possibly be an escape. Also teenagers like edginess. What I am saying here is that I knew a lot
of aspiring Satanists and chaos magicians and Crowleyites and wannabe goth sorcerers, and some of them were into things that were pretty thoroughly fucked up. I was always considered something of a goody-two-shoes by that crowd, but I knew them. My abusive high school ex-boyfriend, who was aiming at Thelema by way of Vampire: The Masquerade, creeped me out impressively once by taking me on a roadtrip several states away to visit a relative of his, literally vanishing into the night upon getting there, and coming into our bedroom at six in the morning straight from the deck outside, stark naked and so covered in blood I did not immediately recognize him. The only thing I have ever been able to ascertain about the blood is that it wasn't his.
Anyway, I got out of that whole scene, by going off to college a long way distant, meeting a whole new set of people, and most importantly having something productive and interesting to do with my life. But I remember the ever-tightening clutch of knowing that this terrible place was all there was going to be, weekend after weekend of aimlessness broken up only by people finding new and impressive ways to be awful to each other. I know what it's like to go to bed and sleep twelve hours and get up and find that the party from the night before is still going on and the same people are not only still at it but having the same stoned set of useless conversations, as though time had slipped a groove. I had my way out, and I clutched at that even when it was a vague future glimmer that I did not really believe in.
That place is where Cass Neary lives, except that the only thing that gets her out of it is the jolt of the supernatural. The gods in these books drink blood, and that's better than the darkness that is simply human darkness, because it is, at least, completely honest. If it weren't for the gods calling her name, Cass would live her whole life in yesterday's parties, and then overdose. I have to say, any book which makes the people perpetrating human sacrifice genuinely seem as though they have the cleaner, more reasonable responses to their situation has some seriously dark wallop to it. Hand manages to clearly separate the sort of petty never-was pretension that my ex-boyfriend dealt in from the people who are devotedly doing dark things because of what they really believe, and the first lot come off terribly, as they ought to due to all of the bullshit. But the second set... let's just say I'm very glad I never met anybody like that when I was a teenager. Let's say that concept is part of what frightens me.
Greil Marcus, in his essential secret history Lipstick Traces
, makes a distinction that has been very useful to me in my life, the distinction between negationist art and nihilistic art. Negationist art is art which is trying to tear down established structures in order to free people to put up something new in their place. It often has no idea what the new things should be, and it's not in the putting-things-up business itself, but the action of making a space for the future is, while it involves destruction, also to the negationist essentially creative. Nihilistic art is trying to tear down established structures in order to tear them down. It wishes nothing to remain. It is trying to stop anybody else from being in the putting-things-up business. Elizabeth Hand is not remotely a nihilist. This is part of what makes the book so disturbing. It would be much easier to deal with if it were nihilist. It would be easier to refute its characterizations, for one thing, and say, well, people don't behave like this. The thing is, though, they actually do. The fact that Cass's cockeyed moments of transcendence are entirely supernatural makes the rest of her life even more believably bitter.Hard Light
is a claustrophobic masterpiece without a word out of place, a waking nightmare grounded in enough reality to make its dreamscape stable, and it's the novel I always wanted from Elizabeth Hand and never dared to expect. It's chilling and luminous and full of amazing research into a lot of real and imaginary history, and, though I know I haven't made it seem like it, it's funny as hell. I treasure it.
I have no idea whether she's going to write another one. It could go either way, and either way would work for me. I look forward to whatever Elizabeth Hand decides to write next, but even if the next thing isn't half as good, this is the kind of book to hold onto, to think, well, I will always have this one. Whenever I dare to reread it.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, March 18th, 2016|
|admin + a meme
Okay, I think-- I think
-- that I have managed to get everyone onto the filter-to-talk-about-the-baby who asked to be (and if you asked to be, it's fine, I'm putting you on it). So if you asked, you should be able to see an entry marked as being on that filter if you look at my journal as a homepage. However, it's possible I may have missed something somewhere, so please let me know if that has happened.
Liv kindly gave me the letter L in one of those various-things-starting-with-a-letter memes. I am trying to get into the habit of posting more often and not fretting so much about what, so it was helpful.
Something I hate: Lettuce, subheading iceberg. Other kinds of lettuce are fine, but iceberg-- look, for many years I didn't think it had a taste at all, and I wondered why one would eat something that is so close to being water when one could just go get an actual glass of water. Then, lo these years ago, I made a great mistake in the making of meringue, in that I wanted a lemon meringue and so I put actual lemon juice into
the meringue. Right in there with the egg whites. You would think this would then fail to stabilize, but something about the cream-of-tartar or the atmospheric conditions was perfect and the meringue baked into gorgeously fluffy little piles. I went around handing them to people, and everyone I handed one to would bite into it, and then look extremely confused and say "Lettuce?!?" That is how I discovered that iceberg lettuce does in fact have a distinct flavor, and I don't like it, and it can be duplicated by doing something completely appalling to perfectly innocent confectionery. We had to throw the rest of the batch out, because of course no one wanted more than that one bite. Butter lettuce, I am down for, or Romaine, but as for iceberg, I say it isn't spinach and I say the hell with it.
Something I love: L is for Le Guin and Lewis and L'Engle, but that's obvious if you know me, so something different: Le Tigre's 2004 album This Island
has been on repeat on my headphones for a while recently. Not sure what I like best from it, the formal perfection of the title track, the in-your-face joke's-on-the-world cock-
techno of 'Nanny Nanny Boo Boo', the way 'New Kicks' sounds as though it were taped live at the sort of protest I've spent time at for Black Lives Matter while also being a snapshot of some crucial things about the Bush II years, or the joyous butch awareness and sensibility of 'Viz'. I loved Bikini Kill in the late nineties with the heartswollen teenage love of somebody scrawling slogans on school binders with a Wite-Out pen, but if Kathleen Hanna had to change bands, adding a pop sensibility, a bigger dose of humor, and growing a ridiculously catchy set of hooks was definitely the way to go about doing it. "All night/We've been talking to liars/And it's all right!/Just not in the style of tigers."
Somewhere I've been: Louisiana, which we drove through on the way out of Texas, cats in the back of the car taking turns yowling so they could stretch their voices longer. When we reached the comfortable and homey B&B in New Orleans, the cats said that this was acceptable and they would live here now, thank you, and in some surprise I found myself agreeing with them. The thousand little details of whether I like a place are based in part on things like the density of greenery and the indigenous food culture, both of which are good in Louisiana (or at least the bits of it we saw), but the main things for me are how much sky there is and the gestalt of the area's smell. The GPS-enabled drive through back-roads and over swamp bridges was a chance to stop being agoraphobic and annoyed at my olfactory nerves (cf. Texas) and just appreciate the countryside. Wouldn't want to live there, but I'd be delighted to go back.
Somewhere I'd like to go: Lichtenstein. If I were given a huge sum of money and absolutely forbidden to spend it on improving-the-world purposes, I would strongly consider renting out the nation of Lichtenstein for a significant wedding anniversary, because that is a thing that you can do if you can afford the rental fee. But, even lacking said amount of money, I'd love to see the place, and it sounds like a good amount to look at in one day. It's not very high on my list of places I really want to go (just the highest beginning with L), but I can imagine it being a charming detour from Germany or Austria or Switzerland or bumming around on the train.
Someone I know: Lucien, our traditionally-alpha cat, is about three feet from me on the couch as I type this. He came down with diabetes earlier in the year and it's not as under control as we'd like, yet, so at the moment he is both the smaller and the weaker cat, eight pounds on a build that doesn't begin to look full-fleshed until he weighs about twelve, and yes, it is going to his brother Rafe's head. Head as in Rafe kicking Lucien in the, at all hours. Sigh. Have not yet gotten to the point of shoving the feline equivalent of Pedialyte down Lucien's throat, but if he loses any more weight at all I am going to, as while I am of course very fond of Rafe he has never learned how to sit in my lap while I knit, and it's nice to have somebody around I can trust to behave while they do that. (Mind you, knitting is one thing, but purling, apparently, is when it is time for the kitty to treat the work-in-progress as a harpsichord. Let's not even talk about Fair Isle.)
A film I like: Labyrinth
is eternal, of course, though I haven't been able to watch it yet since Bowie's death, but my most recent L-film is Laura
, which I had heard of for many years as the craziest of the American film noirs and which keeps turning up in books about queer subtext in cinema. I was delighted to discover that despite having read a great deal about the movie in said books about queer subtext, everyone had been so kind as to keep the genuinely surprising plot unspoiled for me for the last fifty-odd years, and so it was a movie I didn't see coming. Laura
is stylized almost past the point of psychological realism, but not quite; witty almost to the point of screwball comedy, but not quite; cast so oddly it might as well be miscast (Vincent Price as a shyster Southern gentleman of the old school? the hell? and this is Vincent Price in his early thirties, too), but not quite. (Price's accent is so terribly maladroit that it circles back around into being a brilliant impersonation of what his character thinks people want him to sound like.) Clifton Webb narrates from somewhere between Bertie Wooster, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett, everyone but everyone is a plausible suspect for at least thirty seconds, the rules of police work appear to have gone cheerfully out the window, and Gene Tierney is a revelation as the title character, a woman of such strength of agency that I'm pretty sure her mere existence shatters the standard rules of narrative. Comfort-film dark hilarity for the ages.
Ask for letters if you want them.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, March 10th, 2016|
|this is the opt-in post for our babyfilter
I have set up a filter to talk about Ruth's pregnancy and our (hopefully) upcoming child; I think I got everybody onto it who's already mentioned that they'd like to be or who is related to the kid. This is where you opt in if you would like to be on the filter and haven't already told me.
If you use both Livejournal and Dreamwidth, please let me know whether you'd prefer one site, the other, or both, especially if you have different usernames on different sites. My default is to try to add everybody on both sites, but this can be difficult as my reading lists do not map one-to-one. If I leave you out on a site you use, it will be by mistake. Let me know and I'll fix it.
I've put up a post on the filter already, marked as such, but I probably won't be going through and adding people until tomorrow afternoon or evening; let me know after that if you ought to be able to see it and can't.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Sunday, March 6th, 2016|
|recent music videos
Okay, dammit, I am going
to post about something that isn't my health, and I am not going to let my health completely stop me from posting, and apparently I haven't written about music videos since 2014. So, some things I've run across recently and liked for various reasons.
After Beyoncé put out Formation
, which you've probably seen already (but if not, you should, because it's an amazing political and symbolic synthesis of post-Katrina New Orleans, the history of Southern black culture, and Black Lives Matter), I fell down a rabbit-hole of bounce music. 'Formation' includes a voice part by Big Freedia, who is one of the big names in bounce, and her* music is infectiously danceable, a sound that makes me want to get out on the floor and party. The closest anyone seems to come to a definition of bounce is that it is music from New Orleans made specifically to shake your ass to; it uses samples and vocal parts and interlocking rhythms, and it's all about the twerking, no matter your race, gender, age, body type, or conventionality of appearance. Y'All Get Back Now
is a decent place to start with Big Freedia, as she and her friends overwhelm the city of New Orleans with literally gigantic joy, and I also like Excuse
, in which Freedia takes over a yoga-studio bounce class that honestly really needed it. * Big Freedia's official pronoun is whatever the hell you feel like, but both articles written about her and people speaking with her in interviews tend to gravitate towards 'she'-- once, memorably, in an interview I have managed to lose to link rot, the reporter started with 'he' and moved towards 'she' as the conversation became more comfortable, which was a fascinating process to watch.
Ninety percent of what I know about bounce comes from the ten-minute documentary That B.E.A.T.
by Abteen Bagheri (link is to the director's official upload), which I highly recommend if you're interested in local musical subcultures, like Freedia's groove, or have not recently found yourself irresistibly compelled to twerk.
Changing gears a little: Flying Lotus's Never Catch Me
(ft. Kendrick Lamar) is both a great dance video and a simple concept so beautifully executed that it smacks me in the heart every single time. If the dead are the ones still dancing, we will never catch up to them, but it's good to believe that they dance.
Going a bit artsier, I have some ambivalence about FKA twigs' Glass & Patron
, in which she symbolically gives birth to a modern incarnation of the queer and mostly black ballroom vogue femme scene, but I do find myself coming back to it again and again. I think my ambivalence is centered around finding the pacing peculiar, which was eased somewhat when I discovered that this video is also the last few minutes of her album/short movie M3LL155X
. I have no idea what I think of M3LL155X
and will probably need another few months of rewatch before I have any faith that I understand what she is doing, but FKA twigs is definitely one of the most intellectually complicated and intricately allusive video artists I've encountered in years.
If you've ever spent much time with any NES or SNES games, Das Racist's Who's That? Brooown!
is a pitch-perfect, hilarious, and somewhat disturbing parody of every nineties cartridge that ever tried to be hip. Certainly the only game I have ever seen contain the command line >Shoplift ironic beer. Also features Tea Party protesters outside the U.N. and respawning hordes of yuppie gentrifiers.
Finally, one of my perennial comfort videos: M.I.A.'s Bad Girls
, a celebration of skill, daring, and things that probably should not be done with cars but which look really, really fun if you can pull them off. The stuntpeople driving the two principal cars fell in love and got married during production, which is one of the cutest behind-the-scene facts I know about anything.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Sunday, February 21st, 2016|
So I had a scan, to see what on earth has been going on with my sinuses since September that has been so disabling, and the answer is... nothing. It's not my sinuses.
It turns out that my temporomandibular joint syndrome, i.e. grinding my teeth in my sleep, clenching my jaw, and so on, has gotten so bad that the nerve tissue has become inflamed, I've lost the voluntary or involuntary ability to relax those muscles, and the damage is manifesting as migraine. I thought it was my sinuses because of the referred pain-- my jaws hurt far too much for me to feel all of, or even most of, the pain as coming from that area. Also, I've had TMJ for at least fifteen years, it's a known issue, but it's certainly never been anywhere near this bad, so the current hypothesis is that this bout was set off by a sinus infection back in the fall which did, in fact, go away with antibiotics. Then the whole thing just never calmed down again and I've been experiencing it as sinus pain partly because initially there was genuine sinus pain.
What I'm saying here is that apparently I have literally had one
migraine, at a level just below producing visual effects, but which does cause nausea and vertigo and light-sensitivity and noise-sensitivity and all that jazz, for the past six consecutive months.
No wonder I've been so exhausted, and no wonder this has been so disabling.
The interesting thing is that asking somebody to look into possible migraine issues had been something I was already planning to do, because three times this calendar year my headache spiked into something with visual effects, which is not really something that had previously been happening. Before 2016, I'd had things I could identify as migraine two or three times in my whole life, separated by stretches of years. But this went on my medical to-do list below 'sort out my sinuses', because apparently non-visual migraines are something I find completely indistinguishable in sensation from a really terrible sinus infection which is failing to drain.
In addition, I'm used to discounting things like light-sensitivity, noise-sensitivity, and temperature-sensitivity as clinically significant symptoms, because I had meningitis as a child and the aftereffects have faded slowly over decades. So when people ask me, do you have a headache or does x part of your head hurt, it's like, do you mean discounting or including the headache I have had since 1992? I spent multiple years as an adolescent using a five-watt bulb in my bedroom to read by because it was the greatest amount of light I could tolerate, so it never surprises me when that comes back every so often? It occurs to me now that while the direct meningitis aftereffects were definitely not
migraine-- there was a very specific flavor of headache associated with that, and this now is quite a different feeling-- when the whole thing got to the point of just being a vague undercurrent of pain in the background it could easily have switched over into low-grade migraines literally years ago and I would never have been able to tell. Maybe it did, who knows.
The great thing here is that I was told repeatedly by several different types of doctor that there was nothing that could be done for the post-meningitis and it would have to go away on its own, but there is a chance that they can do something about the migraine, especially since the proximate cause is so clearly my jaws. So I am going to see a neurologist, and a dentist, and they will coordinate with one another, and in the meantime I have been told to stop chewing anything and to put hot compresses on my jaws at night, and in just a couple of days of doing that I have seen decided, though not huge, improvements. I think there's a limit to how far compresses &c. can take me, but I am starting to feel a bit better.
So, in general, optimistic.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, February 19th, 2016|
|Umberto Eco, 1932-2016
I will never get over the time he managed to open a book with an untranslated, unglossed wall of text in Hebrew, for an English-language novel, and the book became a famous international bestseller.
He visited my college, way back when, and read from Baudolino
, which was his work in progress at the time. He read the chapter first in Italian, which I do not really speak and faked less well then, and after the standing ovation had died down he read the chapter again in English, which was entirely unnecessary, because everyone there had understood every word he said. It was a bit in which there is a rockslide, and you could hear all of it in the language: the initial dropping boulders as the protagonists' feet set them off, the pauses as they tried to slow down and tiptoe and move through the area more carefully, the ominous crackings underneath the pack animals, the sliding overwhelming crashes and the overall roar as the land fell down into the valley and they all went with it... I mean here that if you played this chapter to somebody who didn't know it was speech, they would register the noises, the way the syllables work together, as being an onomatopoeic depiction of a rockslide, regardless of the actual semantics. It wasn't as good in English-- I don't think Eco translated it himself, because he wasn't really English-fluent-- though the translator had clearly known what was supposed to be happening and made a valiant attempt. In Italian it was one of the two or three best readings I have ever heard a person give, revelatory, the kind of thing that expands the possibilities of language itself.
Afterward we all stood in a line for autographs, and I attempted to express something of how impressed I was by that reading, mostly I think by waving my arms a lot, and then something happened which was even more memorable, and which I am probably not going to manage to express in a way that makes it make sense.
None of the words I can use to flatly describe this situation have any of the right connotations. None of them. Even when I just limit myself to physical descriptions of actions taken, you're not going to get it, because they sound completely wrong. But I am going to have to start there.
Umberto Eco grinned at my hand-waving enthusiasm and attempts to say something about Greek and Latin poetic meters (both of which he had used in the passage in question), shook my hand, kissed my hand, signed my book, looked intently and delightedly down the front of my shirt (I have a chest tattoo; my default shirts have a lot of cleavage) for at least thirty seconds, and moved on to the next person in line.
You now have the wrong impression.
Here is an attempt to unpack the situation:
Me: *is enthusiastic and delighted in a language Eco does not speak, using vocabulary which is international, because the names of Greek and Latin poetic meters are basically recognizable no matter which modern language you are speaking*
Eco: *understands that I am being enthusiastic and delighted in a language he does not speak, and recognizes the vocabulary which means that I have understood and am happy about a specific, honestly rather esoteric aspect of the complicated thing he is trying to do*
Eco: *shakes my hand, making eye contact, firmly, in a manner which emphasizes that he is pleased to meet me and happy to hear what I have to say, but which also indicates his inability to continue the conversation in the manner which he would like and which would be the logical followup*
Me: *realizes oh of course he doesn't speak enough English for this what was I thinking gah* *starts to feel and look slightly embarrassed*
Eco: *kisses my hand, maintaining eye contact, indicating firmly that no! no! you should absolutely have said that! I am so glad that somebody understood and took the time to comment on that aspect of my work, and I am genuinely grateful that we are interacting in this way! I respect you very much for bringing it up!*
Eco: *signs book* *hands book to me with air of 'now that required bit is over with'* *manages to communicate to me, as far as I can tell psychically
, 'I do not want to stop interacting with you, but there are all these other people, and we have this language barrier! What can I do that will register as a continuation of genuine human contact, be fast, and indicate admiration for you and this situation? I know!'*
Eco: *looks down my shirt for at least thirty seconds*
Line: *moves on*
Me, internally: oh my lord he actually managed to do that in a way that indicated that he was genuinely doing it as a stand-in because he respected my intellect
. I... I believe him. That was... that was actually what he meant
. I have never been leered at so politely in all my life. How did he do that. How was that not creepy. That was... that was not
creepy in any way (and this was back when my PTSD and general skittishness were way the hell worse, especially in public and when I didn't know people). How.
A friend, right afterwards: So how was meeting Eco?
Me: He looked down my shirt! It was--
Friend: HE WHAT.
Me: No! It wasn't like that, it-- I am never going to be able to adequately explain this to anybody, am I. *sighs*
And from that day to this, no one has ever leered at me in such a non-creepy, intensely affirming, intellectually welcoming, genuinely supportive and delightful manner. I wouldn't believe it myself if he hadn't done the thing with the Italian reading immediately previously. But anyone who can do that is some kind of ludicrous language wizard; I think he could have done that reading literally anywhere on the planet and they would have understood it. So him doing the wildly impossible again right afterwards somehow seemed, well, a bit more likely.
I have spent the rest of my life proud and delighted that I was once ogled by Umberto Eco. Truly, the world has lost something in this man.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, February 12th, 2016|
|thank you + health update
Some very kind person has sent us a copy of Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth
, by Jenny Smith, which looks both straightforward and useful, but as it did not have a gift receipt I haven't the faintest notion who it was. Should you happen to be reading this, whoever you are, let me know so we can thank you properly?
Have not yet set up babyfilter, mostly due to health.
Health, and what has been going on with it: as some of you may recall, back in Texas in 2011(ish) I developed horrible respiratory issues which eventually drove me out of the state because I couldn't breathe there. Back here, after some time for recovery, I've been doing very well ever since... except that in both 2013 and 2014 I lost a solid month of the autumn to terrible sinus infections. I had just barely noticed this was starting to be a pattern when it came on again in September 2015, and this time it failed to leave. I have been some degree of incapacitated since September.
How incapacitated varies, but mostly this has been disabling. I spent Thanksgiving asleep on sovay
's parents' couch. We ordered fancy takeout with family on Christmas Eve instead of my usual fancy cooking, and I spent Christmas itself lying down on my own couch. I spent New Year's lying down on B.'s couch, despite having made plans I really wanted to keep. I spent all of December frantically trying to catch up on work I'd got behind on in October-November, and managed, and then haven't been able to do a damn lick of work in weeks, so I'm that far behind again. And the whole thing reminds me unpleasantly of the whole Texas health mess, which doesn't help.
It's actually not remotely the same, since back in Texas we didn't have health insurance. Here, I have a concerned, caring, and competent primary care physician who referred me to a concerned, caring, and competent ENT. In Texas I was reliant on the free clinic, who cared about their work immensely and had just about ten minutes per person and so couldn't diagnose anything peculiar; here I have just had a CAT scan and have a lovely informational sheet from my ENT explaining everything she thinks could possibly
be wrong with me and exactly what we would do about it in each specific case. (This is what state health insurance programs do. This, exactly this, is why I want national single-payer, because I should not have had to move cross-country back in 2011 to get decent care, because the care I have now is the kind of care I want available to everybody. This.)
So there are paths forward, and there are a great many options, and I have faith that this is going to be dealt with, and that I will feel better eventually and that, seen from a long view, eventually will be pretty soon. We may even manage to get things to where I stop losing a month every fall, because the current theory is that there is something physically, structurally wrong in my sinuses, and if that gets fixed (though it would mean, sigh, surgery) I would no longer be nearly so susceptible to infections.
But basically right now I can do One Thing Per Day. Sometimes Two Thing, and then I have to lie down the day after. And by Thing I mean, washing my hair, that's a Thing. Reading a book I've read before, that's a Thing, reading books I haven't read before is often more than one. Last Friday it snowed, and I had to take the cat to the vet a fair drive away, because his appointment was while Ruth was at work, and the cat is newly diabetic, and we're trying to get it under control. The snow didn't look all that bad when I set out, but after an hour in the vet's office it was whiteout out there, and driving home from the vet's in the snow with an annoyed and somewhat ill cat was about Six Thing all by itself. I didn't get out of bed again the whole weekend, and then only because I had to go to my own doctor. So that's what it's been like. The aggravating part is that it's not just fatigue, it's vertigo and nausea and an honestly fairly ridiculous amount of flat-out pain. This is why I haven't seen many people in a very long time, or written here much, because writing is definitely A Thing, so I have to plan for it well in advance.
I am very much looking forward to being able to write more again, both here and in general, and to being able to be more social both online and off. Rest assured, you'll all notice when that happens.
Until then, though, one thing at a time.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, January 28th, 2016|
So I could and at some point should make a post about the way my health has gone sideways and things I am doing/going to do about it and how that's why I haven't been on the internet much, but I don't want to make that post right now, because there are much, much better things to think about.
Namely that after two+ years of trying and more paperwork than seems remotely reasonable, Ruth is pregnant.
Assuming all goes well, the baby will arrive late September/early October. I am really looking forward to being a father.
Terminology note: I am, in fact, going to be a father. Please refer to me as any variation on that. 'Parent' is also acceptable. For a large set of personal reasons, including things about my gender identity and from my childhood, referring to me as being in any way a mother or variations on that word is not okay and I would very much rather you didn't. (Besides, there are all those people who insist that every child needs a father and a mother-- I assume they will all be delighted to know this one has got those.)
Ruth and I are both absolutely through-the-roof happy about this.
When I figure out how much I'm going to want to write about the process of this pregnancy and so on, I'll set up an opt-in filter for people who want details, because I know there are people who read this who would be upset or triggered by running across those details unexpectedly. But that is all going to happen later.
Baby! We are going to have a baby! YAY!You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Monday, January 11th, 2016|
|nobody knew what kind of magic spell to use
David Bowie (1947-2016).
Every year of my adult life, I've watched him as Andy Warhol in Basquiat
at least once, the kind of delicately tender performance that made me re-evaluate Warhol and which never fails to move me to tears.
Every year since I was ten or eleven, Labyrinth
as a constant, his touch of glamour in the whimsy, the whisper of real darkness among the more comprehensible magic. There's a generation of fantasy fans who came of age hypnotized, not just by the tight pants, though they are certainly tight, but by the crooked smile and the look on his face at the end when the world falls apart. I've never known whether I want to be Jareth or fuck Jareth.
I never knew that about Bowie, either.
My high school senior yearbook page is covered with Bowie lyrics, the elliptical tracings of the things I couldn't articulate. The four years of that school filled with a five-thirty-a.m. bus, more than an hour of sitting in an interior you could see your breath in in winter, wrapped in a jacket that wasn't thick enough and socks that weren't tall enough and the uniform skirt they insisted we wear, but mostly wrapped in headphones linked to a cassette recorder. Diamond Dogs
and the Labyrinth
soundtrack and compilations taped off the radio, fuzzy reduplications of other people's duplications, the tape-player almost warm enough to keep my fingers mobile. Without punk, I would not have survived high school, and Bowie, despite the chronology of his career not fitting into the musical movement, was something near the heart of punk rock on those cold mornings.
His was one of the first images of masculinity that I was not afraid to contemplate. Without David Bowie, I would not have survived gender. I never read him as particularly feminine: I read him as a way of being a man in the world that was so far away from the way every man around me did it that he might as well have genuinely been a spider from Mars. It opened up the space of possibility. I have never been particularly flamboyant, but I am femme as hell-- I mean, I do not actually voluntarily wear trousers, ninety percent of the time-- and Bowie showed me that the accoutrements of what most people would call high femme don't need to be simply one set of signifiers, can say whatever you want (or nothing) about your gender identity, or presentation, for that matter, if you know what you're doing. The vaguely self-actualized man-with-complications that I am today is heavily due to his influence, not the gender identity but the ability to cope with it.
I never thought he'd actually go and die or anything. Rock and roll doesn't.
Now we will all have to be fabulous and mythical and incandescent for him.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, December 26th, 2015|
|year-end editing roundup
It hasn't actually been a full year since I started editing at Strange Horizons
, as I formally began the job in early February of 2015, but the last piece I edited for publication this calendar year has gone live, so it's time for a round-up post.
A quick note as to what editing means, at least for my magazine (other places do other things): we have a capable and talented staff of first readers, so being a piece's editor does not necessarily mean being the one to pick it out of the slush, though I do read some slush, so that can happen. One of the first readers marks a piece for the attention of the editors, and then/or one of the editors reads it and marks it for the attention of the other editors, and then we all read it and discuss buying it. Acquisition is a joint decision, and the piece's editor is assigned as part of that decision, and may or may not be the person who initially put it in the pool for the other editors to read. The editor gets picked based on a whole lot of factors, including but not limited to: everyone's pre-existing workload; editors' levels of acquaintance with the piece's author (sometimes you want to work with somebody you know, sometimes you worry about not being able to be objective about a friend's work); editors' knowledge about specialty fields dealt with in the piece (science, languages, geography and feel of real places, etc.); occasionally we resort to haruspicy; you get the idea.
What the editor actually does is to send the acceptance letter and author info questionnaire, send the contract, work with the author on any desired contract changes, sign the contract on the magazine's behalf, forward the author-signed contract to the publisher so we can pay for the work, liaise with the art department and the podcasting department, and-- the fun part-- help the author finalize the text by asking questions about clarity issues, pointing out grammatical problems and typos, discussing structure and character motivations, and generally going over the piece word-by-word to figure out what could be strengthened. Editors vary as to how much they make suggestions. I find that I generally ask a lot of questions and say 'I would like something that does x here' or 'I am confused by y', but I don't usually volunteer suggestions as to what the something that does x should be, or notes on exactly how to clarify. The point is for the story to become the strongest possible version of the author's original concept and voice, so my voice should not be detectable-- I don't do the writing, even if I wind up asking for four different versions of the same paragraph before I understand it.
The editor also galleys the piece, selects a blurb sentence which will hopefully get you to click on it, puts up the author's bio (and sometimes photo), does any necessary tweaking of the web interface to get typographical things to show correctly, sends the piece off to the proofreaders, runs the proofreaders' suggestions by the author, and gets the author's final approval of the galley. We don't actually hit the buttons that make it go live, though.
Obviously, every editor has a whole bunch of pieces in various phases at any point, and the whole process takes a while, so even though the first piece I edited had already been selected for purchase when I was hired in February, it wound up coming out in May. That's a longer-than-usual but not unheard-of lag for this kind of publishing.
In a delightful and honestly not-terribly-realistic circumstance, the very first piece I ever read as slush as an editor, literally the first piece of email in my new inbox, was a piece we wound up buying and I edited it. This never happens, because slush piles are generally full of unspeakable terror-- ask anyone in the industry. I remain confused but pleased.
Stuff I edited this year:The Pieces
, Teresa Milbrodt, 5/4/2015What We're Having
, Nathaniel Lee, 6/15/2015Glaciers Made You
, Gabby Reed, 9/7/2015The Wives of Azhar
, Roshani Chokshi, fund drive bonus issue, 9/28/2015The Game of Smash and Recovery
, Kelly Link, fund drive bonus issue, 10/19/2015Artemis, with Wildflowers
, Ani King, regular issue of 10/19/2015Needle on Bone
, Helena Bell, 11/2/2015 (this is that first email in my inbox)Tigerskin
, Kurt Hunt, 12/7/2015Telling the Bees
, T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), 12/21/2015
I am very pleased with this as a body of work to date, and I look forward to seeing what the new year brings.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, December 11th, 2015|
|sketches towards some posts
Things I would like to make posts about but may or may not manage to:
-- The best album I encountered in 2015 is Jenny Hval's Apocalypse, girl
, which is kind of like what might happen if Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush and Tori Amos had a terrifying feminist child with a peculiar yet hilarious sense of humor and an astonishing voice, and I would like to go into more detail on this
-- Line-editing other people's fiction: how much I love it, why I love it, and why it's difficult and worthwhile
-- Things The Cat Has Done While On Steroids (the cat is literally on steroids, for sound medical reasons; let's just say the behavioral effects are... not unnoticeable)
-- stuff I've read lately, featuring any, all, or none of: The Dark Forest
, Liu Cixin; The White Road
, Edmund de Waal; The Argonauts
, Maggie Nelson; The Rest Of Us Just Live Here
, Patrick Ness; Seven Footprints to Satan
, A. Merritt (reread); Vathek
, William Beckford (reread)
-- I looked through a book recently about arm knitting, which is where you use really giant yarn and use your own arms
as needles, how cool is that, and my brain was instantly like does this mean there is some way to use one's legs as needles, because that sounds more readily visually parsable from above, and I haven't gotten round to trying it yet because probably one should try arm knitting first and I need to source really, really huge-ply yarn but if you ever hear that I have been found inextricably woven into some kind of knitting project this is probably why
-- Had a sinus infection the whole fall but I'm getting better now: pretty much what I just said only with details
Anyway, no idea when or if I'll have the energy for any of that, but sketching it out is better than waiting, because waiting to have the energy demonstrably results right now in no journal entries whatsoever.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, September 25th, 2015|
|Elizabeth David's Pizza al Tegame: Excellent Home-Made Pizza In Like Forty Minutes Total
So we had some mushrooms, as one does, and I was thinking about things to do with them, and I thought pizza, but for various reasons I couldn't start cooking tonight until Ruth got home from work, and all the pizza dough recipes I have take about two hours to rise. Which would have us eating at approximately the time Ruth likes to go to bed, when you add in actual cooking time.
I looked through Elizabeth David's Italian Food
, because if there was a pizza variant that would rise faster it was in there, and discovered pizza al tegame, which is an entirely unyeasted pizza, requiring no rise time because it is fried. So we went from zero to dinner in about forty minutes, and this may be the best homemade pizza I have ever had, though it also tastes very different from any other pizza I've ever had period, in a way it's very hard to put a finger on. It's definitely a thin-crust pizza, of course, but it's doughier than most thin-crust, and, I mean, if I was handed this object without having made it, I would obviously call it a pizza, but it feels as though there ought to be another word. I look forward to trying it with other topping combinations, though I'm writing down mushroom because that's what we had.
Elizabeth David's Pizza al Tegame (Fried Pizza), expanded from Italian Food
, pp. 123-4
Allow one 7" pizza per person, if serving nothing else.
For 2 7" pizzas:
2 tomatoes or one can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
about 15 baby bella or button mushrooms
fresh or dried basil
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
shredded mozzarella cheese
about a cup of olive oil (don't worry, it really doesn't either stick or seep in)
a frying pan of about 9" diameter
Chop and seed the tomatoes, or drain the canned ones. Get as much liquid out as you can, because you're going to be frying this, and any tomato liquid that gets into the oil will spatter and be dangerous and frightening.
Mince the garlic, and toss it with the tomatoes in a bowl, with a good pinch of salt, and black pepper and basil to taste (bearing in mind that the tastes will become stronger the longer you leave it). Set the bowl aside.
Stem the mushrooms and wipe them off with a paper towel thoroughly. Do not allow water anywhere near them-- just keep wiping until you feel all right about it. Break them into chunks with your fingers, or slice them fairly thickly.
In the frying pan, heat less than a teaspoon of olive oil over high heat, enough to barely coat the bottom if scraped over it with a spatula. Get that near the smoke point. Put the mushrooms in, in one layer, trying not to crowd them. Leave them strictly alone for one solid minute. Cook, stirring, for another two minutes, removing them from the heat instantly if you see them giving off any liquid. Steam is great. Liquid is bad. Once they look cooked, pour them into another bowl, toss with a little black pepper (NO SALT, it will make them weep) and set aside. Turn off the heat for now, and wipe any egregious mushroom residue out of the pan.
I found it easier to make the crusts one at a time because then I didn't have to split the dough, but that's me; you can do them all at once.
Anyway, for each crust, take 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) of flour, make a well in the center of it, add 1 tsp. baking powder and a generous pinch of salt, and stir in 2 tablespoons of water. Mix it with your hand, adding more water by drops if needed, until it makes an elastic dough. Knead it for a few minutes, although not so long as to become tough, and roll or pat out into a 7" round. You can leave the round sitting for a few minutes without it drying out, but if it's going to be more than that I would recommend covering it with plastic wrap.
Take about a cup of olive oil, or enough that it will come level with the top of your disc of dough, and heat it over high in the frying pan. While it's heating, line up next to the pan your tomato mixture, your mushrooms, your cheese, your crust rounds, a cover for your pan, and a couple of plates to transfer the pizza to.
When the oil is nearly smoking, add a pizza crust, and cook, turning down heat if it seems to be going too fast, for 3-5 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Flip it. Apply the tomatoes and then mushrooms carefully with spoons in the classical pizza fashion. Cook another two minutes, and then add a thin layer of the cheese. Cover the pan until the cheese is all melted, about another three minutes. The total cooking time of each pizza is about ten minutes.
Remove from pan-- a slotted spatula is a help here-- and onto plate. Note that leftovers will have the crust toughen, so get them eaten within a couple of hours, ideally while still hot.
Elizabeth David say "An excellent variety of pizza if carefully made," and I entirely agree.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Sunday, August 23rd, 2015|
|if not for the puppies
Presenting: the Hugo ballots we would have gotten if not for the slate voting.
Please note that I am not touching Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, as the puppy nominations were fairly well-liked elsewhere, and I know a lot of people concluded that giving an award to a puppy pick in this category wouldn't hurt anything as none of the puppies were actually involved in producing any of it. Also, I'm only including categories in which somebody was bumped by a puppy. Nominees are listed in order of the number of nominations they received, with the puppies removed, five nominations per category. This year's actual winners marked by an asterisk, when relevant. All statistics are derived from the Hugo statistics PDF, which is publicly available in a link from here
. That's also where you can compare this with the ballots we actually got.
Best Novel:Ancillary Sword
, Ann LeckieThe Goblin Emperor
, Katherine AddisonThe Three-Body Problem
, Liu Cixin* Lock In
, by John ScalziCity of Stairs
, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Best Novella:The Slow Regard of Silent Things
, by Patrick RothfussThe Regular
, by Ken LiuYesterday's Kin
, by Nancy KressGrand Jete (The Great Leap)
, by Rachel SwirskyThe Mothers of Voorhisville
, by Mary Rickert
'The Day the World Turned Upside Down', Thomas Olde Heuvelt*
'Each to Each', by Seanan McGuire
'The Devil in America', by Kai Wilson
'The Litany of Earth', by Ruthanna Emrys
'The Magician and LaPlace's Demon', by Tom Crossbill
Best Short Story:
'Jackalope Wives', by Ursula Vernon
'The Breath of War', by Aliette de Bodard
'The Truth About Owls', by Amal El-Mohtar
'When It Ends, He Catches Her', by Eugie Foster
'A Kiss With Teeth', by Max Gladstone
Best Related Work:What Makes This Book So Great
, by Jo WaltonChicks Dig Gaming
, ed. Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith, and Lars PearsonShadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology
, ed. Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard TaylorInvisible: Personal Essays on Representation in SF
, ed. Jim C. Hines
'Tropes Vs. Women: Women as Background Decoration', by Anita Sarkeesian
Best Graphic Story:Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal
, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona*Saga
, Vol. 3, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona StaplesRat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery
, by Kurtis J. Weibe, Laura Tavishati, Roc Upchurch, and Ed BrissonSex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick
, by Matt Fraction and Chip ZdarskySaga
, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):Doctor Who
: 'Listen'Orphan Black
: 'By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried'*Agents of Shield
: 'Turn, Turn, Turn'Game of Thrones
: 'The Lion and the Rose'The Legend of Korra
: 'The Last Stand'
Best Editor, Short Form:
John Joseph Adams
Best Editor, Long Form:
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Best Professional Artist:
Best Semiprozine:Lightspeed Magazine
, ed. John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant*Strange Horizons
, ed. Niall Harrison, Julia Rios, An Owomoyela, and Catherine KraheBeneath Ceaseless Skies
, ed. Scott H. AndrewsThe Book Smugglers
, ed. Ana Grilo, Thea James Interzone
, ed. Andy Cox
Best Fanzine:Journey Planet
, ed. James Bacon, Christopher J. Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery* The Drink Tank
, ed. Vanessa Applegate, James Bacon, and Christopher J Garcia Lady Business
, Renay and Jody File 770
, Mike Glyer A Dribble of Ink
, Aiden Moher
Galactic Suburbia Podcast*
Tea and Jeopardy
The Coode Street Podcast
The Skiffy and Fanty Show
Laura J. Mixon*
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer:
Andy Weir (who was eligible, because the Campbells go by first professional
publication, as opposed to the Hugos, which count self-publication against eligibility; thanks to rosefox
for clearing this up)
Carmen Maria Machado
My congratulations and condolences to everyone who got bumped from the ballot. Not only does this ballot have, in my opinion, an appreciable increase in quality over the one we got, but it looks one heck
of a lot more like the Nebulas and the Locuses and the other awards in the field.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, August 22nd, 2015|
|links of interest
The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey is running! This is a demographic survey for people who identify as trans, genderqueer, or non-binary who are living in the U.S. or U.S. territories or military bases. It is the largest demographic survey of this population and is an extremely important policy tool and referent for lobbyists and activists. I'm linking to the FAQ
, and I strongly urge anyone who identifies as being in the target population to take the survey. It took me about half an hour.
You can send your name to Mars! NASA is etching submitted names onto a microchip that they are sending on the Mars Insight mission in March 2016. Enter by September 8th here
. Complete with shiny generated boarding pass and adorable 'frequent flyer' program.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, August 13th, 2015|
|wait, what was that call number
Did I ever tell you all about the time I read the Necronomicon in a reference library? I must have done, because it's a story I tell because it's amazing and kind of hilarious, but I don't seem to be able to find anywhere on this journal I've told it, so maybe I haven't.
Anyway, I was in some part of high school age, let's say fifteen, and I was in the middle of the phase where I was running rampant through the occult/esoteric/new age section of the library, a thing I did for a few years which served to fill my brain with extremely peculiar trivia and eventually gave me a stone-cold rock-solid bullshit detector which has served me very nicely ever since. I lived in Columbus, Ohio, which is important to the outcome here, I think. And I was a kind of semi-goth semi-punk deeply geeky sort of kid; I went to a very ritzy private school and spent four years causing them to make all kinds of sudden new specifications in the uniform requirements.
So what I was wearing on the day in question was a little plaid skirt and a white blouse and a uniform blue knit cardigan with the school crest, and the uniform (deeply sensible) black Doc Martens (which were constructed along the lines of Roman public works and which I wear to this day), because I had just come from school. Also safety pins through my earlobes-- I'd filed down the points and put them in through existing piercings instead of regular earrings, because I wasn't an idiot, but it was impressive how everyone who saw them assumed otherwise, which I found sad and a little funny; and my nice cold-weather water-resistant black cloak with the steel pin that I'd gotten at the Renaissance Festival (and which I still wear also), because it was winter, and, again, because I had just come from school. In short, the way I looked was one people who know me now would probably recognize, except that my hair was brown then and I had no facial jewelry, and back then in Columbus, Ohio at that time it was a look that guaranteed that no one would ever, ever approach me on the street for any reason. I regularly had conversations with panhandlers who dressed more respectably than I did. Not more nicely-- more respectably. But honestly, once I left the school building and stopped being in actively-pissing-these-people-off mode, I didn't really consider it a statement, unless the statement was 'leave me alone'. Oh, and I had a backpack covered with quotes from Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist
, in White-Out, and I'd probably painted my nails in either White-Out or black Sharpie, which were the only things I ever used for that, because I never had any money. Fairly standard alienated teenager stuff.
Anyhow, that day in the main branch of the Columbus library I spent some time working on my project of the moment, which was collating mentions of esoterica in H.P. Lovecraft with the card catalog and the indices and bibliographies of other books to see which things were real and which Lovecraft had made up. This was before there was much in the way of internet, so it took me awhile, months I think, and many library hours. And as I was trying to make the very new and very clumsy computer card catalog talk to me, I got a wild hair and decided to look up the Necronomicon, knowing that nothing would come of it.
Popped right up. The entry said it was in the building. No author listed, just the title.
This confused me.
It was labeled reference, of course, and that part made sense, so I left the circulating part of the stacks and went to the non-circulating and there was nothing of the sort where the call number ought to be. No hole for it. I figured it was probably a joke that somebody'd put into the system, in which case it was a good example of librarian humor and I approved mightily. But I have always been the sort of person who would like to know exactly what is going on, when possible, so I went over to the reference desk and I asked about it.
Now, in my life up to that point, librarians had been a constant positive influence. I had met good librarians and incompetent librarians, well-meaning ones and patronizing ones and unthinkably useful ones, but this was the first time in my life I ever met an actively hostile librarian. She looked me up and down and started exuding a three-foot-thick wall of ice in my general direction. She knew exactly what I was talking about and she was Not Happy. She said, in tones identical to those in which she might have said the words 'go fuck yourself', that they had the book and I could see it, but that she would have to go get it for me. By this point I was somewhere beyond confused and into weirded out, so I said sure, just to see what she would do. And she stood up and disappeared into the back.
She was not gone a short time. She was not gone too long a time. She was gone what I would consider to be a precisely calibrated professional
amount of time, enough time to make her disapproval plain and to hope I would wander off, but not long enough to make it valid if I decided to complain to the management. Mind you, by that point I would have stood there until the library closed. She came back, finally, carrying a book, which looked to me like a disintegrating mass-market paperback, and instead of handing it to me she explained that all use of this book had to be supervised. She marched me over to a table with a chair at it, and she put the book down on the table, and I sat down in the chair, and she stood about a foot behind my left shoulder, fixed her eyes on the wall opposite us, and settled in to glare at that wall for the duration. I mean she stood there with her arms crossed, so close I could hear her breathing, and if her eyes had had laser beams that wall would not have stood one instant. It was meant to make me feel uncomfortable, and it succeeded admirably.
I picked up the book, and it was
a battered and disintegrating mass-market paperback, and it had 'The Necronomicon' on the cover of it. There was no author listed. There was no publisher's information. There was no copyright page. It had obviously been printed, because it was in print, but there wasn't even a title page, and I couldn't tell if there had ever been one. It was full of diagrams, which began straight away, and most of them didn't have captions. They looked like the back section of my geometry textbook, except all the angles were labeled in, as far as I could tell, Hebrew. Where there was text, it was the sort of thing you get as Necronomicon quotes in Lovecraft, some of it verbatim.
By this point my bullshit detector, which had not yet attained finely tuned but which was certainly more than nonexistent, was telling me that this was one of the more ludicrous things that had yet happened in my life to date. Also, I was getting sick of feeling the librarian lurking over my shoulder and hating me. There did not seem to be much of interest in the book, really. I gave it back to her, and thanked her politely, and went home wondering what the actual fuck.
When I saw myself in the mirror at home, I realized some of it, because remember, I had forgotten about my outfit as soon as it stopped being a statement. I looked at myself, and I thought about her face, and I started laughing, because it was that or be very upset. She'd thought I was a witch, or that I was trying to be one; and not the neopagan Wiccan-y kind that you got some of even in that city in those years, but the kind who could give you the Evil Eye, the really malefic kind. There had been fear as well as anger and disapproval there. It remains one of the only times an adult human being has been honestly scared of me, and I have never forgotten how it felt, for her to have that specific type of fright and mistrust in my direction. I did not like it at all, though I'm probably lucky it didn't go to my head. And I still had no idea how the whole thing had even happened.
It took more than a year for me to find out (remember, this was before the internet), but at a pagan Halloween party at the Only Occult Store In Columbus, Ohio the next autumn, I got to talking with the shop owner, and I asked him about it, as it continued to confuse me. He told me (and I corroborated, years later, when the internet happened) that back in the 1970s a vaguely Satanist vaguely Gardnerian type had had a yen for Lovecraft and had done up a version of the Necronomicon with a New Age press, using extrapolation from the Lovecraft stories and the kind of ritual magic that he practiced personally, and leaving out all the publication stuff in hopes of convincing everybody that it was authentic. It hadn't sold very well, because after the initial rush of people hoping for scandalous and evil secrets everyone realized it was mostly diagrams and that even if you were into ritual magic they weren't all that interesting (and, he added, mostly didn't work). But copies continued to float around, basically on the strength of the title. I mentioned what had happened with the library, and he said that yeah, he'd heard about other people having similar experiences, and that he was under the impression that the library started that because they'd had several copies go on unauthorized walkabout. I had noticed myself that there were things they had trouble keeping in stock in the occult section, especially anything that looked like a manual, and that a title I'd see there one week would very frequently be marked the next as missing. But something about the book, or its associations, or more likely about the kind of people who asked for it, meant that the librarians had gotten-- well, the way I'd seen, about the whole thing. He also found it both a little upsetting and kind of hilarious.
I thought it over and decided that Lovecraft would have been tickled pink by the way we'd all behaved, me and the librarian and probably even the publisher. It remains one of the more surreal experiences of my life.
Advantages of a Midwestern childhood. I suspect it's as close as a person can come to the experience of, well, reading the Necronomicon, and closer than most people get. It is certainly the only time I've been mistaken for the frightening kind of witch. The whole thing was, honestly, very educational. I expect it means I get stat points if I play Call of Cthulhu, though I've never taken advantage of that; and at least any SAN loss was temporary, as far as I know.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, July 30th, 2015|
|There is too much. Let me sum up.
The longer I go without making an entry, the harder it becomes to summarize all the huge things that have gone on since the last time I made an entry, and therefore the longer I go without making an entry. I should probably just nip this vicious circle in the bud.
So, in no particular order:
-- A thing that has been making me happy for a few days: ♥ ♥ ♥ NO BOSTON OLYMPICS ♥ ♥ ♥
Seriously, the entire concept of having the Olympics here was, as I have been saying to people for months, literally the single worst idea I've heard this year, but I was pretty convinced it was going to happen anyway, because that is how things have generally worked with huge sporting events and their placement committees and city governments and protesting populace in recent years. Fortunately, the Boston Mayor decided that the city government here would actually listen to the protests, a revolutionary step that should be taken more often. Every time I go downtown for, oh, probably the next few years I am going to remember and be thankful that it isn't all being torn down and relocated for shit we don't need or want.
-- I got a second nose ring. It is on the same side as the first, and about an eighth of an inch behind it. My body modification policy is that I won't get anything that I don't solidly want, i.e. the same exact thing in the same exact location, for a full calendar year, but this idea has been kicking around in my head since I got the first nose ring fifteen years ago. Before I went off to college in Philly, I'd only ever seen pictures of people who had single nose rings or studs, let alone having met anybody in real life who had even one, but the person who did my first ring had two studs on the same side and it looked absolutely amazing on her. Every so often while looking in the mirror over the years I'd hold up a second ring, and it usually passed the other test-- do I look more like my internal mental image of myself with this item than without it-- but it's only recently it passed the full-year marker.
Went to Brian Moeller
at the Boston Tattoo Company in Davis Square, and it was a lovely experience. I walked in off the street and they were friendly and polite and charged a reasonable amount and gave me exactly and precisely what I wanted. It's healing up nicely, and, as I remembered from the first one, really isn't all that unpleasant during the healing process (certainly nowhere near as bad as a tattoo).
The amusing thing is that (and I had this some with the first ring but nowhere near as thoroughly) people don't notice. I have found it entertaining to have to explain to people that I have a new facial piercing, but that's how it's been going down. Like, B. has been my lover for a decade and I had to tell him about it, and he's a pretty observant guy.
-- Speaking of B., as I said, we've been together for ten years now. The anniversary was back in June, and his anniversary with gaudior
(also the tenth, this year) is a movable feast but usually in late July/early August, so we split the difference and the three of us went to Quebec City for a week's vacation last week. gaudior
and I haven't been traveling much and haven't been traveling out of easy driving distance of our fertility doctors, because we're trying to have a kid and timing is a thing, but it had been ten years since gaudior
took a vacation that wasn't going to see people for conventions or holidays, which is a great vacation but a different sort of vacation, and it was about time.
Quebec City is a wonderful place to spend a week and I recommend it, although you should probably think of it as a hiking holiday. The hills did more of a number on me than the hills of San Francisco ever had, as, even though they theoretically aren't as bad, San Francisco has replaced more of its slopey bits with actual stairways than Quebec City has. After an incline passes a certain point I would honestly rather have stairs than slope, because at least you can sit down on stairs for a while if you need to, and your thigh muscles aren't going 'what
angle are you trying to put your foot at again?' every step. There is a funicular, which helped a lot.
I've never been to London, but the descriptions I'd heard of QC were 'about sixty percent Paris and forty percent London, with French food and American-style plumbing', and the non-London parts of that statement are precisely accurate. The pastry is as good as in France, and we got to introduce B. to maple products (it turns out that if you didn't live in New England and didn't go to state fairs as a kid you may, somehow, be unaware that the maple tree loves us and wants us to be happy), and we had a whole lot of poutine with the kind of cheese curds you can't get around here. This included some cheese curds purchased from a Benedictine monastery near the town of Magog (B. said 'if I see any signs for Gog also, I am turning this car around', which is fair), and those cheese curds were so good that they stood up to sitting in a hot car for some hours and then being put into an American pseudo-poutine in which I made brown gravy and we poured it and the curds over pasta because damn if I was making French fries directly after a long road trip. It was ludicrously delicious. This is not meant to be a real or thorough travel report, but this is a reminder to myself and a note to other people that if the Boutique de l'Abbaye de St-Benoît-du-Lac ever manages to get online shopping together, they sell the best cheese curds I have ever encountered.
The thing I will probably remember about QC longest is that the horse-cabs that go through downtown have a depot just in front of our hotel, and in an attempt to combat the smell all the hotels on that street (it is lined with them) had planted massive, massive beds of lilies. So the street literally smelled of horseshit and lilies, for blocks. Lilies do not cover the smell of horseshit, being in a different part of the odor spectrum, but the mingled smells were pleasantly and peculiarly medieval-feeling in a way I had never expected to encounter.
-- Readercon happened. This is not a con report, either. It was a decent con in that I did all of the programming that I was supposed to be on, and I saw some of the people I wanted to see, but I got sick in the middle and didn't manage to attend after Saturday afternoon, so I didn't see enough of people and didn't get to much programming that wasn't including me. Next year I may well not click the program ticky-box that says that I am willing to moderate, because I think I have moderator-burnout; it takes a certain set of social skills, because I am invested in everyone on the panel having about the same amount of time to talk, and keeping the conversation flowing smoothly, and interrupting anybody who is starting to be a blowhard but without making them feel as though I've shut them up forcibly so they don't escalate, and it's a great deal of work, really, and work that I basically only do in this context. I'm good at it, and I got good feedback about every panel I moderated this Readercon, from random audience members, including about the panel I thought went sufficiently badly that I wince when I think about it, but at this point my principle mental association with cons is exhaustion, so it's time to start doing less work.
Books purchased: American Shore
, Samuel R. Delany, new Wesleyan edition; Archivist Wasp
, Nicole Kornher-Stace, which I have been looking forward to since her short story in Clockwork Phoenix 4
; Faces Under Water
, Tanith Lee, and The Year of the Gryphon
, Diana Wynne Jones, both cheap used like-new hardcovers of things I've been wanting to have around.
-- Also, marriage equality happened! It is not the end of the tunnel, for me or for others, by any means, it is not the entire lifting of the weight, there is a lot of work to do; but it is a lifting, it is a victory, it is a longed-for and much-awaited light. For my family, personally, it is the financial consideration of one of us not having to adopt the children the other might bear, our own children, should we ever want to travel even in our own country with them; it is the sigh of relief on realizing that it would take days instead of hours to drive anywhere that we are legal strangers; it is more certainty that we will never again have to pay the gay-marriage tax, which was the money we paid when we could not file federally as married. It is real financial and emotional and legal gain, for me and for my household and for others that I love, and I saw it coming but could not, of course, be really sure until it happened, and I am delighted that it did.
-- That, of course, is not everything that's been going on in my life the last month or so, not even everything vitally important, but it's enough to be going on with, I think. Whew.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, June 20th, 2015|
|salad for a hot day
It is so muggy out today that all three of us eating here felt as though we had been mugged, so we needed something really quick and doable in hot weather and balanced and with stuff that was already in the house and didn't require a store trip, and this came out so well that I felt the urge to write it down.
A recent food discovery of mine is acino di pepe, tiny pearls of pasta which cook into something which should resemble couscous, but does not, and should resemble orzo, but does not. It expands dramatically over the course of its cooking time.
Salad of Acino di Pepe
1/2 box of acino di pepe (this is like 1/4 lb. uncooked)
1/4 lb. frozen spinach
2 Quorn vegetarian chicken cutlets, or 1/4 lb. of tofu
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1 clove garlic
5 or 6 capers
Put about three times the volume of water as you have pasta into a large pot with some salt and bring to a boil. Pour in the pasta. Acino di pepe takes 12 minutes, so set a timer for 10.
Chop the bell pepper and set it aside. Defrost and chop the Quorn, or chop the tofu. Mince the garlic very fine. Chop the capers coarsely.
In a very large bowl, pour about 1/4 cup of good olive oil, about 1 T balsamic vinegar, maybe 10 drops of lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. mustard. Whisk until emulsified. Add about 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 tsp. paprika and the same of oregano. (All of these measurements are approximate and should be tweaked to taste.) Whisk in the raw garlic and the capers.
Stir the Quorn or tofu into the vinaigrette until coated and let sit at least five minutes before adding anything else.
When the timer goes off, toss the frozen spinach into the pasta pot, without doing anything else to it, and set the timer for another two minutes.
The annoying thing with acino di pepe is that it needs a fine-mesh strainer. If you have a large one, use that; I have a smallish one and found it easier to ladle the drained pasta and spinach out of the pot than to pour out the water. Anyway, drain and put the pasta and spinach in the mixing bowl and stir to coat. Add the bell pepper and stir in that. At this point it turned out to need another splash of lemon juice and about another 1/2 tsp. of mustard, stirred in vigorously.
In an ideal world, one would then put this in the fridge overnight. In this imperfect world we live in, it feeds three for dinner with ample leftovers, which will taste way better after being left in the fridge overnight, but which are delicious even while still warm. This is balanced, complete in one pot, contains protein, starch, and veggies, is vegan (acino di pepe does not have egg), takes about twenty minutes, and is genuinely far tastier than I expected even knowing the ways of classical French salads, of which this is an adapted version. If you were being extremely classically French you could top each person's plate with anchovy fillets, an impulse I understand but do not share. (Of course, if you are the sort of person who habitually tops each person's plate with classical French anchovy fillets, you have probably been making something very similar to this for years now and have no need of this entry.)You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.