In my shoes, a walking sleep

Jul. 21st, 2017 04:55 pm
kore: (Brain fail)
[personal profile] kore
My memory has been even more blitzed since the news of Bennington's suicide (sorry, everyone I was commenting with) so today, I apparently double-dosed every single med I take. There are quite a few. (Two antidepressants, one mood stabilizer, two acid reducers, baby aspirin, an NSAID, blah, fucking blah....)


I guess in a couple of hours, I'll be hypomanic/super-stable, all chronic pain will be totally gone and my sinuses will be extra SUPER clean! XDDDDDDD

(if brains are so fucking important you'd think they'd work right)

New Books and ARCs, 7/21/17

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:53 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we ease on into another summer weekend, here are the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What do you like here? Share your feelings in the comments!

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Here’s Sugar curling up with a good book, in this case the ARC of Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my upcoming collection of essays about writing and the writing life, which comes out in December from Subterranean Press. And you can win it! Here’s how:

Tell me in the comments which Beatles song I am thinking of right now.

That’s it!

The person who correctly guesses which Beatles song I am thinking of wins. In the case where more than one person correctly guesses, I will number the correct guesses in order of appearance and then use a random number generator to select the winner among them.

“Beatles song” in this case means a song recorded by the Beatles, and includes both original songs by the band, and the cover songs they recorded. Solo work does not count. Here’s a list of songs recorded by the Beatles, if you need it. The song I’m thinking of is on it.

Guess only one song. Posts with more than one guess will have only the first song considered. Posts not related to guessing a song will be deleted. Also, only one post per person — additional posts will be deleted.

This contest is open to everyone everywhere in the world, and runs until the comments here automatically shut off (which will be around 3:50pm Eastern time, Sunday, July 23rd). When you post a comment, leave a legit email address in the “email” field so I can contact you. I’ll also announce the winner here on Monday, July 24. I’ll mail the ARC to you, signed (and personalized, if so requested).

Kitten not included.

Also remember you can pre-order the hardcover edition of Obit from Subterranean Press. This is a signed, limited edition — there are only 1,000 being made — and they’ve already had a healthy number of pre-orders. So don’t wait if you want one.

Now: Guess which Beatles song I am thinking of! And good luck!

sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] sovay
A Facebook friend asked: "For my film-loving friends: what are films you hope to see in the Criterion Collection someday? Not just films you love, but films that fit the aesthetic and would make sense as Criterion films." So I posted the following textbrick in reply and figured I might as well reproduce it here, now with (occasionally really old) links:

The complete Derek Jarman, Super 8 shorts and music videos included. Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982), because it has always confused me that you can get the documentary from Criterion but not the film itself. Anything by Ulrike Ottinger, but especially Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia (1989) and Taiga (1992), which one could and should pair. Some kind of box set of Dennis Potter, making sure not to leave out the long-banned original TV version of Brimstone and Treacle (1976). Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's Smoke (1995). Some reasonable amount of Peter Greenaway, but The Pillow Book (1996) and Prospero's Books (1991) in their proper aspect ratio should head the list. Fred Zinnemann's Act of Violence (1948), a knockout noir about memory and atrocity with far less of a reputation than it deserves. Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment (1949), one of the most devastating—and feminist—noirs I've ever seen. John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), Eugene O'Neill's favorite film realization of any of his plays. Ben Wheatley's A Field in England (2013). And while I'm dreaming of ponies, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953).

—There are other movies I'd like to see from Criterion, of course. Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973), especially considering the plethora of versions that have existed over the years (and may still be buried under the M4). I don't know if they'd go for Roy Ward Baker's The October Man (1947) unless it was part of a set of British noir, but seriously, how bad would that be? If they can announce an upcoming release of Agnieszka Smoczyńska's The Lure (2015)—the day after my birthday, I appreciate it—surely they could provide me with a nice edition of Marcin Wrona's Demon (2015). I'm sort of confused they've never done anything by Dorothy Arzner. I'm really confused they haven't already done the Wachowskis' Bound (1996). And so on. Some of it is the definitive home release idea, but a lot of these movies I would just like to be able to show people more easily than 35 mm or unpredictable flybys on TCM.

Sri Lankan Red Rice Congee

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:54 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

‘Congee’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kanji,’ and refers to a rice-based porridge, eaten through Asia. This variation is a comforting way to start your morning, a traditional breakfast made either with fresh rice or leftover, and served with a little jaggery to sweeten it. It’s also good for building up the strength of recovering invalids. Red rice can be purchased online, and is similar to brown rice in nutritional content; it has a mildly nutty flavor; a healthy choice for breakfast! You can make this with white or brown rice too, of course.


Some people prefer a more soupy version; just add more water at the end. Traditionally, you would smash the rice down with a spoon as a final step, to give it more of a porridge consistency, but personally, I prefer the distinct grains. Another option is to grind about half the cooked rice in a food processor after the step 1, but that does mean one more thing to wash!


Other traditional accompaniments include fruit, nuts, or fiery luna miris sambol. This is a dish that easily adapts to your personal taste.



1 c. red rice

1 3/4 c. water

pinch of walt

2 T ghee or oil

1 large onion, sliced thin

1 T ginger, sliced thin

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

2 Thai green chilies, chopped

1 stalk curry leaves

1 t. salt

1 c. coconut milk

1 c. water

2-3 T jaggery


1. In a pot, combine rice, 1 3/4 c. water, and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, cook 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit 5 more minutes.


2. In a large frying pan, saute onion, ginger, garlic, chilies, curry leaves, and salt in ghee, until onions are golden-brown.


3. Add rice to pan and mix well; add coconut milk and water and simmer a few minutes to desired thickness. Serve hot, with jaggery.

Agent to the Stars, 20 Years On

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:10 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, on July 21, 1997, which was a Monday, I posted the following on the alt.society.generation-x newsgroup:

Thought y’all might like to know. I’m happy, pleased, tired.

96,098 words, cranked out in a little under three months, working
mostly on weekends, grinding out 5,000 words at a sitting.

Learned two things:

a) I *can* carry a story over such a long stretch;

b) like most things on the planet, thinking about doing it is a lot
worse than simply sitting down and doing it. The writing wasn’t hard
to do, you just need to plant ass in seat and go from there.

I did find it helped not to make my first novel a gut-wrenching
personal story, if you know what I mean. Instead I just tried to write
the sort of science fiction story I would like to read. It was fun.

Now I go in to tinker and fine tune. Will soon have it ready for beta
testing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That novel? Agent to the Stars. Which means that today is the 20th anniversary of me being a novelist. Being a published novelist would have to wait — I date that to January 1, 2005, the official publication date of Old Man’s War — but in terms of having written a full, complete (and as it eventually turned out, publishable) novel: Today’s the day.

I’ve recounted the story of Agent before but it’s fun to tell, because I think it’s a nice antidote to the “I just had to share the story I’d been dreaming of my whole life” angle first novels often take. The gist of the story was that my 10-year high school reunion was on the horizon, and having been “the writer dude” in my class, I knew I would be asked if I had ever gotten around to writing a novel, and I wanted to be able to say “yes.” Also, I was then in my late 20s and it was time to find out whether I could actually write one or not.

Having decided I was going to write one, I decided to make it easy for myself, mostly by not trying to do all things at once. The goal was simply: Write a novel-length story. The story itself was going to be pretty simple and not personally consequential; it wasn’t going to be a thinly-disguised roman a clef, or something with a serious and/or personal theme. It would involve Hollywood in some way, because I had spent years as a film critic and knew that world well enough to write about it. And as for genre, I was most familiar with mystery/crime fiction and science fiction/fantasy, so I flipped a coin to decide which to do. It come up heads, so science fiction it was, and the story I had for that was: Aliens come and decide to get Hollywood representation.

(I don’t remember the story I was thinking for the mystery version. I’m sure death was involved. And for those about to say “well, you didn’t have to stick with science fiction for your second book,” that’s technically correct, but once I’d written one science fiction novel, I knew I could write science fiction. It was easier to stick with what I knew. And anyway I write murder mysteries now — Lock In and the upcoming Head On. They also happen to be science fiction.)

I remember the writing of Agent being pretty easy, in no small part, I’m sure, because of everything noted above — it wasn’t meant to be weighty or serious or even good, merely novel-length. When I finished it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should have done this earlier.” In the fullness of time, I’ve realized that I probably couldn’t have done it any earlier, I wasn’t focused enough and it helped me to have some sort of external motivation, in this case, my high school reunion.

Once finished, I asked two friends and co-workers at America Online to read the book: Regan Avery and Stephen Bennett, both of whom I knew loved science fiction, and both of whom I knew I could trust to tell me if what I’d written was crap. They both gave it a thumbs up. Then I showed it to Krissy, my wife, who was apprehensive about reading it, since if she hated it she would have to tell me, and would still have to be married to me afterward. When she finished it, the first thing she said to me about it was “Thank Christ it’s good.” Domestic felicity lived for another day.

And then, having written it… I did nothing with it for two years. Because, again, it wasn’t written for any other reason than to see if I could write a novel. It was practice. People other than Regan and Stephen and Krissy finally saw it in 1999 when I decided that the then brand-new site could use some content, so I put it up here as a “shareware” novel, meaning that if people liked it they could send me a dollar for it through the mail. And people did! Which was nice.

It was finally physically published in 2005, when Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press published a limited hardcover edition. I was jazzed about that, since I wanted a version of the book I could put on my shelf. The cover was done by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, who among other things knew of the book because I was one of Penny Arcade’s very first advertisers way back in the day, advertising the Web version of the book (those guys have done okay since then). Then came the Tor paperback edition, and the various foreign editions, and the audiobook, and here we are today.

When I wrote the novel, of course, I had no idea that writing it was the first step toward where I am now. I was working at America Online — and enjoying it! It was a cool place to be in the 90s! — and to the extent I thought I would be writing novels at all, I thought that they would be sideline to my overall writing career, rather than (as it turned out) the main thrust of it. This should be your first indication that science fiction writers in fact cannot predict the future with any accuracy.

I’m very fond of Agent, and think it reads pretty well. I’m also aware that it’s first effort, and also because it was written to be in present time in the 90s, just about out of time in terms of feeling at all contemporary (there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remaining, to pick just one obvious example in the book). At this point I suggest people consider it as part of an alternate history which branched off from our timeline in 1998 or thereabouts. Occasionally it gets talked about for being picked for TV/film. If that ever happens, expect some extensive plot revisions. Otherwise, it is what it is.

One thing I do like about Agent is that I still have people tell me that it’s their favorite of mine. I like that because I think it’s nice to know that even this very early effort, done simply for the purpose of finding out if I could write a novel, does what I think a novel should: Entertains people and makes them glad they spent their time with it.

I’m also happy it’s the novel that told me I could do this thing, this novel-writing thing, and that I listened to it. The last couple of decades have turned out pretty well for me. I’m excited to see where things go from here.

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I learned this from Robin Hobb, though I'm pretty sure she didn't realize that she was teaching it to me at the time: there is no extra credit in science fiction. 

By which I mean, one of the things that I do, that other writers do, that people in various other fields probably do too (though I don't have direct experience of that) is that we make extra work for ourselves because of... I don't know, acculturation probably that if we JUST WORK HARDER and are teacher's pets and volunteer for extra labor that somehow we'll get better outcomes. This is superstition, really--because publishing is an enormously unpredictable and random business where quality is not always rewarded, and a lot of things can go wrong. And like anybody who makes their living off a capricious and dangerous environment (actors, fishermen) writers are prone to superstitions as a means of expressing agency in situations where we're honestly pretty helpless. (Nobody controls the hive-mind of the readership. Oh, if only we did.)

Now, by extra credit, please note that I don't mean the things that I consider part of baseline professionalism in a writer: turning in a manuscript that is as clean and artistically accomplished as possible, as expediently as possible, and working with your editor to polish and promote the resulting book. What I mean is raising those bars to unsupportable levels, such as: "I will turn in a completely clean manuscript so that the copyeditor has nothing to do!" and "I have a series of simple edits here, which I will resolve be rewriting the entire book, because then my editor will be more impressed with me."

Spoiler: The copyeditor will have stuff to do, because part of her job is making sure that if you break house style you're doing it on purpose. Also, your editor will probably be a little nonplussed, and possibly sneak a pull out of the bottle of Scotch in her bottom drawer, because you've just made a lot more work for her.

Other manifestations include: "I must write forty guest blog posts today!" and "I must write at least twenty pages every single day to validate my carbon footprint!"

(That latter one is the one I tend to fall prey to, for the record.)

I see it a lot among women writers especially, probably because we feel like we constantly have to validate our right to be in a space that is only intermittently welcoming, but it's certainly not a gender-specific problem. 

And the thing is... it just isn't so. You don't have to do a pile of extra credit work. It doesn't help, and might in fact be detrimental--to your health, your sanity, and eventually your career. It's possible to out-produce your readership's appetite; it's possible to out-produce the publishing slots available to you; it's possible to fuss yourself so much over tiny details that don't actually matter that you add years to your production schedule and die broke in a gutter, or talk yourself out of finishing the book entirely.

They're never perfect. They're just as good as you can get them, in the limited time available, and then they're done and you learned something and the next one can be better, you hope.

And nobody's going to bump your 4.0 up to a 4.2 because you did a bunch of homework you didn't actually need to do to get the finished product as good as possible, and also out the door.

separate hobbies

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:47 pm
mizkit: (Default)
[personal profile] mizkit

I saw a thing yesterday that said “Buying fabric and sewing fabric are TWO SEPARATE HOBBIES.”

I actually feel that I understand so much more about the world now.

I’m now up to 6 artist’s figurines (I need to write more reviews) and I was unable (or unwilling) to resist a set of 14 archival color pens, plus all the stuff I already own, but do I actually draw? No, hardly ever. (That said, I’ve done more this year than in many years.)

Anyway, point is I’m back to that “I want to draw some silly little story like Questionable Content only about, IDK, fat 40somethings instead of hipster robots” thing. Except I really don’t want to draw a story about fat 40somethings because ugh life. I want to do something cute and funny that I don’t have the skill set for but who cares I’ll do it anyway because it doesn’t matter. Or something. And I want just enough pressure to help me do maybe half an hour of art a day without having any real expectations.

Which of course is not much like my personality at all, because yes, I have met me. :p


(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

[memoir draft] Tamil

Jul. 21st, 2017 04:58 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Soon after our daughter is born, we move to Oakland for six months.  I am between academic jobs (finishing at Northwestern, not yet starting at UIC), and Kevin is on sabbatical, doing research at MSRI in Berkeley.  I am not sure what I will want out of motherhood — will I want to stay home, to spend all my time with her?  It turns out no.  Kavya is a poor sleeper, waking every three hours for the first nine months, and even though Kevin and I split six-hour sleep shifts (I sleep from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., while he watches her and gives her bottles if needed; he goes to sleep himself at 3 a.m.), month after month of short and interrupted sleep leaves us both exhausted, often angry, trying not to take it out on each other, trying to remember that we do still love each other.  By the fall, I am desperate to get out of the tiny apartment we have rented, and Berkeley is one of the few places in the country that offers Tamil classes, so we find a friend to babysit, and I go.

I am eager, a sharp contrast to the Tamil classes my parents tried to make me take as a child.  I had protested then — after four years of Polish in elementary school, I was trying to learn Spanish in high school, and it felt like too much — the words jumbled in my head.  In Tamil class, held at a far away community center one Saturday a month, I answered ‘si’ for yes, and the class laughed.  After a year of this, my tearful protests earned me an exemption, and I didn’t have to take the classes anymore. Now, I regret it — it was hard, but it’s much harder to learn as an adult.  And I want this language back — my parents say I was fluent, when I came at age two-and-a-half.  They had wanted me to learn English, of course, to succeed in this new land.  They had never thought that I might lose my Tamil.

The classes are difficult — the teacher is Indian, and Indian Tamil is sufficiently different, after two thousand years of divergence, of linguistic drift, that my own mangled memories of Sri Lankan Tamil are little help.  Even counting to ten sounds different.  But I persevere, do the lessons week after week.  Kevin had talked about learning with me, but he is too busy to take the classes too; instead, we go over my homework together, and he practices on me, on the baby, on the dog.

Nai means dog, and he takes to calling Ellie ‘puppy-nai’.  Dog-dog, which makes no sense, but I am charmed nonetheless.  Chinna puppy-nai — little dog-dog. Periya puppy-nai — BIG dog-dog.  Chinna mahal — little daughter.  Eventually we graduate to longer sentences, that, if I blur my ears a bit, sound almost like the sounds of my childhood.  Conjem thanir condevango?  Can you bring me a little water?  Everything in Tamil is softened — it has to be a ‘little’ water you ask for.  Extra layers of politeness, of respect.  Big sister is always acca, big brother is always anna.  Later, when we have a son, we will try to teach him to call his big sister Kavi Acca, and for a few years, it seems to stick.  Eventually, it fades away.

After the semester of classes, we take the baby and go to my parents’ for Christmas.  We try, so proudly, to speak Tamil to them, but they can only laugh — our accents are too Indian.  They can’t understand anything we’re saying.   We buy Sri Lankan Tamil lessons on tape, and promise ourselves that we will try again, later, when we are not so impossibly tired.  A decade later, Kevin still calls Ellie ‘puppy-nai’ sometimes, absent-mindedly, and each time, my heart squeezes tight.

Cool Stuff Friday

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:22 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Friday still hasn’t seen the new Spider-Man movie 🙁

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Jul. 21st, 2017 02:12 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Was up in the middle of the night helping Kavi with a dramatic nosebleed — she gets them occasionally, poor kid. A little groggy and slow today as a result, and then I got into an argument with Anand this morning about politeness and family responsibilities, which we didn’t really have time to resolve properly before I had to drop them at camp, which is leaving me unsettled. Probably him too. Sigh.


We need to have that conversation, but I shouldn’t have gotten into it this morning; bad parenting choice. And now I’m having a hard time getting motivated to do anything, but I have a long to-do list. We’ll see if writing it down and checking things off helps. Going to be very granular. This is probably the next three days of work.




– empty the dishwasher and load the breakfast dishes

– straighten up office enough to use scanner properly

– scan in three documents that need to be e-mailed back to people

– be sure Kavi’s Camp Congress registration is all set up for tomorrow


– write up and post notes on Slack for novel world-building done in the last few days

– do last pass revision of “Safe” and submit

– revise “Skin Deep” and show to Slack group

– write learning language scene for novel

– write family collaborator scene for novel


– take out recycling

– put away laundry and do another load

– handwash sweater and try to get stains out of white dress


– make breakfast congee (I meant to make it for actual breakfast, but I suppose it will be fine or lunch) for cookbook

– implement Franki’s copyedits on cookbook

– deal with paperwork on island


– organize chaos in basement

– set up Wii Fit again and do some exercise


– finish reading Marriage of a Thousand Lies

– made kiri hodhi / pol sambol / stringhoppers for cookbook & dinner

– take family to local school musical, Wyrd Sisters

The story of my PhD, Part 5: Future

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:36 pm
[syndicated profile] asknicola_feed

Posted by Nicola Griffith

This is Part Five of the story of my doctorate—the who, why, when, what, and how of it—based on questions from readers on this blog, Facebook, and Twitter. It is in five parts:

  1. Opportunity: How I became a PhD candidate even though I had no degree
  2. Decision: Why I wanted a PhD
  3. Choice: How I chose my subject/university/supervisor
  4. Experience: What challenges (personal and academic) I faced and how I solved them
  5. Future: What impact a PhD may have on my writing, and more

For context you might want to read the PhD thesis first, or at least the abstract. If you have further questions, use the comments.


Will the study undertaken and understanding reached on the way to getting a doctorate change my fiction? Yes. It already has.

Twenty years ago, just before I wrote The Blue Place, I wrote a novella, Season of Change. It wasn’t bad. I sold it to an editor for a tidy sum. I pulled it from publication. I explain why in an essay, “As We Mean to Go On,” that I wrote with Kelley:

True fiction rings pure and clear when you flick it, like a crystal wine glass. If it’s flawed, it doesn’t matter how good it looks, it doesn’t matter whether the prose gleams or the metaphors are as perfect as circles: when you flick it you get nothing but a dull buzz.


[The novella] was a very personal piece—about a woman who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—and I thought it was both brave and beautifully written. (I always think that about a newly-finished work: My baby really is a genius!) I handed it to Kelley, beaming. She read it, looked troubled, and said, I don’t think this works. I frowned. I stayed calm. I asked why: was it the imagery? The character? No, no, she said, they were fine. What, then? She frowned and said she needed to think about that. Two days later, she was still thinking: she was sorry, but she couldn’t pinpoint the flaw; I’d papered it over so well she couldn’t find it, but it was there. The story didn’t ring quite true.

At this point we’d been living together seven years. I trusted her. So I took the novella apart looking for the flaw. I held it up to all the bright critical lights I could bring to bear; I hefted it, emotionally, and found it pleasing; I ran through the phrases in my mind, and I couldn’t find anything wrong. Not a thing. I agonised: I believed Kelley, but I couldn’t find the flaw. Maybe she was wrong. So I sent it to a magazine and by return mail got a contract, for what at the time was a princely sum, and a letter of fulsome praise. I signed the contract and cashed the cheque. But I felt uneasy, as I usually do when I rationalise. That unease grew, and grew, and grew, until one day about three months after I’d sold it, I took the novella out of a drawer, and flicked it one more time, and listened, and heard a sickening buzz. I still didn’t know what was wrong with it, but clearly something was, so I returned the money and told the editor I was very sorry, but I was pulling the story. Why? he said. I don’t know, I said, but it’s not right.

Now, of course, I know what the problem is—but it’s taken me years to figure it out. And one day I’ll rewrite the piece, only it won’t be a novella, and everything in it will be different.

It took a few years to get around to the rewrite I’d imagined; the novella would become a short story, I decided, “Small Dog Theory;” there would be no genre elements. Along the way I had realised the novella wouldn’t work because the ending epiphany was a narrative prosthesis. This is a term originally developed by David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder to describe literary or visual narratives that use disabled people as a metaphorical opportunity. (Read a fuller explanation of both the term and how it applied to my novella in Disability: Art, Scholarship, and Activism.) But a year ago, even though I thought I had figured it out and was ready to rewrite, I hadn’t and I wasn’t. I tried, but with each new sentence I grew more and more reluctant, more convinced that I could not, should not, change that final image. That image, narrative prosthesis or not, was the emotional point of the story. I could not shift it. I let the whole thing drop.

It turns out, that was not the problem. Writing my thesis helped me understand what was. In all my previous fiction I norm and centre the Other: my protagonists are queer women but the story is not about being a woman or being queer. Being a woman and being queer are normal to me, uninteresting as story material so I exclude the bits about being a woman and being queer that other writers might build a story around. In terms of being a queer woman, all my novels and stories are focalised heterotopia. The new novella is focalised around a queer woman, Mara. In those terms it, too, is a focalised heterotopia. But this novella does not norm the disabled Other. The narrator, Mara, is diagnosed with MS and becomes disabled. The story is about becoming disabled, and how Mara changes. In terms of disability, then, it is not a focalised heterotopia; it is a Coming Out story.

Coming Out stories have never interested me. Once I had read the lesbian classics as a teenager (Rubyfruit Jungle, Confessions of Failed Southern Lady, Kinflicks) I found them eye-rollingly predictable.1 Why would I write one?

It’s much easier to weigh choices when one understands those choices exactly. Until I had words for what my fiction usually does I could not describe why and how this novella deviated from that. All I knew was that it did, and that deviation made me uneasy. Once I understood that deviation, though, all I had to do was decide whether or not the novella was worth pursuing on its own terms. It had been on my radar for 20 years; something about it was necessary to me. So, yes; I decided it was worth three weeks of trying to find out.

Once I had submitted the first draft of my thesis to my advisor I had some time. Instead of turning to Menewood, as I had planned, I had one last shot at the novella. The headline is: It worked. I ended up with a much longer piece—still, officially, a novella—So Lucky, with the same final image that had been a narrative prosthesis but now was not. It’s still a disability Coming Out story, though. It will be published as a book in late spring 2018. More on that another time.


The PhD, then, has already changed my work: So Lucky would not exist if I had not nailed down, exactly, how my fiction works. The question now is, Will my new-found clarity lead to change on my work-in-progress, Menewood?

No, I don’t think so. When I first began the critical review process last year, I became self-conscious about my prose, because I was taking it apart to see how it worked, and I was learning how to stick to a rigid argument-evidence-analysis writing schema. I’m no longer doing that; I no longer feel self-conscious. Now I just feel clear. How long will it take me to write Menewood? That I don’t know. It’s will be a very large book, longer than Hild. But I have a feeling it will go more quickly than it might have before the PhD. Watch this space.


Will having a doctorate change the non-writing aspects of my life? It might. I still want to do some teaching, and I’m still interested in the research project I discussed in Part Two on the pay bias in publishing. (If there are any MA or PhD students out there who need a project, talk to me.) Possibly the biggest change the PhD might bring, though, is in the steadying of my interest in critical writing.

I’ve always reviewed and written critical essays. I want to do more of that. I also have a couple of more blue-sky critical essays I’d like to tackle, on the pleasures and perils of cross-reading (maybe of ventriloquising as a writer—writing from a stance that’s not your personal experience, whether race or gender or sexuality or disability), and how climate change has influenced myth down the ages. Then there are those nothing-to-do-with-narrative history pieces I’ve been itching to write for an age (except, of course, everything is narrative: everything is story) about immigration, culture change, and climate change. I’d also like to write more research-based pieces on disability.

Beyond that, I’m getting more and more interested in audio. My first new audio project will probably be reading my own thesis, because many people a) need audio to access the written word, b) just plain want it and find it convenient. And I do love to read aloud. I’m a writer; I want what I create to be as widely accessible as possible. In the 21st century, audio is very much part of that. After my thesis there are other audio projects lining up but I’ll talk about those closer to the time.

In other words, as my mother used to say, my eyes are bigger than my stomach—though even she admitted I have a pretty big stomach. So once Menewood is finished, things may get interesting around here. Stay tuned.

1 I enjoyed Tipping the Velvet but that, too, followed the classic lesbian coming-out structure: First love with a bisexual woman; heartbreak; weird sex-for-pay; meeting an older woman who is too twisted by her privilege to be a good match; and finally mature, womanly, perfect love.

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Posted by Thea

Title: The Boy on the Bridge

Author: M.R. Carey

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: May 2017
Hardcover: 392 pages

The Boy on the Bridge

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

Stand alone or series: Companion novel to The Girl With All the Gifts

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print


It’s the end of the world as we know it.

The dead have risen: hungry, fast, impossibly attuned to any life form that might offer them sustenance. Humanity faces its fastest and greatest extinction event–already, the majority of the world’s population has been decimated by a mysterious fungal plague. In the midst of this death and chaos, however, there is still hope. A small band of soldiers and scientists have braved the apocalyptic landscape, driving from Beacon up towards the Scottish Highlands to gather more information about the deadly Cordyceps fungus in the hopes of finding a cure. At the heart of the mission are two very important people: a scientist named Samrina Khan, and a brilliant fifteen-year-old boy named Stephen Graves. Rina is vital to the mission for her research and for her closeness to Stephen, but is disguising a second trimester pregnancy. And Stephen–brilliant, complicated Stephen–is on his own very special mission of observation and research.

As the crew of the Rosalind Franklin makes its perilous journey northward, gathering samples and collecting data, Stephen watches the “hungries”–and makes a discovery that could change everything.

Set ten years before The Girl With All the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge is both a prequel and a companion novel. I loved the first book (so much so, it made my top 10 titles of 2014) so when I learned M.R. Carey not only had a new book available this year but an honest-to-goodness companion novel set in the same zombie-ridden post-apocalyptic wasteland, I was delighted. Of course, when any sequel, prequel, or other companion novel is released to follow-up a beloved book, there is always a healthy dose of trepidation. Will this book live up to its predecessor? How could it, given the awesomeness of [xxx insert beloved first book here]? Especially in the case of The Boy on the Bridge, my trepidation focused on the fact that Carey had already told his story of political/military corruption, the end of the world, and the next generation of hungries who shall inherit the Earth. How could a sequel hope to hold up to this kind of weight of expectation? Luckily, dear readers, we are in good hands with M.R. Carey–instead of moving forward, he chooses to look backwards, ten years before the events of Melanie, Miss Justineau, and the ultimate destruction of the human race. In The Boy on the Bridge, we see the same sort of armored vehicle travel the same sort of desolate landscape, but to very different ends. In this second book, there are tensions bubbling beneath the surface of the group (naturally) that culminate in a tempestuous pot of mistrust, rage, and fear as their journey presses deeper into infected territory–not to mention the killer plot twist along the way that ties both The Boy on the Bridge and The Girl With All the Gifts together. From a pure plotting and worldbuilding perspective, The Boy on the Bridge does an impressive job, particularly in its expansion of the world from the prior book (even though this book is set earlier): there are second-gen hungries (who are little monsters), the shambling remains of society, and horror aplenty along this trip.

The other area where M.R. Carey shines is with his characterization–particularly of Rina and of Stephen. As he did in The Girl with All the Gifts, Carey focuses on the love that exists between a younger character and a parental (maternal) figure. Instead of the bond between Melanie and Miss Justineau, this time it exists between Dr. Khan and the boy she singularly believes holds the key to humanity’s survival, Stephen Greaves. The narrative throughout the book shifts between several characters, but the time spent with these two in particular is the emotional core of the story–the bond between maternal teacher and precocious student is a beacon of hope at the core of The Boy on the Bridge that makes all of the sacrifices and betrayals and everything else that happens so memorable.

Hope, strong characterization, and compelling plotting aside, there is no sugar-coating the fact that The Boy on the Bridge is a tragedy. From the outset, you know that the Rosalind Franklin and her crew will bear no fruitful cure, and that everything will eventually burn. But the trick is that M.R. Carey makes you care about the slide into the long, cold darkness. If you liked The Girl With All the Gifts, if you’re a zombie enthusiast, if you like solid characterization at the end of the world and don’t mind nihilistic bleakness, what are you waiting for? The Boy on the Bridge awaits.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

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The post Book Review: The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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Jul. 21st, 2017 12:43 pm
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[personal profile] legionseagle
Happy Birthday [personal profile] coughingbear

F&SF story interview

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:32 am
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[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I’m back from Boston! I had a lovely time going to Readercon and writing and seeing friends and riding back and forth on the T and wandering up and down Mass Ave. I am now convinced that wandering up and down Mass Ave is a substantial part of what you do in Boston. Things are there. Also, every time you come out of the Harvard T, there is Greer Gilman, so it is written and so it must be.

But other, less eternal things are written, and you can read them! Such as this interview about my story in the July/August issue of F&SF. Interview with me! Things you might want to know! or maybe not, but there it is anyway.

I answered these interview questions in the spring, and one of the things they’re showing me now is that life moves fast. Well. I knew that. And if it’s going to move fast and smell all right while it goes, I’d better get a load of laundry in. More, much more, soon, now that I’m home for awhile.

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[personal profile] jemck
And so we come to War for the Planet of the Apes, the latest in what now seems to be an ongoing series of films rather than merely a trilogy. We see where events since the last movie have led us, as man’s arrogance encompasses his own downfall. Will the unexpected consequences of bio-technology offer other primates a chance at the top slot?

Technologically, the film is a tour de force. What motion capture and CGI can do is astonishing – you really cannot see where reality stops and special effects start. So far, so increasingly common these days. But great special effects are not enough, as rather too many movies fail to realise. A film like this must also have sufficiently strong central performances to make it a drama, not merely a spectacle. Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson deliver absolutely what’s needed. The dynamic between Caesar, leader of the apes, and Colonel McCullough, commanding an embattled remnant of humanity, is tense and compelling from start to finish.

Mankind’s inhumanity to man is front and centre, compared and contrasting with the apes’ mutually supportive culture. All Caesar and his kind want is to be left alone. Colonel McCullough needs an enemy to fight though, and unable to attack the virus that’s been humanity’s downfall, finds the scapegoats he needs in the apes.

As a war film, the movie wears its influences unashamedly on its sleeve, most obviously, though not exclusively films exploring the Vietnam War. It can absolutely and legitimately be called Ape-ocalypse Now. This is not merely retreading those footsteps though. Such echoes, and other references such as the slang names for servile apes, serve to tie this dystopian future to our own reality. There’s also the inescapable fact that the Vietnam War proved the hollowness of the American doctrine of ‘peace through superior firepower’. That undercurrent continually runs beneath our viewing of events where armed men seem to have an inescapable whip hand over apes with severely limited abilities to fight back. Beware assumptions.

Issues of gender in this movie are more complex than they might first appear, certainly as far as I am concerned. I’m using words like ‘man’ and ‘him’ advisedly because this is very male-gaze apocalypse. Not however, one where masculinity-under-threat-in-this-modern-liberal-world can finally come good, with its guns and its manly men taking charge of helpless women and children to save the day.

This is a story about the dead-end destructiveness of arrogant white male masculinity so used to solving everything with aggression that it's incapable of thinking outside that self-defeating box. That influences my response to the widespread online comment about the complete absence of female voices in the dialogue (apart from possibly one female soldier’s scream?) The one significant human female role is mute and childlike in the most literal sense, and while a couple of female apes have things to say, they do so through sign language. Could one view the lack of female voices as a feature rather than a bug, if one were prepared to squint a bit...? Then there’s the almost-gender-neutral appearance of the apes apart from the females’ apparent (and to my mind inexplicable) inclination to unflattering central partings and rustic ear decoration. I think there’s more to be discussed about the absence of female characters here than might be first apparent. Is that very absence what permits masculinity to turn so toxic?

Not that this excuses the use of perhaps the laziest motivate-your-male-protagonist cliche in the first act of the movie. There are other script-writing choices I can quibble with, most notably some utterly bone-headed human tactics as the film rushes to its conclusion.

A fourth movie is reportedly under discussion, or development, depending on what you read. I’ll be very interested to see it, provided that the writers can offer something more than man and ape in conflict. These films have done that, and done it well, but the story needs to move on. In my head at least, there must be other corners of this world where the post-apocalypse is working out differently, with male and female voices contributing equally to co-operation rather than conflict. I’d like to see how that’s working out, given so many challenges will still remain to drive a story.

Not dead, only in Australia*

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:29 am
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[personal profile] oursin

Re the current hoohah about Boots the chemist charging well over the odds for the morning after pill, I was going to comment - when posting the link on various bits of social media, to go 'and Edwin Brooks must be spinning in his grave!'

Brooks was the MP who put through the sometimes overlooked but significant 1966 Family Planning Act: as discussed in that post I did some while back on 'why birth control is free under the NHS'.

However, I discovered from googling that - as far as one can tell from The Usual Sources - Brooks is still alive, but moved to Australia. I am profoundly shocked that the Wikipedia entry, under his political achievements, doesn't include that act. We wonder if, in the long history of reproductive rights, it got overshadowed by the more controversial 1967 Abortion Act, or, by the final incorporation of contraception into the NHS in 1974. If I had time on my hands (which at this moment I don't) I would go and try and edit that entry.

*I think this is a quotation from someone? but I can't find a source.


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