Saturday, November 30, 2013


This year we had Thanksgiving at my folks' house. It was a quieter event this time around, as neither extended family on either side visited. 

Mom cooked most of the food, with assistance from Mark and everyone else (I basted the turkey and helped Mom stuff it).

Dad set the table, ran to the store for evaporated milk, and carved the turkey.

Mark made deserts (apple pie).

As the Family IT Guy, I updated Apple TV, the Roomba, and trouble-shot the light strings on the Christmas tree.

Dinner was lovely, and this time around I moderated the volume of stuffing I inhaled.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winter Brain

This morning, as I snoozed under the covers and tried to gather enough motivation to arise, I thought about last night.  Last night I turned on my night-brain by starting to work on a manuscript around 9PM.   Almost two hours later Mark was cajoling me to go to sleep.  I could have easily stayed up until 1 AM.

I'm coming to the conclusion my sleeping and writing habits are connected to my winter brain. I was speaking with Ellen S about how writing in the morning was easier in July and she said, "It's the lack of light that makes it harder to get up."  We live about an hour's drive south of the 45th parallel, and the daylight right now is from about 7:10 AM to 4:45 PM.  The darkness is even more pronounced on rainy days.  On the plus side, we get "magic light" for photography starting about 3 PM.  I think the reduced light makes me channel my inner Ingmar Bergman.

Or else it prompts me to sleep from 2 AM to 10 AM.

During November, December, January and February, it's more difficult for me to work with my lexical brain and easier to work with my iconic brain.  It's not that I can't write, it's simply more difficult to work with words over a sustained period of time--and working with graphics becomes easier and more rewarding.  I'm not sure if the part of my brain that plays with images less active in the summer or stays at the same level.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five. Golden. Rings...

There.  I've got all the designs for the Twelve Days of Holiday Craft Projects on one file and can now go into production mode.

Er.  Probably.  It's safer to say that I need to do a test print to make sure this all works.  I know the partridge, the doves, the rings, the swan and the goose work.  I'm pretty sure the cow (maids a milking) and the hens will work, and the piper
s pipe.  Everything else probably will work, although I can see where the four calling birds might have problems with their feet and the lord's crown still might be too detailed.

Mark and I did have the "you could always replace the Nine Drag Queens Dancing with a ballet shoe" discussion, but I said, "I'm not letting Perfect get in the way of Done," after which the conversation devolved into artist vs. fiddler.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November Frost

 We've had morning temperatures in the twenties, so the grass, deck, trees and roads have been frosted.  When I looked out this morning, I saw the gazing globe's frost had melted on the sunny side.

 Smokey decided he wanted to be in the picture.  (Photos of reflected cat butt deleted.)

 Images like this make me think of science fiction stories set on worlds that have become tidally locked with the local star so that one side is always hot, and the other is cold.  Someone once called worlds like this "riboon worlds" because there would be only a narrow ribbon of surface with habitable temperatures.

 Oh, yeah.  A pumpkin moon.

 The shots that I took from above came out looking like Saturn.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Experimental Writing

I have had a cold for the last week or so, so I've been tired and congested.

On the writing front, I tried something new after attending the Feminist Science Fiction symposium.  Ursula Le Guin made a comment on plot and conflict and genre (which was echoed in a collection of her essays which I've re-read) pointing out how male-grounded science fiction and fantasy stories are.  So I thought I'd try to write something that tried to explore her idea of a story as a carrying bag instead of a hunting or war story.  

I think I came up with an 800 word prose-poem that uses metaphors borrowed from math theory (mostly) with a little bit of quantum physics thrown in.  it works better read aloud, and it sounds a little like a Laurie Anderson song.

Writing it was fun, mostly because it showed me how I limit myself when I write within genre.   I'm still thinking about the piece, because it seems derivative, trite, and indulgent.  The tone is a little distant, but I want the manuscript to feel like a dream.  Part of the indulgence is allowing myself to play with ambiguous homophones.   I think the story's voice is strong, and part of me would like to bring it to the Wordos table, but it is so not a Wordos story that I'm thinking it would waste peoples' time.  

And... surprise!  It's an Orpheus story.  I guess I should embrace Orpheus stories to see why I keep returning to them.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Holiday Craft

I managed to cutter-plot out some partridge card.  I think it looks better with an insert that make the pear look better.
I like the swan.  The designs work well with lights, although I wish it worked better than it appears to with dim tea lights.
Mark likes the goose.
I think in terms of lighting, these work out a little better with tissue paper behind it to help diffuse the light source.
What I learned the most about this process is that about two-and-a-half inches across is about as small as I can go with these designs before the design gets to small to produce on a plotter-cutter. (Pause to imagine using a laser-cutter...)

Um, yes -- the Twelve Days would fit on a dodecahedron.  Why do you ask?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Notes from Saturday CSWS 40th Anniversary Celebration

Summary of "A conversation with Ursula Le Guin."

 If I could ignore the critics and the fixed opinions and the publishers' ideas, I would simply ... never think of genre.  There's this kind of story and that kind of story (stories without genre).  Some are more realistic, and more more imaginative. But they're all fish in the ocean of story.  And I'll catch any fish that comes to my net.  And all the rest in a sense is applied from on top by intellectuals trying to sort things out (OK) and by Capitalism (not so good).

Getting admiration from another writer is incredibly important to other writers  It's why the Nebula Award is extremely important.  That's really something.  I got a fan letter from Andrea Norton which said, "I really liked your novel," and OH Boy, I walked on air for a week.  The thing is--women got more of that kind of praise from women.  And getting it from Tiptree... we thought, "Gee, that's a neat man."  (The truth was confusing)

I'm a story teller who wants to tell a story.  The story is going to be political, whether you want it to or not.  It is going to reflect the politics of the time.  How much you want to control that have to decide for yourself.  With the caution that if you are perceived to be preaching by your readers, they will quietly go away (and they're right to do so).  

A story is not a vehicle for a message, a story is itself.  And what it tells you is what it tells you.  The less the story is about the author, the more readers get out of it... but the author can over-direct...  But on the other hand, if there is a message you want to get across, and the best way to to tell a story... then that's what you have to do.

Summary of "Feminists in the Archives" Panel.  

Take-away messages.  Feminist science fiction writers of the 1950-1970's had extended conversations with each other via letters; the community they formed created a forum of sorts for supporting themselves and also thinking about story and voice.

“Feminist Science Fiction as Political Theory,”Panel.Summary:  Feminist Science Fiction has explored "Women's Ways of Knowing." (WWoK was suggested to be "intuitive" or "spiritual".) Feminist Science Fiction has moved from utopia as a destination to utopia as a process or conversation.

 Just writing a female main character in the 60's-70's was a bold political act.  Science Fiction in the last forty years has made progress in terms of numbers of female authors, characters, and subject matter; but there's still a long way to go ("Wow, she writes like a man").

Speculative fiction in general is dismembered into niches not by authors, readers, or editors, but by marketing divisions.  Feminist science fiction is a cultural response to a political situation.  The message of feminist science fiction is:  "We are not satisfied with the status quo and we want it changed--and if we can get it , we will.  And if we can nudge folks to bring the change, we will.  Because change is needed for us to survive. "

The USA exports weapons and culture; it's important for us to write feminist (or rather, egalitarian)  science fiction as a challenge to patriarchy world-wide... but for goodness sake, write a good story, not a political one.  Write, not film, because Hollywood is still stuck in the male buddy story.   Fantasy is mostly War Stories.  The cultural process continues, and part of that process is for each and every one of us who is aware, to help others become aware.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Post Conference Wakefulness

Well... It's 3:30 AM and I'm awake.  

There are multiple reasons, but one of the main ones is that I'm digesting the Women in Science Fiction conference and pondering things like my writer's voice and the stories we tell and writers' communities.

One take-away from the conference for me is a need to reevaluate essentialist and assimilationist stances with systems of knowing.  If there are "women's (or men's or queer's) ways of knowing" does that play into structures of oppression (sexism, racism, classism) because it requires essential differences?  On the other hand, queer (or women's or racial) pride requires a rejection of assimilation of the mainstream (.e.g. The straight-acting closet).  

Or is the paradigm too binary?  Do we need to think in shades of grey?  How can we think in different, inclusive ways that preserve and celebrate our differences?  Do we need to revisit Harry Hay's suggestion that gay men call themselves a third gender named "ana-andros"? And is there an elegant way to add that to the "Lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer-allies Pride March"?

And how does this relate to story?  That was the other take-away.  Ursula Le Guin and the other writers said more than once, "I'm a writer, I tell stories.  Stories are how I do thought experiments.  If my stories are political, it's because all stories are political."

I'm not sure I want to be a Gay Writer.  That seems like limiting me to telling coming out stories, dealing with AIDS stories, hymns to 1974 New York City, or male-male romance stories.  Oh, I forgot gay vampires.  And I'm sure that I've got an out-of-date notion of what the gay male narrative is (assuming there is one or just one).  Sure, I want to write gay male protagonists, because I want stories where I can see myself in them.... Gah. 

I guess in times like this I need to repeat my mantra, "mystery BEGUILEMENT portents WONDER awe CONNECTION majesty SURPRISE."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Pre-Holiday Craft

A few months ago, I decided it would be a good idea to make a paper cut-out thing of the Twelve Days of Christmas (my goal is to try to get most of the holidaze tasks done in November so I can actually have a stress-free December).  I had pretty good luck with the Partridge in the Pear Tree.  And although Mark says the Two Turtledoves looks like an advertisement for a Mandarin Hotel, I kind of like it.  I put in too fine detail for the Three French Hens, and the plotter cutter shredded them when it tried to cut them out.

And then there was this:

Mark called it Four Killer Robo-birds (with Lego Feet).  They were supposed to be cardinals, but I'd remembered them wrong and made things curve out that were supposed to curve in and vice-versa.

I tried again.

"Those aren't seed eating beaks," Mark said, "And those head tufts make them look like some sort of pterodactyl.  Haven't you looked at cardinal?"

I guess I was having a Jack Skelington, "Nightmare Before Christmas" moment.

Undaunted, I went on to the Lords a Leaping....

Which sort of came out as Lords a Judo-Chopping (or running from the Nazgul Who Wants His Crown Back).  As for the Nine Ladies Dancing, I based the dancer's form on the lord's--which in turn was based on a marionette like construction, which is probably why they both look like toys -- and why Mark says the dancer looks like a transvestite.

The goose and the swan came out OK.  So I thought I'd try the Four Calling Birds again. Our friend, Jenn, actually said, "Hey, cool cardinals," when she saw them, so I'm calling them a wrap:

At this point I've six designs down, and six more to go.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dream: Golden Raven

I was at an event like FaerieWorlds.  I have never been to FaerieWorlds, and in this dream it was very, very twee.  I remember someone asking me in a very earnest voice what my Elf Name was, and I sarcastically answered, "Lateral."  (In the same vein as something vaugly military-industrual complex sounding, like "Warhead.")

There was a shift, and then I was having a discussion with Mark Wyld about a project I was working on, a golden crow or raven.  The raven was gold, and flattened (in real life, I'm seeing how I could design this out of thick cardstock).  The design was taken from LeTene culture; the bird stood on a rectangular metal platform, probably bronze.  Two spoked metal wheels, about two to three inches in diameter, were at the front, and a third wheel was in the back.  The back wheel was the flywheel for a short crankshaft which connected to the golden raven's wings.  When the platform moved, the crankshaft moved a rod which made the wings flap.  

I had the sense that the golden raven wasn't finished, and Mark and I were having a MakerSpace style discussion, trying to figure out how to finish it.