I’ve been reading a…

I've been reading a journal regularly, Alewife Bayou. It's set up in an interesting format -- generally short entries, which occasional longer pieces set aside in a separate section. The latest of those longer pieces concerned religion.

I am minded to write a similar meditation -- I've probably been dodging around the subject long enough.

I was raised Catholic, as some of you know (and others have probably guessed). I even went to a Polish Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade, and can sing Christmas carols in Polish, and do the sign of the cross (though I hesitate to attempt to spell the words now...). My mother is quite devout, my father, somewhat less so, I think, though we've never really discussed it. We went to church regularly. I took communion, and was even confirmed at age 13. I wish I hadn't been, in retrospect, but at the time it didn't seem worth the argument. I spent some years arguing the matter with my mother before I actually stopped going to church (sometime in early college), but in my heart and mind, I left the Church when I was 12. I still capitalize it, though, sometimes.

I have friends who claim they hate Christianity, that they despise Christians. I think what they actually hate is the organized church, and some of them have good cultural/historical reasons for doing so, I suppose, though in point of fact I have little patience with them when the subject comes up. I don't hate Christianity. I think the Catholic church does a lot of good on an individual day-to-day level, both in providing emotional/spiritual support and in taking physical care of the people in their parishes. We don't have a society where a neighborhood automatically goes to visit its sick, or help care for its elderly. I wish we did -- in the absence of such, the small church communities provide an important service. So even though the Church has messed up badly at times (the Crusades, eg.), I wouldn't throw it out entirely on those grounds.

I left the Church because I ran up against the Problem of Suffering, and none of the nuns I talked to back at Holy Cross could give me an answer that satisfied me. Perhaps a canny Jesuit could have, back then, if I'd run across one...but probably not now, so it's just as well. I'm not sure how familiar any of you are with Church doctrine, so I'll summarize -- the problem of suffering lies in the question of why it exists. Specifically, Catholicism postulates an all-powerful, omnipotent, God, and in addition stipulates that He is good. Yet why would an all-powerful good God create a universe that has so much pain?

That's the main question, and the arguments quickly branch off from there. There's the assertion that suffering is necessary for individual growth, and I'll grant you that, but what about the children who are abused and then die? -- they don't get much chance to grow out of the experience. There's the contention that God gave us free will, and suffering is a necessary consequence of that gift -- well, whose free will goes into earthquakes that kill babies, eh? Not mine. You can argue cases for hours, but what it eventually came down to with the nuns was the argument that God's ways are mysterious (boy, I heard that phrase a lot), and that a mere human could not hope to understand them. That was so *not* the line of argument to take with me at twelve...arrogance kicked right in, and I decided that I just didn't buy the answer that I wasn't bright enough to understand the answer (which in retrospect is not exactly what they were saying), and that I couldn't respect a God who expected me to take all this on faith.

That's what the problem comes down to for me, in the end -- respect and faith. 'Cause while now I can admit that it's entirely possible that there is some purpose for suffering beyond my comprehension, I've never been able to make that 'leap of faith' to simply trust that it is so. I've never had motivation to, really. Maybe it's because I've never gone through real tragedy -- my mother insists that some day I'm going to need God. Maybe. But in the meantime, there is nothing in me that wills to cross that chasm and land on the other side believing in a Supreme Being.

I'm an agnostic, not an atheist. I'm certainly not going to assert that there is no god -- there might be. Some days it seems more likely than others, but the possibility certainly exists. There might be a whole pantheon. But I can't bring myself to believe. Part of that lies in the question of *what* I should be believing in. I have friends who are Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, and Wiccan...I respect their beliefs, but would have no idea how to choose among them -- and sadly, they are not all inclusive of the possibility of the others' being right.

Some might argue that I should just pick one and practice it, to be safe. There's an old philosopher who laid that argument out very neatly, in the form of a box (which I tried to draw but then couldn't get my computer to save as a GIF, sigh...). Imagine a box, please, with four compartments. Two columns across the top, labelled 'Believe in God' and 'Don't believe'. Two columns down the side, labelled 'God exists', 'God doesn't exist'. Then play out the four possibilities inside the box. If God exists and you believe, you're golden. If god exists and you don't believe, you're in big trouble. If God doesn't exist, and you believe, well, you're still basically fine. And if God doesn't exist and you don't believe, you're good.

Pragmatically speaking, it's pretty clear that the most dangerous course is to not believe -- the flames of hell could await you. Whereas if you do believe, the worst you get is perhaps wasting some time and energy which could be productively directed elsewhere. I think this was Augustine's construction? Unfortunately, it doesn't work for me. It doesn't work because it just seems too dumb for an omnipotent being to swallow -- if Sie knows that I only believe in Hir out of pragmatism, it rather weakens the meaning of that belief. And in any case, I *still* can't make myself actually believe -- the best I could do is act as if I do, which isn't likely to fool anyone, much less God.

Which brings me back to respect (and perhaps arrogance). In the end, I trust that if there is a God, Sie'll understand that I took a long look at this issue, and made the best decision I could. Sie'll understand that I try to be a good person, and even if I mess up sometimes, overall, I'm still trying. Frankly, I expect that to be good enough. And in Sie exists, I'll certainly respect all that Sie's accomplished, and even be grateful -- oh, what a piece of work is Man! -- not to mention the rest of the universe, in all its glories... So if God is willing to accept good intentions, good efforts and respect, we'll get along fine. And if that's no good enough -- well, as far as I can tell from my poor limited human perspective, then I won't respect God. And I won't worship Hir. And if that means I'm cast down into the nine hells with Lucifer, so be it. I may not be as sanguine if it actually happens, but I can't really see how I could honestly say anything else...

Ah, what was Lucifer's tragedy -- overweening pride, that's it. And the Greeks also warned that hubris, excessive pride, would call down the wrath of the gods. Sometimes I understand Lucifer very well...

*****

If I could be religious, how would I want it to be? Well, reincarnation sounds better to me than heaven or hell -- especially if there's an option for climbing off the Wheel during the breaks (after death). I wouldn't even mind a god in that setup, though I'd probably see it more as Fate, saying to people as they die -- "Well, you learned some stuff, but I think you've got some more to go. I'd advise you to go back as a toad this time, or a fern, or a rich white man, or a poor, bright brown woman...what do you think?" And you could rest a bit, and then go back for another turn on the Wheel, aiming for that perfection of spirit, or for understanding of the universe, or something else entirely. And sure I'd like there to be some grand purpose to the universe, and something outside the universe, and some assurance that entropy wouldn't win in the end, and a Clockmaker watching over Hir construction, and not interfering unless it seemed likely that we were really going to destroy the Clock...on the other hand, I don't want that Clockmaker to be really infallible, because then in some sense I'd be wondering, what's the point? If you know the results of the experiment, why run it?

Okay, enough. I could spin takes on this for hours, so I'd best just stop.

Heya. Well, a slow…

Heya. Well, a slow start on this morning, I'm afraid, and it's all David's fault. He let me start re-reading Sayers's _Murder Must Advertise_ last night, *knowing* that I wouldn't be able to put it down. I read it for most of the evening and finished it, thoroughly satisfied (though wishing I knew more about cricket) this morning. Gods, I wish she'd written more of these! In any case, I spent several hours on it instead of working, and to be honest, I can't say that I regret it. I'm obviously becoming thoroughly dissipated, and it's entirely David's fault.

Yesterday afternoon we did go sailing, and it seems that I still remember a few things (though I admit to being a little disappointed that they rigged the boat for us -- I was sort of curious as to whether I'd remember all the knots and such myself...(bowline, figure-eight, cleat hitch, oh my...)). We took out a tiny boat, an El Toro, and it took us much too long to figure out how to manage two people in it. At first I was both manning the tiller and handling the mainsail which not only left David nothing to do but meant that he sort of had to sit in the bow, which made the boat nose-heavy, which meant that we took on some water (and we hadn't brought anything to bail with!) and he got rather wet.

Then we tried moving him to the stern, but he got in the way of the tiller there. *And* somehow in the process of moving him, we got too close to the shore (we had been calmly sailing across tiny Lake Merritt until then) and scraped up against it. That woudn't have been too bad -- we were using the daggerboard to push back off in the water, except that the tiller snagged and the upper linchpin, thoroughly rusted, broke off. And then the tiller came loose entirely, and there wasn't room at the stern to reinsert even the bottom linchpin properly and I was snapping at David to use the dang daggerboard to push off further and he kept using his arm which I didn't think could get us off far enough and I couldn't get the tiller back in, and then we switched off and I pushed us off with the daggerboard and he managed to reinsert the tiller (not easy, with the waves pushing against the flat of the wood), and we managed to catch some wind and get back out into the water properly. Oof.

The next twenty minutes or so were spent calmly trying to tack back to the boathouse -- the wind was coming from it, which meant lots of tacking at first, and then the wind changed at the end, and we were able to coast quite smoothly in. David managed the tiller throughout the latter half and did a reasonably good job, considering its battered status. Quite an adventure for a first sail in months for me (and possibly years for him)! But on the whole, quite pleasant, with the sun on our skin and the wind in our faces and the waves splashing. And for $6/hr, affordable enough that I might start going more regularly -- it was certainly calming (while actually sailing, anyway). But I think I'll either go alone in an El Toro or take David (or others) in a larger boat, probably a Capri, where they actually have room to sit comfortably.

Okay, I've probably bored all the non-sailors to tears at this point, and the sailors are snickering at our pathetic exploits (we were terrified that we'd have to call for rescue -- how embarrassing!), so it's probably time to change the subject. :-)

Other news -- well, made a really unusual chicken dish last night. El has a bunch of medieval cookbooks, including one called _Take a Thousand Eggs or More_ because there's a recipe in it for a feast dish that starts "Take a thousand eggs or more"...oof! Anyway, I made a dish called Hen in Broth, aka "Geylne in brothe". The original recipe is absolutely charming -- listen:

"Gelyne in brothe. Take rawe hennes, chop hem, caste hem into a potte; cast to fressh broth Wyne, parcelly, oynons, myced, powder of peper, clowes, Maces, saffroun, and salt; then stepe brede with vinegre and same broth, and draw hit thorgh a streynour, and cast it thereto, and lete boyle ynogh; And caste thereto pouder ginger, and sesone hit vp, & serue forth."

I will be forever grateful to the author, Cindy Renfrow, who took the above incomprehensibleness (however charming) and turned it into the following quite interesting and unusual dish:

Hen in Broth

2 chicken legs
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. white wine
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 small onion, minced
1 t. salt
dash pepper
pinch saffron
1/4 t. clove powder
1/2 t. mace powder
1 t. ginger powder

Put all in a large covered pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and set aside.
To thicken, take 1 slice dark bread. Soak it in 1 teaspoon wine vinegar and some of the broth from the pot. Grind the bread mixture to paste in a blender, or pass it through a strainer. Add to broth in pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to desired thickness.
Serve hot with the chicken.

(optional -- add 1 cup raw rice and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot with the rest of the raw ingredients. Cook as above, but do not add bread to thicken. Makes an easy one-pot meal).

I took the second option (much easier), to make a yummy chicken and rice dish. I also doubled the recipe, which made enough for 3-4 people (just as much work, and more leftovers this way :-). Oh, and I was generous with the pepper. The result was really unusual.

Enough babbling. Got to go finish exercising and then down to work. I have to finish the damn Puritan novella -- it's so late that I'm not sure Jeff will still want it, but I'd be embarrassed to call him and ask at this point without having it done and ready for him if he does want it. Talk to y'all later...

4:30. Oh, I've been bad. Not sure where the time has gone, but the novella is not done, and I haven't critted the stories for tonight's ClarionX meeting yet -- well, that last shouldn't take more than an hour or so, and I'm damn well going to do it as soon as I finish this entry. I'm such a flake sometimes. At least the dentist appointment got made. Argh, sometimes I get so annoyed with myself. If I could change one thing about my personality, I'd probably give myself some more willpower. Lazy bum.

Stopped in mostly to note that I've added an interesting reader critique of "Chantelle" to the stories page. I think Everett's probably right on the mark, the more I think about it. But if I talk about it now, I'm just going to get down on myself, which will be equally unproductive, so I'm going to go work instead. Supposedly, at any rate.

Hey, munchkins. Still…

Hey, munchkins. Still no outside work. Could use an income.

In other news, work on Clean Sheets is generally proceeding smoothly, though we've had some difficulties with getting our e-mail set up. Hopefully will be cleared up soon.

Another story of mine has been bought - "Girl Behind the Fantasy" is going to be published in a new anthology, _Hot off the Net_. Just a little money, but it's always nice to have another publication. Will let you know when it's out.

That was a nice consolation to the rejection I got from Playboy yesterday. They don't want "Amanda" -- I'm getting a little worried about this poor story. I'm also not sure if it's the controversial subject matter or the writing or both that's getting this piece rejected. It would help to know. Ah well -- time to send it out again.

Today, phone calls to make. Calling Masquerade for a couple of things, calling Melcher Media. I hope it clears up -- I might drag David sailing this afternoon. I haven't sailed since school ended, and I don't want to forget how. Need to make a dentist appointment (I'm really bad about such things.) Have to finish clearing away the piled up paperwork. Those are the goals for the day.

Haven't a very hard time motivating this morning, perhaps because it's so grey outside. The weather has turned crisp, and while I rather like that in feel, I could wish for a little more brightness. I tend to either like bright sunshine or actual rain...foreboding doom and gloom doesn't do much for me. Oh well -- best have my tea and try to get working anyway.

Have a good day, everyone.

Well, no temp work yet,…

Well, no temp work yet, so still catching up on e-mail etc. I can't seem to get one of my accounts down past 38 saved messages...more just keep coming in, dangit....

Last night was pleasant -- I'd invited David and Heather to dinner, sort of spur of the moment, and then Jed called, and so I invited him along too, and then, well, Ian and El came home, and there was enough food, so what the heck....we ended up being six. Very nice time had by all, I think, though I was tremendously tired by 9 and chatted with Jed for a while and then crashed into bed and didn't get up 'til 9 this morning. So much for 5 a.m. :-)

Dinner menu: Carabaccia (sweet onion soup), spinach and tomato salad with sweet readymade dressing, veggie sandwiches, sorbet (brought by Jed) and honeybread (made by Heather), and a rather silly light wine.

Heather really likes the soup, so here's the recipe -- it's a rather dressed up version of French onion soup:

Carabaccia (sweet onion soup)

Serves six

  • 4 oz blanched almonds (buy them readymade)
  • 2/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • cinnamon stick
  • 2 lbs onions
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 32 oz. vegetable stock
  • 6 slices French or Italian bread
  • a few ounces Gruyere (or Emmentaller or Swiss) cheese
  1. Crush the almonds (in mortar or food chopper) and leave them to soak in the vinegar with the cinnamon stick for about one hour.
  2. One hour later: finely chop the onions and fry in the oil until translucent.
  3. Rinse the almonds in a sieve and add to the onions.
  4. Add the sugar, salt and stock, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour. Soup's done at this point -- if you're not ready to serve, just set it aside and reheat it just before the next step. Careful not to cook it down so much that you're left with mostly onions. :-)
  5. Toast the slices of bread (putting them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes works fine), place a slice in each dish and pour over the onion soup.
  6. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of each bowl and serve. Good with salad and sandwiches!
Btw, a fun way to dress up mayonnaise as a spread is to combine it with garlic and fresh thyme. For each clove of garlic, two t. of mayonnaise and one of chopped thyme - mush the garlic either by hand (work!) or in a food chopper and mix well. You can call it garlic aioli and it'll please even people who think they hate mayonnaise. :-) Well, some of them, anyway...

The sandwiches were marinated, grilled portobello mushrooms, mozzarella (the fresher, the better), roasted red peppers (buy them readymade unless you want to do a lot of work), and capers. If you're not cooking veggie, grilled chicken with black pepper will work well in these.

Okay, enough talk about food. I'm getting hungry. :-) Maybe you can persuade Heather to put up the honey bread recipe on her page (she's started updating her journal again, huzzah!).

I should get back to work on Clean Sheets, but before that, I'll leave you with a song I wrote during the trip. (Wrote two, actually, both surprisingly country-ish, break-your-heart type songs.) Some day I'll get the music up here, but for now, just the lyrics. (If someone wanted to donate a good Mac program that would translate notes to printed sheet music, that would be lovely).

Saturation

Oh, I can't listen to the radio no more,
Too many broken hearts, singing their blues,
Cursing the day their love went away,
And I am so far from you.

    Refrain:
    My chest is so tight, my throat is so dry,
    I've chewed up my lips 'til they're sore;
    I think I've got a fly caught in my eye,
    And I can't sing this love song no more.

We go to the movies, my sister and me,
See the story of a love so strong and true;
And I'm sobbing in my seat with my arms around my knees
'Cause I am so far from you.

    Refrain
Oh, even action movies, they've got a kiss or two,
Or if they don't, I pretend, that they do;
Though I'm not looking still I find, lovers in my mind,
'Cause, baby, I am so far from you.

    Refrain
I cannot watch the movies; I cannot watch tv,
Can't hear nobody singing their songs.
But I listen every night, a moth burning up in light --
Being so far away from you is wrong.

    Final refrain
*****
Aug 14, 1998

I should probably stick to poetry, huh? The punctuation is a bit erratic above -- that's mostly so you can see where the rhythm's supposed to fall, rather than the grammar. :-)

Have a good day, y'all.

12:30 -- Just wanted to note that I'll be reading in Berkeley next week, in case any of you were local and wanted to stop by.

Also wanted to thank R.L. for his kind review over at Amazon -- those lovely words sell books, and I'm most appreciative. So if you're reading, thanks...

Good morning! Well, I…

Good morning! Well, I hadn't planned on getting up at 5, but it happened anyway, and I'm not going to complain, since I was going to try to get on that schedule soon anyway. Bit of an odd morning -- brain's churning with ideas. It's actually been that way since WorldCon -- overstimulated, I suppose. In any case, I woke up and wrote my first hypertext story. I'm not sure it's done, actually. I have a feeling I'll be accreting other material onto this basic story as time goes on. That'll be interesting, if it happens. But in the meantime, it's complete enough to read, so I invite you to visit And Can This Ever End?

A bit dozy, so I'm going to go do my exercises and see if that wakes me up. Then call the temp agency and tell them I'm available for the week (the tech writing thing definitely starts next Monday). Then start working through the pile of piled up stuff. I think I was logged on from pretty much 8 a.m. yesterday to 11 p.m....and there's still a fair bit of backlog. Oof.

Well, I’m back. Didja…

Well, I'm back. Didja miss me? :-)

There's so much to say, I'm not sure where to start. Since I've got a stack of books on my desk waiting to be put away (I'm still unpacking), maybe I'll start with those -- a quick review of some of what I read while away.

  • The Exile Kiss (George Alec Effinger) -- well, I covered this somewhat in an earlier entry, I think. This book is interesting in that it combines Arab culture with cyberpunk culture, but overall didn't do it for me. If you haven't tried cyberpunk, go read _Neuromancer_ instead.

  • Primary Inversion (Catherine Asaro) -- Catherine was one of my co-critiquers at WorldCon, and gave interesting, insightful critique. I wasn't surprised, as I very much enjoyed this hard sf novel. She's a physicist by profession, so she got the fascinating science right. And the characterization (of a soldier and a woman coming to great political in a troubled time, being forced to question the assumptions of her self, her family, and her culture) was some of the best I've read in hard sf. I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel, and in the meantime will probably seek out her other books.

  • Hand of Prophecy (Severna Park) -- ooh, this was an interesting and distressing book. A race bred for slavery. Love. Betrayal. Fascinating approaches to questions of bondage and domination. Death and blood and courage. Not to mention the totally hot shower scene... I'm going to go hunt out her other novel, and recommend this one around. Good stuff!

  • Things Invisible to See: Gay and Lesbian Tales of Magic Realism (ed., Lawrence Schimel) -- Lawrence (a friend of mine) gave me a copy of this on the train to New York, after the Con, and as usual, I wasn't disappointed by his work. Occasionally funny but often sad, these lyrical tales slipped between fantasy and magical realism surprisingly smoothly. If I have a favorite, it's "The Story So Far", by Martha Soukup (fascinating narrative structure), but with stories like Sarah Schulman's "The Penis Story" (incredibly funny) and Laura Antoniou's "Shayna Maidel" (produced that odd and so human combination of laughter and tears at once...), not to mention Lawrence's own "The River of Time", it's really very hard to choose. Did make me surprisingly nervous reading it at my parents' house, though. :-)

  • Blood Lines (William R. Burkett, Jr.) -- Bill's one of my Clarion classmates, and I was very happy to get a copy of his new novel, the sequel to Blood Sport. We're back with the incredible Ball, and the Hemingwayesque journalist, and I enjoyed this romp (spiced with renga). However, I must protest the ending. Either I just missed a lot, or this isn't a complete novel -- and I wasn't prepared for that. I like to be warned somewhere that I'm about to be left hanging...

  • If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (William Faulkner) -- borrowed this one from my sister, and I'm glad I did. It's a novel interweaving two narratives, "The Wild Palms" and "Old Man", and I found it tremendously instructive of the pitfalls of such an approach. "The Wild Palms" was so intense, so compelling, that it was often a letdown to switch to the other tale (which gave me a reason to put down the book...something you want to allow the reader as rarely as poossible). On the other hand, that story was so painful, that at times it was a relief to switch to the quieter "Old Man". By the end of the novel, I think the effect was working masterfully (unsurprising, for Faulkner), the two tales balanced superbly, but I think there were some real problems with it in the first half of the book. Fascinating, at any rate, and (leaving aside the structure for a moment), the book was so distressing/engrossing/powerful that after I finished it I just sat in the airport and stared at the wall for a good half hour, thinking.

  • A Taste for Death (P.D. James) -- brilliant mystery, as usual. I must go and buy and read all of her work. But I almost couldn't handle reading it (on the long flight back to California)...the bleakness, the unwillingness to pull any emotional punches, the harsh suffering of her characters were a bit much for my depleted emotional resources. I would have done better with a new Terry Pratchett...
And now I'm back. Tired, but so happy to be home. I can't tell you how good it feels, sitting in my room with Clannad playing and a breeze blowing in the window and my laundry drying and access to all my accounts again and most of the unpacking done and my garden weeded. David helped this morning (I was so glad he brought me home from the airport last night. If I'd had to manage it myself, I would have first sat down in a corner of the airport and had a good cry. I was *so* tired.), after I'd gotten through a few hours of e-mail (and two cups of tea). We have pole beans, and brown and russet potatoes, and more tomatoes than any one person can use. Luckily there's lots of us around. The herbs also went nuts, and I gave away quite a bit of dill and basil and parsley and oregano to David and Lydia. Apparently they've had tons of sun, and though some plants have yellowed a bit (lack of rain, I think), most of the garden is flourishing. The flowers are stunning. I'm growing more and more fond of pansies -- once known as heart's ease, I think, and isn't that a lovely name? (And daffodils were daffydowndillies, aka gillyflowers...)

Babbling, clearly. I think I'm going to go do some situps and take a shower and then come back to my work. I haven't exercised in at least a month, ick. Got to get better about this; I *know* that if I exercise I'll feel better and more energetic. If only there were a more direct connection between the part of my brain that knows things and the part that controls willpower...

Good to be home. Talk to you soon, my dears.

Ten minutes later: Okay, sooner than expected. But I just stopped by Todd's semi-journal to check on how he'd been (this is Todd of mouthorgan, not Heather's Todd), and found some thoughts on the con and fandom that I wanted to address. Well, not address, exactly, but point you to. This is all muddled, though. backtrack.

Todd and Debby (co-editors of mouth organ and partners overall) made an impromptu decision to drive eight hours to attend a day of the con. I'm very glad they did, and in retrospect wish I'd bagged a panel or two to talk to them more, but at least I got to meet them face-to-face, and y'know, that does make a difference. I've been reading their words for months; I have at least a sense of how Todd is going to think about something, but now I can imagine him laughing, I can see that subtle quirk of Debby's lip. I can picture how comfortable they are with each other, and that's really nice. It's going to make it easier to work with Todd, being able to hear his voice when I get e-mail from him. And of course it's fresh now, and it won't be later, but still, it'll be something. I'd really like to meet all the people on the project -- I still don't even know where many of them live.

But I urge you to go over and read his comments on the trip, and on fandom. There are all sorts of things I could say in response. I wouldn't have picked him for an MIT-type. He looked like a pretty typical guy to me. I was a bit disappointed that he wasn't in a dress...but not surprised. I wore a pirate costume for one evening of the con, and yes, I was one of the few professionals who dressed up, but I don't like that trend, and I very much enjoyed my costume. There are a few obnoxiously mannerless fans, but by far they seem if anything to be more polite and open-minded than the average joe. Part of me would like to do a long column musing on all of this -- but most of me thinks I've put off the sit-ups long enough, so I'm going to go. But I did want to just mention this stuff. I feel better. Hope it wasn't too incoherent.

Online Magazines

Hm...I'm separating this off because I'm about to go into a moderately in-depth discussion here of online magazines and how one makes a profit with them. And I'm doing that sparked by a certain website that an author pointed me at, Clocktower Fiction. I'm going to ask you to check it out in a bit, but first, some background.

Now, to create a webzine, you don't need much money. In fact, if you can get someone to donate the space, and get volunteers to donate the time, and get authors to donate the stories, you don't really need any money. It's not that hard to get the first two, actually. And you can even manage the third -- but if the same volunteers are authoring the stories, you lose a little in credibility. And the work burden gets pretty high. And whether they're the same people or not, it's hard to guarantee good stories over more than a few months. And if the material isn't good, you'll lose your readers, and that's the whole point, right? So at the very least, you want to pay your authors, and pay them at least moderately well, so you get good material. So you need money. Not a ton, but some. Probably more than you want to pay out of your own pocket. Where do you get it?

(Note: Some people do start magazines and pay entirely out of their own pocket. Nice if you can afford the hobby. I can't.)

A) Readers. B) Advertisors.

Traditionally, magazines relied on a combination of the two. They sold subscriptions and newsstand copies, and they sold ads, and between them, managed to make enough money to cover printing costs, pay their contributors, and pay their staff. Now, a webzine doesn't really have printing costs. And the staff is willing to put off being paid for a while. But paying contributors, as we've established, is pretty essential. And frankly, I don't think that getting the money from readers is a viable option.

Oh, there are people trying it. Ken Jenks of Mind's Eye Fiction offers stories for a few dollars each on the web. And maybe he'll be able to make money doing it -- but I doubt it. Web surfers are used to everything (other than hard-core porn) being free. They don't want to pay money. And it's not easy to do it right now -- it's a bit of a hassle, with credit cards or whatever, and if you're Amazon.com, maybe you've got the infrastructure and reputation and the whatnot to handle it, but most start-up magazines simply don't. If there ever comes a day when it's dead easy to buy something on-line, when you can just click a button and a completely secure, so safe-you don't even think about it, deduction appears from your bank account, then maybe people will be willing to pay for fiction online. And if that happened, then I'd probably advocate doing something like asking for a quarter donation at the end of reading a story. Like this story? Donate a quarter to the author. And maybe it'd work. But right now...I'm dubious. Feel free to disagree with me -- Ken Jenks obviously does.

So readers are out...which leaves advertisers. Now, advertisers have been getting noticeably skittish lately. They've put a lot of money into the web and haven't seen much payback. So you have to convince them that you can bring them buyers. You have to have a quality web page that seduces the surfers, that gets them to linger, to come back and come back again and again and eventually click through to the advertisers site. And if you're starting up a magazines online, then you have to just scramble through the first few months until you build up enough traffic to convince the advertisers to bother with you. (Unless you're Ellen Datlow, once of OMNI, now of the new Event Horizon, who has enough name recognition in sf that she can persuade advertisers that the site *will* be popular, and get them to sponsor her from the get go...) That's me, and Clean Sheets.

All clear? So do me a favor -- go visit Clocktower and tell me something. Where are they getting their money? They claim they buy fiction -- so they need money. They claim all over the site that everything is free, absolutely everything. I was kind of expecting to get hit with a request for money after ten chapters of a novel -- but no, they just ask for some contact info (what do they do with it? I didn't give 'em any -- too suspicious). Maybe they're being sponsored by a publisher who's accumulating statistical data on readers. Maybe they're self-promoting and don't actually buy outside fiction. Maybe they're bankrolling it themselves. But I'm dang curious, and wondering if I'm missing something obvious.

One may have noticed that I'm fairly firmly in editorial mode these days. Darn it -- I want Clean Sheets to succeed. I think it'll be a good magazine; I think it'll fill a lack in the market. I don't want to miss a trick on what's going on with other mags. Any advice welcome...

11:15. Last entry for today, I promise. A poem.

Week, with Desire

(a modified sestina)

    Sunday
And please, let me forget the scattered light
against warm skin, blond threads burning
in mirror, windowpane and memory, reflected
endlessly, until my throat is dry, until I drown,
senseless, blue-swept and forgotten,
clinging to a spar of reason.

    Monday
Shall I list each reason?
How his very name is sun, is light,
and mine is always forgotten;
how at his touch I am raw and burning,
and the imperfect, only, salve is to drown
in kisses? His eyes show only myself, reflected.

    Tuesday
Believe me, I have considered, reflected
on this decision, employed a bitten lip and cold reason.
I could convince myself, could drown
in eager convictions. My fingers tremble to light
the bonfire, and set the witch to midnight burning.
Civilization is so easily forgotten.

    Wednesday
Trust me -- nothing he said has been forgotten,
not a gentle word -- none directed, only reflected
onto me. So much worse that way, my face burning
and he claims innocence, ignorance or good reason
to justify his silences. So many nights of long moon's light
while I listened obediently and tried not to drown...

    Thursday
The tide rises again, and we will, must drown
in this wildness, the rasping tears so quick forgotten,
heart-hurt lost to his touch, his battering light
and my poor self reflected --
a frail spar to cling to is reason
when thighs are taut and the flesh is burning,

    Friday
aching, dying, thrusting and once again burning
endlessly, until all I'd ask is to simply drown
to sink down, down past the halls of reason
to the bones lost, the white chambers forgotten,
where far overhead is dimly reflected
the dying and bloody light.

    Saturday
That light. A sailor could certainly drown
silently, burning with desire, but not -- not! -- forgotten.
Even only reflected, light confounds cold, dark reason.

****

A sestina is a tremendously complicated form to define, though not nearly as hard to do as it sounds. There are many pages on sestina on the web -- I recommend this one for a clear guide to the structure. They link to other sestina sites. This is my first; it dragged me out of my bed to be written, the gods know why. There was something oddly satisfying about writing it, though.

Well, I *think* it’s the…

Well, I *think* it's the eleventh, anyway. No calendar nearby, and it's been so long since I updated this...oh well. I'm sure someone will correct me, though i f you do, send it to moh2@rainbow.uchicago.edu, 'cause I can't access the lanminds account until I get back to California on Saturday night.

So, I'm in CT. Sorry I didn't write sooner, but WorldCon was even more intense and exhausting than expected -- even though I could access this account, I didn't ha ve the mental energy to deal with journaling. But today I have both energy and tim e, so settle in, and I'll try to give you an idea of what the last week was like.

I actually ended up leaving home even earlier than I needed to -- it was getting hot, and I knew the airport would be air conditioned, so I had David drop me off before rush hour traffic (barely) instead of after. So I got to the airport aro und 3:30ish for a 9 p.m. flight. Mostly spent the time reading, as I mentioned in m y airport journal entry (instead of writing as I'd virtuously planned), but did finally read _Tales of the City_, which I picked up in a bookstore and read the first page of and then read a few more pages and then sat down on the floor and read fifty pages and then bought the darn thing, even though I had several other books in my bag 'cause I had to know how it finished. Tremendously good set of linked stories of fascinating people in San Francisco -- highly recommended for both the native and the tourist. I gave my copy to Nancy (Clarion classmate) as a thank-you-for-letting-me-stay-with-you-present, and now will have to go buy anot her one, as this is a book I definitely want to own. I'm blanking on the authors na me -- Armistead Maupin, maybe? Something like that? I finished the book around th e time the plane took off.

Thought I would sleep, but didn't for a while. Squirmed around in the seats (luckily no one sitting next to me, so I got to put the arm up and have space fo r two), finally lying down with pillow and blanket (yes, I'm small. I can rest my head on the armrest by the window and curl up relatively comfortably). But I wa s still wide awake. Eventually they came by with food service, which I didn't eat , but I did get a glass of wine (which they never did bring me back my change for) , and tried to scribble some poetry which mostly didn't work -- I wonder where tha t is -- and finally dozed off for an hour or two.

Ah, found the poetry. On post-its, as that was all I had in my bag by way of pa per (and the Tower Air flight attendants couldn't seem to find me any full-size; ver y annoying). I'll post the drafts below, but I think they need serious work -- was fuzzy-headed when I wrote them.

Measuring Love

      In my unreasonable fondness
      for his chewed-up pens?

In his sitting, always, by my side
until I fall asleep?

      In nine-hour long-distance conversations
      about politics, rather than relationships?

In the curl of hair on his chest,
and the strength of his hands?

      In blond
brown
    hair, soft in my fingers; in a thumping heart under my ear?

    I am comparing pounds and liters, inches and centimeters.

How to measure
      who I love
    more?

*****

Ugh. I'll spare you the other one until I revise it more. I was very tired.

Arrived in New York around 5:30 a.m., quite fuzzy-headed. As a result, almost g ot taken. See, I knew I needed to get to Penn Station to catch my train to Baltimo re, and I knew I had hours to do it in. So I was going to catch the subway, yes? O nly I asked a man in uniform where the entrance was, and he said that it wasn't runn ing yet. I was a little bewildered, but okay, and when he called over a cabbie, wen t along with the man. Got to the cab, and the guy settled me in the front, told m e it'd be $40. That was way more than I'd planned on spending, but I wasn't sure how far it was to Penn Station from JFK. He said that this was a shared cab and it would be a lot more if I took a regular Yellow Cab, and that the subway wouldn't start running until 8 a.m. Then he told me to wait a minute, and he'd be right back. I sat there for a few minutes, while it slowly dawned on me that I was probably being taken. Got out, trying to figure out how to open the trunk when he came back. He argued a little, but finally got him to admit that the subway was in fact running -- but he didn't think I'd want to take it with my bags, that it wasn't safe. Was really pretty angry at that point, but being the polite person I am, I just got my bags and walked back across the parking lot to the airport. A t that point I was realizing how heavy my bags were, but there was no way I was taking a cab. Asked someone where the subway was, and they told me, but also sa id they were doing a shuttle for $12 or so instead, and I decided that was just fin e with me. Ended up having a really good shuttle ride -- of the six passengers, o ne happened to be from Los Gatos (where Kevin's family lives) and told me some interesting things about real estate (her field), and another was this charming older woman who'd defected from Rumania years ago. We had a wonderful conversation, so the morning wasn't a total loss. I did feel like a bit of an idiot, though...

Oof -- if I cover the rest of the week in this much detail, it'll take pages and pages. Skimming over the high points:

  • Absolutely wonderful seeing some of my Clarion classmates again. Nancy, Therese, Robert and I spent the most time together, and by the end of it, I didn 't want to leave them. Funny how Clarion can bring you so quickly to feeling like family. Also saw Bill and Ceej and Naomi at the tail end of the Con, which was a pleasure. Ceej has lost a lot of weight and been exercising and looks fabulous -- good for her! And Bill is out with a new book, _Blood Lines_, which is in my backpack even now, waiting to be read.
  • My panels all went swimmingly. The first was an education and sf panel (wit h notables David Brin and Greg Bear), where I found myself volunteering to coordin ate assembling a sf/education booklist and lesson plans. I need to learn how to construct a searchable database for the web. Oof. I volunteer too much. And w as impromptu called up onto another panel on related subject later in the day, whic h was also very interesting. I do strongly believe in the value of using sf in education, and I have a head start on this with the booklists I've already put together, so perhaps it won't be too bad. The Future of Erotica panel was packe d, despite (or because of) its midnight scheduling. Great fun panelling with Cecel ia Tan, as always, and met Michael Capobianco and Jagi Lamplighter as well.
  • Met tons of interesting people, both famous and non. Would take too long to list them all, and I'm not sure what good it would do (other than to prod my pathetic memory)
  • Favorite new person is Alex -- hey Alex! Alex was my one fan at the convent ion (okay, eventually I met his brother Michael, but Alex was there for the entire c on, so he has seniority), and it was great fun hanging out with him. He even put me up one night when I couldn't find Nancy and Therese (bad planning on my part, but worked out quite all right).
  • The critiquing workshop went very well too, and I have a favorite new hard s f novelist to watch as a result. Catherine Asaro was one of the other industry professionals, and her first novel, _Primary Inversions_, was really interesting . She's a physicist by trade, so I'm told she gets the science right, and the star-spanning political machinations and heart-wrenching pscyhological difficult ies of the characters are exactly my style. I'm looking forward eagerly to the November sequel, and in the meantime, plan to pick up her other books.
  • Perhaps the most solid fun of the Con were the hours of the Clarion party (impromptu organization by Michele, Brian and yours truly) on Saturday night. M et Clarionites and teachers from several years, interesting conversations with Mike and Wolf and Andy Duncan and Greg Bear (the last on erotica), had some scotch (m y sole drink of the entire con), and was really happy (if tired) throughout. One of the Clarion '98 people is in the Bay Area (Susan), and I'm looking forward to getting together with her when I get back.

  • And most hopefully, people were generally quite enthusiastic about Clean Sheets. They weren't sure I could pull it off, but they seemed to think I had a better chance of making an online zine work than most, which was encouraging.

Well, my sister is waiting for me, so I'd best get going. The Con wasn't entire ly perfect -- a few people got on my nerves, and I was very exhausted for most of i t, and I ate badly -- but I definitely think it was worth the trip; productive and I had a lot of fun. Hope I can scrape together the money for AussieCon next year, and my schedule permits my going...

Talk to y'all later...

Okay, just a short and…

Okay, just a short and silly note to tell y'all that I'm writing from an airport, of all things. Waiting for my flight and logged in at $2.50/ten minutes, so I certainly won't be on long, but the geek in me thinks this is mighty cool...

Otherwise, bored stiff. Or rather, was bored stiff, trying to read an Effinger book (I'd heard good things about _When Gravity Fails_, but couldn't find it, so reading _The Exile Kiss_, two books later in the series, which is not exciting me, which may be a reflection on my current tired brain state rather than the book or Mr. Effinger (who I sincerely hope I like, since I'll be critiquing with him and Ms. Asaro and Mr. Feintuch for three hours on Saturday...)) and failing, so was getting very antsy until I wandered into a bookstore at the airport and picked up Maupin's _Tales of the City_, which is just delightful. A fabulous San Francisco book, and I'll be finishing it soon and then giving it to my Clarion-classmate Nancy as a hostess gift (she lives in D.C. and is putting me up during the Con) and hoping she doesn't mind a once-read book...

Anyway, I was reading that and walking down the hallway towards my gate and I glanced up and noticed someone checking e-mail! Huzzah! My only frustration is that I wanted to get something from my lanminds account and I can't seem to get there. I vaguely remember that they have some sort of protection stuff up, but it's driving me bonkers. I'll have to call and have someone send me the stuff I need. Okay, sliding into third ten minutes, so really should finish up, my darlings. Fingers typing so fast they're stumbling over themselves...or maybe that's tiredness. Think I got everything done that absolutely had to be done, though, so that's some comfort.

Talk to you later, munchkins...

Hey, my darlings. Well,…

Hey, my darlings. Well, this one'll be short, as I'm busy packing. (Packing, they say? She didn't say anything about a trip, did she? Where the heck is she going?) Actually, I can't remember whether I've mentioned this or not, but I'll be leaving town tomorrow to attend WorldCon in Baltimore. And if you live anywhere nearby and are thinking of attending the Con, let me note that not only will I be having an autographing session there (probably pitifully attended compared to the bestselling fantasy/sf authors nearby :( ), and not only will I be on two, count 'em, two panels (SF and Education and the Future of Erotica), but I'm going to a whole bunch of good parties. :-) Primarily the Circlet Press parties, and I'd love to see any of you there who can make it. Details on WorldCon available on the WorldCon 1998 web page (which I admit to being too lazy to look up right now). I'll be there from 8/5 - 8/9 (taking the red-eye tomorrow night), then visiting my parents 'til 8/14, then a day in New York with Russian Alex, and then home again home again, jiggity jig.

I may have some limited e-mail access in there, but I wouldn't count on it. Hope you miss me! :-)

I leave you with one more 'first time' poem... (okay, I'll probably post again before I leave, but maybe not)


"This is not the "real" first time. But in an effort to forget I don't want to open that wound up again. Instead I offer you the first time it was real for me."

All the world is surrendered
my skin offered up
in holy sacrifice.

Stay,
stay with me
the night is seeping through
and you remind me
of summer's sin

    noon today
    too hot to matter

    and hours past
    the heat and rush

Brush me back
and hold me down--
captured in wet mouths,
hungry hands and desire

Sleep my salvation tonight
eternity spent in
a tangle of arms and legs.

- Ericka Horen

*yawn* Morning, kiddos….

*yawn* Morning, kiddos. Sleepy! Stayed up late talking to David (probably would have talked earlier if we hadn't watched a couple of hours of Deep Space 9 first. :-) On the other hand, I was feeling a bit ill, and when I'm sick I really want to watch television (or, more accurately, I really don't want to do anything else). Since I hardly watch it otherwise, I am terribly confused by what's happening in some of DS9 -- the plot lines have gotten complicated!!)

One of you sent in a very interesting article from the NY Times on the movie of Lolita, which will soon be playing on Showtime. Unfortunately, I don't get that channel, but the review was interesting nonetheless -- I went into it thinking that there was no way that someone could make a decent movie out of this highly-stylized novel...but the columnist actually made it sound plausible. Sorry I'll miss it this time, but at some point...

Anyway, back to work. Today interspersing requesting donations for Clean Sheets with more FrameMaker, finishing The God of Small Things, and finishing writing "The Fall" for Puritan. Oh, and maybe buying pirate boots for WorldCon. :-) Talk to y'all later...

12:35 a.m. Well, I didn't finish anything. Which is okay....I did a fair bit of stuff, and things are rolling. Will hopefully (fingers crossed) finish everything that needs to be finished before I leave. I did get shoes for the pirate costume (I know, I know, the least important -- but it was fun! And Ellie spent a while making them look more piratical, with battered gold buckles and all...)

The best part of the day was going to the Paramount Theater and seeing To Have and Have Not, a great black and white movie starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. I'm in love with Lauren Bacall. She is a goddess in human form. I want to be her when I grow up (and she was only 19 or 20 when she made that film!). The layers of meaning in the conversations, in the looks exchanged...god! I guess that's what you get when you take a story by Hemingway, a screenplay co-authored by Faulkner, and throw in two great actors (and a charming pianist). Whoo! See this film. No hesitations.

I am wiped, so off I toddle to bed. Just wanted to get that impression down while it was fresh...sleep well, if you aren't already. (I know, I know, that doesn't make any sense at all...)