Good morning, my darling…

Good morning, my darling readers. I'm happy 'cause it's raining here (which actually led me to sleep in this morning, and so I'm even further behind in my work, but it's hard to care with the world looking so lovely). I know many if not most of you probably don't like the rain. I must admit that I wish I had an adequate raincoat, rather than a mere umbrella. Still, it's delightful seeing the streets this way. A sheen of water covers everything, from the brown banister outside my window to the stone pathway and brick spiral staircase. The trees are so intensely green, and drops of water hang precariously from the underside of the leaves and banister. The pattering, quiet now, is so calming, and cars sound different as they drive by; sleeker, whooshier. :-) When I die, I'd like it to be on a misty morning, after a raging thunderstorm the night before. There's such peace in those mornings...

I wonder if other people plan their deaths, their funerals. Weddings, of course; almost every woman I know, including the stolidly anti-marriage, have at least once planned their wedding -- it's hard to avoid, given our culture. But deaths? We don't like to think about death, and yet it's fascinating as well. I know as a teenager I liked to invent horrifying, yet noble, deaths for myself. I would run into a burning building and save thirteen children, yet be trapped myself at the end, and go up in flames, and everyone who knew me would wish they'd been nicer to me. Typical teen fantasy, I imagine. I was not a very popular teen, though I was blessed with a few good friends. These days, I'm hoping to live past a hundred; I imagine it depends on whose genetics I get. All of my grandparents have died, some in their sixties. Two had a version of Alzheimer's, and another had multiple strokes. Not good odds, since I'm twenty-six already -- that leaves me only a little more than half my life. On the other hand, my great-grandmother lived to be past a hundred, in full possession of her faculties. She was the only one in the family to be even close to as short as I am (I'm 5'0"), so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I've gotten her longevity genes.

When I do die, I'll definitely be cremated. I'm an organ donor, and I've signed away the rest of the body as well, so the doctors will take whatever they can use, and whatever bits of skin and tissue left will be neatly burned. (Am I upsetting anyone? I know people get distressed by this sort of thing, but I never have, especially not when it applies to me. I tend to be very pragmatic about it.) I hope you're all organ donors. I definitely don't want a funeral. They tend to be morbid affairs (they could hardly help it) and I've been to too many, watched too many people sink in on themselves with grief. Rain may be appropriate for funerals, but I wouldn't want someone I loved to have to cope with following a coffin through the rain on top of missing me. Let the undertakers cope with the details, and when the ashes are safely in their urn, let them return them to my friends, who will hopefully scatter them in a garden or on the sea, rather than keeping them sitting maudlin on their mantelpiece. Or if they must keep them on the mantelpiece, let them tell bad jokes about them, and think fondly, rather than sadly, of me.

And when all the details are taken care of, let there be a wake, with wine and songs and even dancing. Let them make speeches, and cry on each other's shoulders. May no one be alone in their grief unless they wish to be. Let there be laughter along with remembrance. The Greyhaven folks knew how to do it right for Paul. I hope my friends are as kind to themselves.

Do other people think of these things? Is it maudlin, or morbid? I don't think so -- it doesn't depress me. Rather the opposite, in fact; I end up feeling very fond of the people in my life, very protective of them. Perhaps I'll call up my sisters tonight, and make sure they're doing okay. I'll remember my mother's birthday tomorrow. I'll purchase some Christmas presents, and carefully wrap and label them. I'll walk in the rain and think how lucky I am to be loved. After all, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow...

1:15. First, a quote: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H.G. Wells.

Then a recommendation. I just finished an article in Wayne C. Booth's book, The Vocation of a Teacher. I cannot recommend this book too highly (and I say this on the strength of the table of contents and the single essay). He is careful. He is thoughtful. He is eminently readable and entertaining. He says important things, and if you teach at all, especially at the college level, I think you should read this book. I read this article on reserve, and now I'm going to walk over to Amazon.com and see if I can buy the darn book.

Well, back a little…

Well, back a little early from the professionalization weekend, which was often bleak, but very informative. I'm still pretty determined to be a teacher, even though it appears likely that there'll be a two-year community college internship period before I can teach at a four-year college. However, if I publish enough books before then, perhaps I can bypass some of that. The weekend was held at the youth hostel in Sacramento. This was one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in, in a lovely town. If you're considering visiting Sacramento, you really should check out one weird globe, they have the best deals on hostels. You just can't get a better deal. I have to remember to check hostels anytime I'm travelling someplace I don't have friends I can crash with. I served on a publishing panel, then attended one on writing jobs outside academics, one on teaching jobs, and a final one on good interviewing and reading/presentation techniques. Very interesting all around, and if you're in San Francisco, you really ought to try swinging by Cafe du Norde and listening to Thea Hillman do poetry slams. The woman is amazing, and a good erotica writer as well. Someone to keep an eye on. 7:10. Just a quick note that Screech is up and running again, with two columns by me. Hooray! :-) I spent much of today on the phone (with Roshani and Kevin), and my room is really clean. Didn't get much work done.

Great news for me! Got…

Great news for me! Got a letter yesterday announcing that my story, "Fleeing Gods", has been accepted to the Best American Erotica of 1998 anthology, edited by the lovely Susie Bright. :-) :-) :-)

Also, a nice review (very short) from Buzz Review #18, an e-mail newsletter:


Some books are works of art. This book transcends art.

Erotica is hard to review. People are different. Take a chance and decide for yourself. On any level this is a crowning achievement.

Bz


A little over the top, but charming, nonetheless.

In other news, today is busy and crazy and I'm going away for the weekend for a professionalization workshop; should be fun. I'll be back Sunday afternoon, so no journal entries 'til then. Had a good conference with Julie (Fiction teacher and thesis advisor) this morning about where my new book is going, and am psyched to work on it. I even practiced some, so I shouldn't totally embarass myself at my music class. I had a pleasant evening yesterday, dinner and music lessons and good conversation with David. Generally, life is good, I'm feeling exuberant, picture me doing a little dance of joy. :-)

Okay, now I'm getting silly. Have a wonderful weekend, my dears.

Hmmm…what to report? …

Hmmm...what to report? Yesterday was insane with phone calls; I had been neglecting getting back to people, and last night they all decided to take revenge by calling at once. I think I spoke to over ten people in the course of an hour. Glad I have call waiting.

More excitingly (I love making up words), Karina called early this morning, with the possibility of coming out from Australia for a visit in January. That would be lovely, and I hope it happens.

Today is catch up on adminstration day. Schedule a room for my writing workshop, "I Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay". Ask people to be on my thesis committee. Find a thesis advisor. Fill out pertinent forms so I can graduate. Register for next semester's classes. Find out what I'm teaching in the spring (TA'ing probably either British or American survey). Etc. and so on. My Fiction class critiques 7000 words of my erotica today. Meep.

I should have said this…

I should have said this explicitly yesterday, but I say it now:

Please redirect your browsers (and bookmarks) to http://www.mamohanraj.com/Diary/current.html

The regular current.html will soon be only a memory.

The reading last night went very well. About fifteen people showed up (they only had ten chairs set out, and had to get more :-) and were a good audience. Of course, half those people were friends of mine, but it's nice to have friends. :-)

I read, in order: "Feather", "You'll Understand When You're Older, Dear", "Meditation on Human Relations", "Jinsong", "Blind", "Letter From a Suicide", "Dreams of a Lover" and "Fleeing Gods". That's about a half hour of reading; I'm still fine-tuning, trying to decide what stories read best. I'm pretty good at conversational tone stories, not so good at reading dramatic bits (or dramatizing in general). I'd also like to read "Chantal", but a) it's long and b) it's problematic. Have to judge my audience carefully, I think, though I could probably have gotten away with it last night.

I slept late again this morning, and finally feel rested (although I didn't get the dishes done the way I'd planned). I appear to be going through an odd spate of fall cleaning; clearing out various accounts and straightening things. The house is looking lovely these days, with odd autumnal gourds and red and gold flowers scattered about. I'd like my computer accounts to be similarly lovely. :-)

I hope to catch up with my work for the week by tomorrow morning. I *must* practice recorder tonight, or I will deserve to be severely beaten. There's a part I'm having real trouble with, in a baroque piece, and so I find myself avoiding practicing, which is not the solution, let me tell you. On the good side, I've been practicing my guitar regularly, and am now up to over half an hour of practicing a day, without killing my fingertips, and have learned seven chords. I can play "This Land is Your Land" at tempo (it only uses three chords) and can almost manage "Star of the County Down" (I'm having trouble with the transition to the C chord) at tempo. Lots of fun. David's being very patient teaching me, and I'm enjoying teaching piano again (David's a much better student than my father was :-). He actually practices.)

***

I was going to just include a short excerpt from a reader's e-mail here, but looking over it, I think it makes more sense to include it all, and then respond to it.


These are some things that came to mind while reading your journal. If you want to respond to them on your pages, could you leave my name safely anonymous? Thanks very much!

[name deleted]

I actually wanted to write something long and polished on this subject, but I never get around to it. I enjoyed your two recent "Lady Sally" columns, but couldn't suspend my disbelief, or pessimism, about such an attitude filtering into the "sex art" business, let alone mass culture.

My sexual history being almost pure vanilla, the only situation I have seen even approaching "Lady Sally" was the one strip bar I have ever been in, in Charlotte, NC. (W/ some college friends on a pep band trip, one of those "what-the-hell" moments.) Once I got past the initial hormonal rush, beyond which sensory overload led to a sharp reduction in arousal, I started paying attention to facial expressions and, well, the _gestalt_ of the place. Three things stand out in my memory:

A mustached Southerner, with a bill clenched in his teeth, encouraging/daring/challenging the dancer to collect it with her teeth. She refuses, smiling. He grins, and tries again. Neither's eyes are smiling, though. There's hostility, anger behind both smiles. I can almost see him thinking "Slut, come on, if you want the bill." I _know_ she can see him thinking it.

A dancer who just can't stand being there. _I_ think she's attractive, but she apparently doesn't fit the "standards" of the bar patrons. (It was a "classy" establishment as far as these establishments go, but that's probably not saying much.) The patrons ignore her, as she forlornly shifts from foot to foot on the stage keeping vague time to the music. Another dancer takes pity on her and puts a bill in her garter. Then she is alone again, with muted despair on her face.

We're here because it's an acquaintance's ("Barry") birthday. "Jeff" springs for a lap dance for Barry, the anticipated highlight of the evening. Barry's a Nice Guy; he's experiencing the club with genuine smiles, wiping mock sweat off his forehead. The lap dancer seems comfortable with him, wiggling and stretching and responding as he gazes appreciatively. This is a mutual performance. The dance ends; Jeff gives her more money. "I'd like one too." This one is different. Jeff sits like a statue, his fists clenched by his sides. The dancer is getting no feedback from him, just his steady, tense gaze. For the first time since I've met Jeff, I feel like _there's something inside him that makes me nervous._ The dancer goes through the motions, looking at his eyes, more wary and reserved. I can't tell where this sense of _fear_ is coming from -- her, or him? The dance ends; she quickly and steadily retreats.

In our culture, how many supposed sex-positive or "erotic" establishments can really exist? What little exposure I've had suggests that power (or the lack thereof) is the defining dynamic here, not sexuality. And I wonder how much of that power dynamic, if any, might have been lurking at Lady Sally's.


*sigh* I do know what this reader means. There is a lot of unhealthy power play going on in these situations, and it can be extremely difficult to avoid that, even with the best of intentions. A friend of mine recently took a Wall Street job, a job which actually entails being taken out to strip clubs by colleagues. He would like to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the beautiful women; he'd like to believe that they're being well paid, and that they like their job. He even assumed that the first time he went, and it was only after a conversation we had on the subject that he took a closer look at these very well-paid women, and realized, to his great discomfort, that they really didn't seem to be enjoying their work, that there was a good chance they actively resented him and his appreciation of their beauty and sexuality. It's making him uncomfortable enough that he's thinking of avoiding the strip clubs from now on.

It's hard. It's hard to avoid the power dynamic inherent in paying for a service. And yet I do believe that it's possible to get around. I believe Carol Queen when she says (in _Real Live Nude Girl_) that she enjoyed her work in the Lusty Lady peep show, and the work she's doing now as a prostitute. (She's also a damn good writer, btw -- I just read a beautiful story by her in the anthology _Once Upon a Time: Erotic Fairy Tales for Women_). I believe Selene and Noelle, who I interviewed for my article on professional dominatrixes, when they say they often consider their work a gift. On the other hand, Selene and I have also talked about how sometimes she finds herself utterly repulsed by men, and has a hard time even going home to her boyfriend. Even with the best of intentions, it's hard to be sex-positive (and man-positive) in that kind of job. It's hard partly because our culture is so twisted about sexuality, partly because sex is inherently a complicated thing, and adding money to it makes it much more complicated.

The columns I wrote were certainly idealistic, and maybe it would take science fiction to carry off a place like Lady Sally's. I hope not, though. I hope that a healthy sex-positive working environment for sex workers is possible; I hope that talking about it and advocating it can help change the culture into a place where it can happen. I remain a raving idealist, I'm afraid...

Well, I moved the…

Well, I moved the journal entries to a separate directory today. That means that tons of internal reference links in the journals are now broken. I will be going through and trying to fix them all, but I may ask for your help in a bit. We'll see. Why am I doing this? 'cause I'm compulsive, and my main directory was getting too messy, and the problem would have only gotten worse over time.

I met David two years ago today. Hard to believe, for various reasons.

The weekend was insanely busy, mostly fun with parties, but generally tiring and short of sleep-making. I need to rest, and tonight's the Good Vibes reading -- oh, did I tell you guys about that? Here:

Good Vibrations, Berkeley
2504 San Pablo Avenue (@ Dwight)
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 841-8987

Monday, November 3, 8-10 p.m.
Free, everyone welcome

Off to fix links. I'd talk to y'all longer, but my brain is fried today. Too sleepy. Fixing links is nice and mindless. Hope you had a good Halloween.

11:20. Fixed 1997 links, I think. If any of you feel like checking through the journal entries for 1997 and letting me know if I've missed any, that'd be appreciated.

I'm so weary. I should be reading the three articles I need to read before 2:00, and doing my journal entries on them, but I have truly no desire to do so. My desire is to sleep. I should be nervous about tonight (will anyone come? Will they be bored? Will I make a fool of myself, etc. and so on?) but I'm just too tired. Perhaps that's a good thing. I did manage to make a reservation for my tickets to Connecticut for Christmas, and start pricing Chicago in January. That's something, at any rate.

11:50. Did lots of straightening up in my account, rearranging things. Probably broke lots of links in the process, but when I finish, if I finish, it'll be much easier for me to find stuff. I hope. I moved all sorts of things to a Defunct directory -- hopefully not anything important. I'm filled with the wrong kind of energy today.

Happy Halloween, my…

Happy Halloween, my darlings. I'll write you a long entry later if I can squeeze out the time, but I'm throwing a party today and the server has been snippy about letting me dial-in, so it may be difficult. I'll talk to you properly soon, I promise.

I do want to say thank you to those who wrote so kindly and supportively of my last entry. Don't worry -- that incident occurred over five years ago; I'm fine these days. Thank you for asking.

I gave you guys a bit of…

I gave you guys a bit of a rant the other day, on the treatment of rape in fiction. As is typical with rants, it wasn't very coherent or detailed, and from some of the mail I've been getting, it's become clear that I didn't explain myself very well. I think this is an important enough topic that I'm going to discuss it in more detail now. Feel free to skip this journal entry. It'll probably be a column soon, and I'd appreciate your input on it before I finalize that.

Shall I start with the controversial or the validating? I don't know where to begin. I suppose the beginning -- why am I interested in this? Why do I feel so strongly about it?

The Ethics of Examining in Fiction the Erotics of Rape

I was date-raped in college. I hesitated before writing that here. Some of you may have figured this out before, by implication from stories or poetry. Some may have put it down to a vivid imagination. Nonetheless, I doubt that I would normally mention it, and I'm not going to go into the details of the situation. It's something I don't talk about much, yet I feel it is relevant to this discussion, and I think it's an important discussion.

It is relevant, because if I had not been raped, I would run the risk of having people accuse me of not knowing whereof I speak. And in fact, I'm not so sure that having been through it really 'qualifies' me to speak in that sense. The experience can be so different, so individual. I learned that from the accounts of friends who have been raped, from the year I worked as a crisis counselor, listening to people who had been assaulted in their homes and on the street. I've talked to people who have committed rape, and people who have considered committing it. I *cannot* claim to speak for any of these people. Yet if my admission/exposure (and both of those terms sound so biased in themselves) will be of any help in persuading you to listen to my words a little longer, then they are worth saying. So there it is. I have been raped.

This is an important subject, because rape can have such a profound effect on both victim and perpetrator. This is an important discussion, because it is one that is so rarely held.

I think our society is afraid to really talk about rape, to react in other than knee-jerk, good-liberal ways. I am a good liberal, you know. A very good liberal, as bleeding-heart as they come. But that doesn't mean that I can stop talking about things, or assume that they're settled and the answers are clear. When I do, I'm usually being intellectually lazy. Either that or too upset or scared to face the issues.

Why would I want to write about rape in fiction? Well, that's an easy one, right? It's a complex and important subject, and I think it deserves to be treated with complexity and seriousness, as we attempt to find the truth(s) of the situation(s). Art can be a sharp lens for discovering truth, or facets of truth. The discussion of rape deserves that critical look. It is a fascinating study, the way a study of a mass murderer is fascinating. It can also be repulsive, disgusting, infuriating, or pitiful. It's still worth doing, in my opinion, because it exposes part of humanity.

Why would I want to write about the erotic aspects of rape? Ah, here we're on trickier ground. I imagine most of you were with me until now; that many of you were nodding your heads. And now some turn away, some are repulsed or upset -- and I don't blame you. Rape is always a brutal act; rape is always violent, in an emotional sense or otherwise. It is difficult for a healthy, sane person to imagine a conjunction of eroticism with nonconsensual violence -- and I'm glad of that.

Yet rape is not always simple brutality, and I'm asking you to look closer at what it can be composed of. An ugly study, I know, but again, one I think is important.

Let us take the simplest case, one of an assailant who is simply violent, and uses rape to express that violence. The victim is a stranger to him or her, and there are no other emotional complexities between them. One would think, in this situation, that the victim's only responses would be negative -- would be anger, or fear, or numbness, or withdrawal, or despair, etc. These are all common responses. Yet I will tell you, from my work and my research on this subject, that arousal is also a common response. And this causes no end of grief.

Such a victim, brutalized, battered, almost killed, still has a body trained to respond sexually. And whatever one's mind is doing, the body's impulses continue. Victims of violent assault do sometimes find themselves responding to their assailants sexually, becoming aroused. This is well-documented. The typical response is one of guilt and/or denial. The victim feels doubly betrayed -- by the society/stranger, and by his/her own body. This can cause a horrible spiraling downwards of despair, especially if they feel they can't admit this response to anyone, if they feel that it must be something wrong with them. It even makes it hard to admit that one was raped -- the faulty reasoning goes, "If I was aroused, then I liked it, then I must have wanted it, then it wasn't rape." Which is of course fallacious, since the response was involuntary, yet it can be a very powerful and painful cycle to go through. We (especially women) often have a strong tendency to take all the blame on ourselves.

Why would I want to write about this? Because it's very human. Because I want to communicate that this happens, so people don't feel alone. Because it makes me sad. Because I feel such empathy for these people, and I want others to understand their situation. I wrote a short story on this theme, "Mint in your Throat." Rather than try to sell it, I will append it here, and let you judge my handling of the situation (a true situation, as it happens, though not my own) for yourself.

As we move towards the date rape end of the spectrum, the situation becomes even more complex. The victim knows the assailant. The icons of consent become more liable to be misinterpreted (which does not excuse the assailant, but may explain their actions, or the victim's assumption of responsibility). The victim may love the assailant. The assailant may love the victim. I wrote a rape story in "Chantelle". Again, you can judge for yourself whether it was an effective/useful/true handling. And again, the same reasons apply for wanting to write about it.

Writing about it as erotica? Well, that's not ever really been what I wanted. I don't want to eroticize a situation that isn't already erotic. I do want to expose and examine the erotic elements of such a situation, and how they affect the mental states of the victim and the assailant, both before, during and after the event. My purpose is not really to arouse, although if you become aroused in reading such a piece, then perhaps you will be able to empathize, to understand a little more the complexity of what actually goes on.

This may be too upsetting for some readers. I don't watch horror movies myself, and rarely read horror fiction because it gives me nightmares. "Schindler's List" gave me the shakes. I don't want to understand a mass murderer's mind. It is deeply upsetting. Yet is that a reason for an artist to shy away?

Many great works of literature attempt to give us insight into the minds of both villains and victims (and show us how blurred those categories really are). That is part of the power and strength of art, that it deals with the difficult, the upsetting, the dark side of human nature as well as the bright. Not to glorify it, but to perceive it. Perhaps so that in perceiving, we may begin to heal it.

I was trying to decide…

I was trying to decide what music I wanted to write to. At Clarion I played almost exclusively one CD of Clannad and lots of Alex's Bach. I haven't listened to Bach since I got back, and I put it on, and I find that it is in fact perfect for writing. Only it makes me think of Alex, who is wandering around Europe trying to find himself, or write, or figure out what he wants to do with his life, or some such. What time is it in Greece right now? I wonder what he's doing. I hope he's sitting in a sidewalk cafe and writing something brilliant.

I dreamed I was at a big dinner with Guy Gavriel Kay. We were meeting L.M. Montgomery later. (Why those two together? I think they may both be Canadian...ask my subconscious). I was so tongue-tied.

I'm sorry, I'm babbling. Woke up rather mopey around 5ish, talked to Roshani for a while which didn't help, though it should have, and then finished this round of revisions on "Johnny's Story" and "Minh-Ha's Story", which did help some. I still have about an hour and a half of work time, and I'd really like to write something new, but feeling a bit uninspired. Maybe I'll go back to reading _Macho Sluts_.

That's by Pat Califia. She's amazing, though rather hard-core, I warn you. Lesbian (primarily) S/M erotica. One of the stories frustrated me, in a way that I don't know what to do about. It's called "Surprise Party", I think. Not to tell you the story, but basic premise is that woman gets abducted by cops who can tell that she's into S/M and submissive and one of them plays head games with her. All this very engaging, non-consensual material, and of course it comes out at the end that this was a friend of hers and it was all a scene. Which frustrates me, because we're in her head all the way through, and she's scared, and we're being asked to buy that this is real tension. I did something like that in "Chantal", but I did have the situation actually get out of control before the protagonist got scared. I guess I'm a little tired of the whole series of nonconsensual stories in which it turns out to be a set-up. In our current atmosphere of not producing any material that looks like it could even a little be like rape, or advocating rape, that's inevitable, but it takes some of the challenge out of a story. I think the emotional dynamics in a real rape situation are fascinating. I think stories are one of the places to examine evil and its effects. Somehow when we link it to eroticism, that makes it non-PC and no one will publish it. I wonder what Pat would do if she didn't have publishing constraints to worry about. If I wrote a kidnap/ransom story, and wrote about the sympathy that a victim grew to feel for her kidnappers, even the love she felt, I could probably get away with it. That happens, and it's interesting. If it were a mainstream story, I could perhaps even get away with having a sexual component, and it might be regarded as a ground-breaking, frightening story. Yet if it's explicitly labelled erotica, that sort of exploration is automatically taboo, because suddenly I'm the wicked proponent of rape. Argh! It's fiction. FICTION! It does not cause rape. Does Friday the Thirteenth cause serial killers?

Okay, off my soapbox. This whole issue just frustrates the heck out of me. I'm going to try to go back to work.

8:15. Wrote a new piece, "Steve's Story". (I know, the titles lately have been dull, but in the context of the book, I think they'll work better that way.) Sent off to first readers list. Happy with it (even though I stole the idea of it from someone else (whose story I hadn't read). Ah well -- nothing new under the sun, right?

I'm feeling *much* more cheerful. :-)

Can I encompass the last…

Can I encompass the last few days in a journal entry? I'm sorry I haven't written, but it's been busy and exhausting. The two major events: Writer's Harvest and the death of Paul Edwin Zimmer.

Writer's Harvest, the benefit to raise money for local food banks. went splendidly. Last I heard, we'd raised over $4000 through corporate donations and direct ticket sales, at a reading featuring Ishmael Reed and Anne Lamott. The house was packed, the donated food was devoured, I was on duty for about eight hours from set-up (fairly light) through event (insanely busy) to clean-up (not too bad with lots of help). This was Thursday, and it exhausted me. Didn't really recover until Saturday.

Friday went slow; just tutoring and music class and Sherman coming over and a bunch of us hanging out in front of the fire in the evening and drinking wine and chatting. I am such a lightweight. Two glasses is pretty much the most I can handle. It was a pleasant evening; Ian's sister Julie and her partner D.J. are staying with us right now (it's so nice having a guest room), so they were there, me, Sherman, Ian, Heather, Aaron and Shannon (who were having a little tiff (or perhaps a spat. Definitely not a lover's quarrel; such a condescending term)). Toddled off to bed after and slept like proverbial log.

In the morning, breakfast with Sherman at the charming diner down the road (Cafe of the Bay) over comics. Pleasant. Then back home, wrote a poem for Paul of which more later, then Sherman dropped me off at Thida's for roundsing.

That's getting together and singing rounds. Like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, only a little more complicated. Jed organized it, provided munchies and led us through some surprisingly lovely harmonies. By leaning real close to a strong singer and trying to listen just to her, I think I managed to hold my own. If not, they were too kind to tell me. Four hours of singing, I think; throat was very tired by the end. I've picked up a cough, too. Dinner at nice Italian Restaurant which let us color on the tables (well, encouraged us), so we played hangman. Is 'aubade' a fair hangman word? How about 'syzygy'? Then back to Thida's, so she could finish her poem and dress for Paul's wake.

This is the harder part to write.

Paul Edwin Zimmer

Paul died in the earlier part of last week, in the midst of a sf convention in New York, of a massive heart attack. Fans attempted resuscitation, but did not succeed. And doesn't that alone break your heart? Can you imagine being at a con with your favorite writer and feeling him die under your hands?

Paul left behind a wealth of family. A son, Ian, by Diana Paxson. A daughter, Astrid, by a woman named Nancy. I believe another daughter, though I'm not sure. Grandchildren, from Ian and Ian's wife, Elizabeth. A sister, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Many friends who were close as family.

I was not one of those friends. I only met Paul in January of this year, at the infamous Greyhaven (their home) New Year's bash. I can't eulogize him properly, but I can tell you a little about what I knew of him.

He was a scholar. First and foremost, that's what impressed me about him. Paul knew his Indian history backwards and forewards (far more than I do), and knew his Norse history even better. Words I can't pronounce, names of gods and heroes and battles rolled off his tongue, often declaimed in the best old style. Paul had a voice that could have filled one of those old Norse halls (despite the constant smoking that probably contributed to his death), and did not hesitate to use it. I wish I had his gift for delivery.

He was kind. I was very nervous even entering Greyhaven. To meet Diana Paxson, whose books I had loved as a child and still re-read from time to time (Brisingamen is one of my favorites). To meet Paul, who I knew only as Marion Zimmer Bradley's brother (Marion the creator of Darkover, and the Free Amazons, editor of Sword and Sorceress anthologies, etc. and so on for quite a long time). I'm so glad I got to know Paul in his own right, rather than just as Marion's little brother. When he first saw me at Greyhaven, in a sari, dressed up for the New Year, his eyes lit up. He had a soft spot for the Asian subcontinent, and genially escorted me around the room, even, at one point, introducing me to Diana (also exceedingly kind, as it turned out). Together the two of them encouraged me in my writing, invited me to local SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) meetings, even though I'm not yet qualified as a member, and were generally very sweet to me. When I was trying to decide whether to take the Clarion plunge, they advised me. He was a good friend to me, in that little time, and would clearly have grown to be a better one as we got to know each other better.

Paul was also reknowned for his lovers. At 54, he had not slowed down at all, and I must admit that I first thought him a bit of a lech. Yet he took rejection like a gentleman, and treated me as a friend ever after. That's an attitude I can respect. At the wake, one of the women who'd been propositioned by him said that even though she'd declined, it was one of the loveliest propositions she'd ever received. I believe that. Hail Paul!

What he was first and foremost, though, was a writer. Go read his books. They're bleak, and a bit frightening. They're heavy on war scenes, which I must admit to skimming. They're not brilliant, yet they have a certain knack for characterization, for unusual situations and unexpected plot twists, for making the difficult choices. The end of his second book, King Chondos's Ride, makes you put it down, hollering for the next chapter, saying, "That can't be the end!". Yet it is, and it's right, and this will make no sense to you unless you read them. I went to a publication party at Greyhaven shortly before his death. One of his stories had just been accepted for an anthology, "Elf Fantastic", I believe. It would certainly not have been the last to be published, and I'm very sorry that I will never read what Paul would have done with the next twenty-thirty years of writing.

I crashed the night at Greyhaven after that publication party, and woke at five to find Paul still up, working on the invitation list for the New Year's party, trying to trim it down a little (they regularly have over a thousand people arrive, even when only 200-400 are invited. The house is big, but not that big). We talked for a few hours, until Nancy woke and the kids were stirring. I don't remember the specifics, but likely we talked about projects we were working on, about Indian history, about books he thought I should read, about the perils of publishing, about friends and family. It was really the only time I got to sit down alone with him and talk. I'm very glad I had that time, but it wasn't enough. The overwhelming cry at the wake (which was as fine a tribute as any man could wish, with the main room packed and friends stacked in the hallways) -- "It wasn't long enough."

Others tell me he was a warrior as well. I cannot speak to that, yet with his booming voice, his ever-present kilt (regimental), and his amazing presence, I can believe it. Paul was larger than life; rest in peace would be a phrase entirely inappropriate for him. If there's a life after death, whether it be reincarnation, Valhalla or something entirely different, I think I can guarantee you that Paul will not be resting. He'll be chasing the women, shouting poetry at the top of his lungs. Warrior, lover, scholar, bard. I want to do so much. I miss him more than I'd expected. I still find it hard to believe he's gone.

I enclose below the poem I wrote for his wake.

A Warrior's Passing

By firelight, he sat, a book upon his knee, a hand
that stroked his beard. Low-pitched, his voice did rise
and fall, like waves upon the sand, and spoke
of warrior's wyrd, of wizards wise and maidens fair.

Friends and strangers gathered round, to hear the tale
so stoutly sung, a tale of hearts so torn and wrung,
of weeping women's wail, of sundry melancholy parts
all wove together in a gleaming battle-shroud.

Or perhaps a sprightly tale; he told those too, and see --
the children laugh at dragon's antics, cheer the hero
who can command grim death to flee, cheer the maid
who has no fear of what lays beyond the lee, but strides forth...

They have no fear, these warriors of days long past;
they know what lasts, beyond the grave, beyond the tear.
So much more than life, oh, save your tears for lesser folk;
this bier is but a passing thing, a momentary strife,

and after, who can say? Yet surely something wondrous
does await, beyond that gate, and shall we weigh our hero down,
with calls and lamentations? Nay, let us rejoice instead,
and send him forth with all our hope, a brave panoply

to clothe his sturdy bones. For he was surely more
than a simple chronicler of the tale; his breath was too large,
for his frail body to enclose. Mix in this grief some mirth.

Despite his human failings, he was more than just a man;
through him deeper music sang,
and for a little while,
a giant once more walked this earth.

*****
for Paul Edwin Zimmer