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

Good morning, everyone. …

Good morning, everyone. Another tea and space heater morning -- they're becoming common these days. The ritual:

  • Climb out of bed and pull on a sweatshirt
  • Stumble over to computer, turn on screen, move mouse to turn off screensaver, hit return to start FreePPP logging in
  • Somewhere in here turn on a light, as soon as I feel I can cope
  • Turn on space heater
  • Go to kitchen, put water on to boil
  • Come back to my room, log in, read first batch of mail, doing quick sort
  • Go back to kitchen, pour water over tea
  • Come back, read some more mail
  • Back to kitchen, take out tea bag or tea ball, add one sugar and a little milk
  • Come back to room, wrap blanket around feet, drink tea, work
  • Turn off space heater
That's about what it takes to get me comfortably awake these days. :-) Complicated, huh?

So, with the help of my colleagues' advice in the Erotica Workshop (oh, I am *so* glad I started that. The resource it's proving to be!), I've decided how to handle some of this decision-making process on the anthology. I'm sending rejections immediately, and holding everything else until deadline (1/1/98). I *wish* I could tell people sooner, or at least tell them how close they are, but since I'm not sure of that myself, it seems best to just wait. The provisional accept list is short, the reject list is short, the maybe list is huge. People are sending me good stuff! Even the rejected stories are competent enough that they could be published elsewhere (at least so far); they just aren't what I'm looking for. Not enough characterization and/or style, generally. I find that I hate sending out rejections. I wonder if I'm cut out to be an editor -- the last rejection I sent this morning was three paragraphs long. I am loving reading these stories, though.

In other news, I wrote another story yesterday. Yeeha! (is that how you spell that?) I think I'm on a roll; "Minh-Ha's Story" was sent out to the list of first readers this morning.

I want to talk to you guys about this book, about my ideas for it, the shape and form of it, etc. But I feel like I'll jinx it if I talk about it too much, especially if I do so in print, fixed-form media. Superstitious nonsense, no doubt, but hopefully y'all will bear with me for a while longer. One request -- if any of you are either of Vietnamese or Appalachian heritage, could you let me konw? I'll like you to do voice/character checks.

Okay, enough babbling. Off to work, my darlings. My tea is finished, my space heater is off.

Gods, it’s cold. My…

Gods, it's cold. My fingers are cold, typing. I keep pausing to wrap my hand around my mug of tea (Ceylon Breakfast, hot.) I'm considering turning on the space heater, but that seems wimpy, since it's still only October in California. On the other hand, I'm a wimp. Yes, on due reflection, the space heater goes on. One moment...

I overslept a bit today, I think because it's so grungy outside. I used to be able to rely on my internal clock, but I think I may have to invest in an alarm clock. I have a lot of work I want to get done (I've set deadlines for myself: Get Richard 1/3 of my book by 12/1; finish bulk of thesis over Christmas; get Richard the manuscript for the anthology by 2/1/98; etc.) and I need to get up early to do it.

I'm discovering that you definitely get more flack for being an editor than for being a writer. People are much more inclined to grouch at you. This may be in some part due to my .signature (the file that automatically gets appended to all my e-mails), which recently was this one:

"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters." - Solomon Short

I think too many people were taking that as personally directed. I have changed it, so as not to confuse them.

Anyway, back to work. Have a lovely day, my dears. Oh, and for those of you reading Johnny's Story and confused by the voice, Johnny isn't black. Cassie is black, but Johnny isn't. Clear as mud? Good.

A crisp, gorgeous early…

A crisp, gorgeous early fall day. Feeling comfy in sweatshirt, alert and ready to work, even a little excited about a possible book idea. I'll tell y'all more about it if it solidifies. Had a lovely dinner last night with Ian and El and Cliff and Steve; that standby spinach lasagne, salad, and cheap red wine. The company of amusing friends, and a nice fire afterwards -- what more could one ask?

What else is on my mind? Easiest to simply post here another message I just sent to the Erotica Workshop, rather than explaining it all over again...

***

Subject: EROS: CHAT: More aspects of editing an anthology...

I don't remember if I've made clear to y'all that I don't exactly have final say on these. The set-up is that the publisher has asked me for the anthology; I put it together and show it to him, and only *then* do I get a contract. So I can't formally accept anything -- all I can tell people is that I'm accepting it provisional on his approval. I think this is a fairly standard (and reasonable) precaution on his part, considering that he has no real evidence that I have any skill in editing an anthology. It's a bit frustrating to work with, though, even though I'm pretty sure he'll buy what I put together.

Mainly now I'm wondering at what stage I should be sending back decisions. If I definitely want to buy a story, should I be telling people now? The ones I'm uncertain of, do I leave them in limbo until more stories come in? Would it be kinder to tell people that they're on the maybe list, so they have time to revise or send in something new? Ditto the ones I'm sure I want to reject -- do I tell them that immediately, so they have time to try another piece? Can I ask people to revise along certain lines, knowing that I can't promise to buy the piece -- is that fair?

Would it help if I gave people more of a sense of what I'm looking for? I definitely lean towards the 'literary' side; I'm looking for something more than a solid, erotic story (of which I've received many)...I'm also looking for deep characterization, and/or interesting style.

Is it even fair to ask these questions here, knowing that some of you have submitted stories, and are undoubtedly wondering where you stand? This is my test case, I'm afraid -- I'll probably make several mistakes along the way, and I can only hope that they will not be too painful for my first submitters...

It's like starting out as a top in BDSM and not being quite sure how best to begin. You're pretty sure you'll know what to do eventually...and in the meantime, you make it up as you go along, and hope the bottom forgives you. :-)

***

10:05 - Wrote new story. :-) Sent to those of you on the 'first readers' list. Again, drop me e-mail if you want to be on tht list and aren't. This one is a short erotica piece for possible inclusion in new book. Gods, I'm happy. There's a delirious high when you finish a piece...

Glutted myself on five…

Glutted myself on five Miles Vorkosigan novels (by Bujold) this weekend. Had a delightful time, but that's why you haven't heard much from me lately. I needed the break. Great, great space adventure (with characterization! Good characterization!)

Also read the next-to-last Sandman graphic novel, "The Kindly Ones". I had read much of it before, but not all. Inspirational. The man knows what to leave out, a skill I have yet to master.

I append below something I sent to the Erotica Writers' Workshop this morning -- perhaps it may be useful to other writers reading this:

***

Hey y'all. So, I'm still reading "Writing Below the Belt", and am in the middle of an interview with John Preston, who published The Flesh and the Word anthologies, among many other books of his own and others. And something he said I thought was worth sharing (well, lots of things he said, but this in particular):

"One thing that beginning writers never get, and I certainly didn't get in the beginning, is that publishing does reward perseverance. It really does. To stick with it, to write books, to get them published wherever you can. To do whatever you have to do to make a living is something that...publishing respects."

This is how my own career has been, y'know. No big successes out of nowhere. Just taking on lots of little projects. Starting with the net and being paid nothing. Sending out poetry and being paid in two copies. Writing porn on the side to finance my 'literary' habit. Sending things to every anthology I hear about. Sending and resending and starting this workshop because I saw a need. Sharing what I've learned -- passing it along the way it was passed to me.

There are certainly writers who write one brilliant novel, and then get a massive advance and are overnight successes. But that's not the way it goes for most of us, and it's certainly not the way it's gone for me. I just want to encourage you all to keep writing, and keep sending, and keep revising. The work *will* get better. The stories *will* get sold. Persevere. If you see a magazine or anthology guidelines that even slightly resonates for you, try sending them something. It can't hurt. Even if they don't buy that one, maybe they'll remember your name for the next one. Bits and pieces, y'know? Eventually, they pile up.

Well, the movie…

Well, the movie recommendations have started to come in. Jim recommended "It Happened One Night" and David's loaned me "Brazil". I forgot to mention that I *have* seen most of the Woody Allen films (which you may or may not consider classics. :-)

Had a weird night. Got kinda mopey last night and went to bed early. Had all sorts of strange, anxious dreams, and woke up at 4:30 a.m., unable to go back to sleep, but quite rested nonetheless. It's nice having Roshani in Chicago sometimes (though I'd generally prefer to have her here) -- I was able to call her at 5:00 my time and not wake her. Chatted for a couple of hours, ate some breakfast, did some work, lit an oil lamp and now I feel much better, but oh, that was a strange mood I was in.

Well, I was having a…

Well, I was having a grumbly, tired morning (my cold came back; I wanted to sleep more; it's still dark outside, etc. and so on), but waiting in my mailbox was a forward from Dale of a lovely new review of my book. Not only was it favorable, but it was elegantly written, which is always a plus. :-) It inspired me to take a little time to reorganize my awards page, and stick all the reviews at the top. *grin* This all seems rather self-centered of me, but I guess it's part of the job as well, publicizing myself and my work. If any of you feel like writing a review (I assume you've all bought a copy of my book already :-), that'd be great. (Maybe I should be more nervous that someone will write a bad review, but honestly, so far the main complaints have been 'the book's too short' and 'the writing is a little young'. And okay, I don't particularly want to be characterized as a young writer...but on the other hand, I am a young writer, so it could be worse. If I were 60 and being called a young writer, then I'd be embarrassed.

Plan for today: Get through the day without collapsing...come home and sleep. Sleep in tomorrow. Try to shake this cold. Maybe I'll socialize this weekend -- see if I can drag a couple of people to a contra dance or some such Friday night. I haven't seen people in TOO LONG. I am seriously neglecting my friends. People I really ought to see soon: Jed, Del, Ian (men with three-letter names, apparently), Adam, Peter...that'll do for now. I seem to see the women more frequently. :-)

10:00 -- Finished the reflections on my teaching demo... now I just have to finish printing out 18 copies (of 14 pages each) and then go meeting with my fiction teacher, and then write a 3-pg paper. By noon. (Actually, I have an hour free from 1-2 as well, so if I don't finish by noon, I can finish it up then.) Crazy crazy. After 5:30 this afternoon I'm going to shut off my brain for a while. Maybe I'll rent a movie tonight...any suggestions? (I really do need to get up to date on my classic films...I've seen so few. Casablanca, The Thin Man, umm...there was another one about a man who faked paintings and a museum robbery that was really good...oh, a couple more here and there, but honestly, I need a nice comprehensive list of the ten classic movies I absolutely must see. And if any of you can suggest a funny one for tonight, that would be most appreciated. (Of course, the pathetic video store down the block probably won't have any of them, but that's another problem altogether.)

11:30 - I received mail from a friend today, asking if she should admit to a guy that she has a terrible crush on him. I responded with a diatribe on geek flirting, and thought some of you might be amused, so I enclose it (suitably edited to protect the guilty) below.

***

Y'know, I go for geek flirting. I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's a fairly common term out here in the Bay Area (where there are lots of geeks. :-)

The main idea in geek flirting is that you skip all the little games and insinuations and little touches and guessing and go directly to finding out if they're interested. Conversations tend to go like this:

[chat, chat, chat about various things, ideally with just the two of you there]

Female F looks at Male X, pauses a moment, takes a deep breath (subtly): ["You know something, X?"]

X looks quizzically at F. ["No, what?"]

["I gotta admit, I think you're really attractive."] F can leave it at that, or follow up with, ["Would you like to go see a movie Friday night?"]

X responds, blushing ["Gee, thanks. Yeah, a movie would be great!"]

or, alternatively, ["Gee, thanks. That's nice to hear, but I'm afraid I actually have a girlfriend (boyfriend)/have taken a vow of celibacy/need to wash the dog..."]

The big advantage to geek flirting is that the pain of rejection is quick and hopefully early enough that neither of you is too invested/embarrassed. Ideally, this should happen *before* you develop a truly major crush, but since you're partway there already, I'd advise finding out as quickly as possible.

That's my approach, anyway. Besides, it's not fair that the guys should have to bear all the brunt of possible rejection. If we want equality and fair play, we should take some responsibility ourselves...

Addendum: Geek flirting does of course apply equally well to f/f and m/m situations...and m/f/f, f/m/m/, f/m/m/m/f, etc if it comes to that...

Addendum Two: Another good approach is the group geek flirt. This is in some sense even safer, in that it can be passed off as casual much more easily; gives them an easier out and saves you embarassment. This does require that you have some confidence in their social skills...so they don't utterly embarrass you by asking you to explain yourself...eg.:

[big group of people hanging out, chatting. F subtly brings the conversation around to cute guys, and people start talking about what they think is really cute in a guy. All the guys in the room get a little nervous.]

[F: "You guys are all so shallow. Tight ass, big bulge -- c'mon! What really gets me are hands. Look at X over there -- now he has really nice hands."]

[X blushes as all the women examine his hands.]

[F repeats, staring directly at X, "Yup, sexy hands are what I think are really attractive."]

This actually slides over the line from geek flirting to regular flirting, but it's fun to do anyway, so what the heck.

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You can tell I'm trying to avoid work, can't you? Shh...

Well, today’s not quite…

Well, today's not quite as under control as yesterday was. I forgot I had something due, and will have to scramble to get it done in time for class. Should be okay, though. Some nice things from this morning -- read a lovely submission to my anthology (actually, I've enjoyed *all* of the submissions so far :-), and received mail from a high school student in Taiwan, who was doing a report on internet erotica, and wanted to interview me. :-)

Gotta scramble -- talk to y'all later!

1:20 - Well, I got the work done, with time to spare. Didn't take as long as I'd expected. Paging through stuff, I realized (how odd. I used paging through to refer to web browsing. Made sense to me at the time... :-) that I didn't remember pointing you to the latest interview with me, at Hoot Island. May amuse you. I've also put up a new column. Not as fond of this one as some of the others...hopefully the next one will be more fun.