.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

My Photo
Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Snow Angels Mud Monsters

Well, this has been a hectic ten days. I was off at Norwescon last weekend, a very fun four days and a con I like a lot for their good science and writing panels. Except this year I have dubbed it PlagueCon since every other person that hugged me and said hello then followed the hug with 'I have this awful flu'. I am going to bring a box of surgical masks next year and sell them. I could probably have paid for my hotel room this year! Of course I came home to two days to catch up on writing and students and then off to spend three days in the weather at a herding clinic. This involves standing around outside in the weather (read snow/sleet/hail/rain) until it's your turn to take your dog in on the stock and then you add mud. I paid to do this. Remember, I paid to do this. I kept reminding myself of that fact as I stood in the mud, freezing hands stuffed under the seven layers of assorted garments I was wearing, ice crystals forming on my eyelashes. Annie, my dog, was totally happy. Except when I hosed her off after she slopped out of the cattle pen looking amazingly brown for a rottie. Do you know what seven or eight big, 1000 lb steers can do to dirt when water is added? Let us just say that a high pressure spray nozzle is a good thing. Annie didn't think so. And then my wood stove quit. By quit I mean all of a sudden no draft, build a fire the smoke seeps out through the cracks and then the fire dies...NOT good. Especially not good when I'm arriving home to do chores at dark, with a core temperature that sure felt like it was about ten degrees below normal. So 'warm house' meant about 55 degrees and smoky enough to make me think about lung cancer. Sigh. It did finally occur to me that the starlings, cavity nesting little darlings (teeth clenched here) that they are, might have built a nest in my chimney while I was at Norwescon. Yeah it was so. Friday night late, the last of the blockage finally fell down the pipe and I got a draft back. The house is 70 even as I type this! Woohoo! I am thawing out. Hmm. I wonder how starlings might taste, braised with ginger, garlic, and rice wine....

Well, snow is a lot more tolerable when the house is warm. And my daffodils don't seem to mind it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sir Arthur

I was jolted out of my 'make coffee now' routine yesterday by the news that Sir Arthur Clarke had died. Yeah, he was quite old and these things are to be expected....but I'm sorry, I didn't want to expect this. He was one of the authors that awakened me to SF when I was 13 and propelled me into hard SF rather than dragons and elves. I named a solar sailing ship for him in one of my published stories....The Clarke. I have no idea if he ever knew that story existed, although he might have read a review of it. I met him when I was just starting out, had just won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. We shared a shuttle to the airport after that Balticon. He was so charming, so very British, and flirted elegantly during the entire journey. I was so charmed. Hey, he was sexy even at close to 80! I have to say, I did catch the wince when I said 'You've been one of my favorite writers since I was a kid'. I guess maybe that wasn't kind right then, reminding him of our age difference. But I meant it sincerely.

He wrote SF, he lived life fully to his standards. He was a charming, warm man, who wore his knighthood easily and well.

Fare thee well, Sir Arthur!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Octavia Butler

I was at the small and intimate Potlatch writers conference in Seattle last week. It’s a nice gathering of readers and writers without the glitter and costuming of larger SF/fantasy conventions. It honored the Clarion West Writers Workshop’s twenty-fifth anniversary and it honored Octavia Butler who died unexpectedly. I was on the panel that discussed one of her later books, ‘Parable of the Sower’. I wanted to be there, at that panel. I stumbled over Octavia’s work in an issue of Asimov’s in 1984, and ‘Blood Child’ was like sticking my finger into a electrical outlet. I was zapped full of energy. Here was SF that I could make my own, dealing as it did with the themes of power and sexuality and dominance. I had been reading SF voraciously since the late sixties, but this, this was one of those rare stories that went beyond spaceships and the new frontiers of science to step outside and look inward at who we are as a species. Wow! In that galvanizing afternoon, I though ‘I want to write this’. Well, it took a few more years but there you go and here I am. Other writers were looking beyond the immediacy of science and our technological future but that story is one that really struck home for me. It was an invitation. I took it.

I think Octavia Butler is one of the unappreciated talents in literature. Well, she’s appreciated in the field of speculative fiction, but her focus was on larger themes, human universals that should have gotten her a larger attention. Through her stories like ‘Clay’s Arc’, her Pattern series, she looked at power and how we exercise it, through genetic dominance, sexual dominance, economic dominance. Because the focus was on power, she transcended the limitations of race, gender, and class.

In ‘Parable’ I saw a real change. In all her other books, change is forced on humanity by outside influences. Here, she portrays a character who creates change herself. She says ‘let us make things different’ and then goes about doing so. We don’t often deal with how to make things better in our genre. Mostly we deal with what happens when things go wrong. Our characters react to those changes, they rarely initiate them.

But in the end, it was also a disturbing read. Her dystopic future of gated neighborhoods that in the end cannot withstand the tide of those with nothing to lose and everything to gain, is a lot closer to my reality today than I like to see, even out here in our rural interface at the edge of the stalled suburbs. Grim reading with a seed of hope buried in it.

Maybe we need more books that deal with ‘how do we make it work’. Even if they are harder to write.

Labels: , ,