Tag Archives: deep thoughts

Reflections on men and feminism (long and rambly)

The short version of this particular set of musings is: it’s complicated. My feminism is inflected and informed by a 60’s childhood raised in contradictory but powerful influences. I’m the product of at least two (and most likely more) generations of strong and opinionated frontier farm women (Grandma was a chicken farmer; Mom could grow one heckva garden, can, and raise a good flock of layers and fryers). I also got exposed to a particularly toxic form of fundamentalist Christian repression of women in my late teens through school Bible groups and the Christian college I attended–Basic Youth Conflicts, one of Bill Gothard’s groups (go here for the Wikipedia TL:DR version). However, I never quite fell within the lure of Basic Youth, especially after I went off to college and discovered Ms. Magazine. Various adventures with conservative religious boyfriends which usually ended up with me being handed things to mend also had an influence, plus growing up in Springtucky and getting hassled by men for being blond and big-busted.

My family followed rather traditional roles that I viewed with a jaundiced eye as I got older. It didn’t help that during my high school and early undergraduate career, any boyfriends I had soon got chased away when we decided it would be romantic to take classes together. Um. Yeah. The first time I got a better grade than boyfriend did, it was bye-bye. I had three boyfriends in my college years who took me seriously as an intellectual; I married one of them nearly thirty-three years ago.

But there was more to the man I married than just taking me seriously as a thinker. One of the light entertainments of politically oriented students at the University of Oregon during my era was engaging with the different right-wing preachers who ranted at U of O students as part of their ministry. Of course, what they didn’t know is that about half the students arguing were liberals from the neighboring Christian college who were honing their theological arguments…but I digress. The man I married took extreme exception to one of these preachers personally threatening me by getting into that preacher’s face. He also did things like cook for me when I was working as an organizer on the previous boyfriend’s campaign. He wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but he “got it” (in the terms of a recent internet discussion about men and feminism) at an early age, in part because, like me, he was the son of a working mother who carried quite a bit of weight in the family economy. The personal was political for him at a very early age. He had a personal stake in understanding feminism because he saw it on a daily basis.  Was and is his feminist awareness perfect? Nope. Neither is mine, and I don’t think anyone can make that claim about themselves.

Way back when my son was little, we attended an indoor park for toddlers. It was all female, until a single at-home father started attending with his daughter. Many of the women were feminist. Did all of them embrace his attendance? Um. No. But enough of us did that we banded together over the others’ attempts to exclude the father and got ourselves elected to the governing board. I remember being heartily annoyed by complaints about insensitive spouses, but then the rejecting shoulder to a father walking the talk.

As part of the upbringing my husband received, he’s a nurturing male who has no qualms about doing housework. Our housework divisions in past years have fallen either into skill areas (yours truly doesn’t have chainsaw skills and arthritic hands mean if I do, it will be with a light saw; I still end up doing the sewing) or allergy areas (water used to irritate my eczema and dust irritates his sinuses). He likes cooking, while I like baking and canning. Our son was raised to be nurturing and with the model that the men do the housework. He likes cooking, and when he’s had a partner, part of what he does is cook.

That’s one reason why I get grouchy with those who complain about men who apparently don’t Get It about feminism until injustice touches their wives, their daughters, their sisters. If you look back far enough, every man who Gets It had that little spark of feminist awareness fanned by some sort of personal stake, whether it was watching his mother struggle or his sisters struggle. Somehow, somewhere, personal connection fueled awareness. That’s how people learn and develop politically. That’s why consciousness raising is such a crucial task in developing and maintaining a movement, and sitting back to think that it’s all done is folly. That’s why, no matter what the issue is, dear God, we have to have basic Feminism/Racism/Ageism/Ableism/etc 101, because there will always be someone new who Doesn’t Get It, until the personal becomes political and awareness flares into being for that individual. It would be nice if people were born with their consciousness raised, alleluia, alleluia, but by golly, unless we all suddenly get raptured into some sort of progressive heaven, it ain’t happening (Let’s listen, for example, to how men talk about what they’ve lost by never being able to express their nurturing sides due to traditional male roles. We have to be honest and listen to that oppression as well).

Until we reach the understanding that we are all people together, and that we should respect each other, we’re not going to get anywhere. Slamming folks for not immediately developing advanced awareness is foolish. Awareness is a learning process. We don’t expect kids to enter school reading at a twelfth grade level (at least not yet), nor do we expect to be immediately proficient in a new language. The same is true for all forms of awareness. So yes, there will always be a need for Basic Consciousness Raising, and excluding or condemning people because they are insufficiently advanced is just another form of exclusionary arrogance. It’s acceptable to be annoyed about it sometimes, as long as you take a deep breath and acknowledge that learning is hard for both student and teacher.

And with that, I’m not only tired and have probably bored everyone, but I wanna go play with my new sewing machine. Curtain-making awaits. I’m gonna go be creative in a new way.

Have fun, y’all, and remember to pay it forward. That means being patient when it’s time to trot out the 101 learning. Everyone had to start there sometime.

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A ranty morning

What is it about today? Already I’ve gone off on someone about Patrick McLaw (the Maryland African-American teacher detained allegedly because of the themes in his self-published sf books), and now I’m all ranty from a pompous interview in the Guardian with Ian McEwan. Since I’ve exhausted myself with McLaw (let’s just say I’m pissed, pissed, pissed), I’ll just rant a little bit about the McEwan.

Keep in mind that he’s a mainstream writer considered to be writing about family and drama. I think it was the subplot of his newest work that set me off originally, with the 60-year-old husband wanting “one last go” at a grand affair. Grrr. I’m afraid that these days, I wouldn’t make it past the first few pages of a work with that subplot element. I’m sick and tired of the glorification of the male sexual fantasy, especially in a work where the author is allegedly trying to think like a professional woman with homelife drama who encounters a big ethical challenge. Dear God, take me now. Ugh. Can we just say cliched, overdone, trite? Quite frankly, I think “spouse fed up with his work and wanting to retire” or “spouse dealing with onset of illness” is probably more realistic as homelife drama, unless one happens to be part of a particular rich and privileged class. Affairs? Jesus, John Updike did that to death. I don’t care what genre it is, if there’s an affair involved, I’m probably going to throw the damn book against the wall. It’s why I don’t spend much time on the literary genre. Male infidelity is just so done in fiction, in my opinion.

Maybe I’ve just had too many other family dramas in my life to be able to engage with the egotism involved in a man’s desire for an affair. I don’t know. The concept of “one last go” is somewhat offensive to me. Either you’re monogamous and you both agree, or else you’re poly and the rules and structures exist for how you engage with others and it’s No. Big. Deal. To be monogamous, and then have this one last desire for a fling with someone else is profoundly so much a violation of the original relationship (in my opinion) that the other person is justified in chucking the whole relationship and ripping the man to shreds in the court system.

Yeah. So please slap me if I ever decide to write such a thing.

There are aspects of McEwan’s interview that I like. He’s unapologetically placing himself in “what he calls the ‘family division’ of English prose.” I like his advocacy for bringing work back into contemporary writing. I just–I don’t know. Something about the tone of the description of the latest work set me off. Probably it’s more an argument with the character in the latest book who feels himself entitled to ask for permission to have an affair. It’s the male gaze issue

And probably a huge chunk of it is that the sort of sf and fantasy I want to write is more of that sort of family interactions and dynamics stuff. The as-yet undisclosed heart of the Netwalk Sequence involves some very dark and horrible stuff that happened within the Stephens family. It was kept successfully hushed up for over a hundred years. It explains a lot of Sarah’s dynamics, and her star-crossed relationship with Francis Stewart. Only I also bring in gadgets and tech and other stuff because, well…I like boom today. Boom tomorrow as well, but boom today is good. Anthony Trollope in space is fun. So is Jane Austen, the Brontes, and etc.

But it’s not taken as serious writing within the genre, unless you get very, very lucky and you write about the male protagonists. Me, I like playing with multi-generational female protagonists, including the additional drama of reproductive realities. So yeah. Probable obscurity.

However, I intend to have fun doing it. And now my ranty mcrantypants rantage is done. Whew. That’s enough for one day.

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Memories of Jay Lake

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Jay in my lap at Norwescon 2013, with Kelly (Jude-Marie) Green in the background

My brain keeps nibbling at the fact that Jay is gone. I knew, we all knew, that this was coming. No one gets out alive and all that stuff, and Jay’s diagnosis meant that his time was coming like a lightly loaded freight train on a downhill track. But the brain still keeps kicking up thoughts and remarks and…well, all the stuff that comes up when you think of someone who’s been an important part of your life.

Not closely personal. Jay and I never went there; for one thing I’m quite married, and for another, despite his hugely wonderful and welcoming self, we were two very different people in areas which were important to both of us. I’m outdoorsy, active, and I play with guns. Jay and I talked about that quite a bit, but those differences would have been a huge difference between us. Also, even though I’ve currently walked away from faith, I still have an underpinning belief in Something out there which Jay lacked. Nonetheless, we had a delightfully fun and scintillating ongoing conversation about life, writing, and politics.

Actually, a discussion about faith was part of our first meeting. While I’m sure I encountered Jay in the con world before, it wasn’t until Potlatch 2007 that he and I sat down and became friends. I had decided to resume my off-again, on-again writing career and had at least one story burning through my fingers. The old Orycon concom crew was running Potlatch that year and brought me in as a minor volunteer. I’d heard of Jay before–a year or so earlier, I’d read Rocket Science in the capacity of an Endeavour Award first reader. We chatted, he politely propositioned me, I politely refused, and we continued to talk, late into the night. There was quite a cluster of us up in the top floor bar those two nights.

From there, I ended up joining Fireside Writers in its heyday at the Fireside coffee place on Powell. Nearly every Tuesday, I joined Jay and a pack of other writing people to pound away on our stories. After a certain period of writing time had passed, we moved on to dinner, usually at the Barley Mill but sometimes other places. Lots of talking about writing, career planning, more writing, and other stuff. Jay frequently took possession of a large, comfortable recliner. He cranked out words to the degree that the chair was somehow viewed as magical, and when he wasn’t there, we vied for the choice of the Chair of Many Words. One day, while working on what became “In the Forests of the Night,” he started asking who wanted to be in a story. One of the other writers volunteered and he wrote her in. A few paragraphs later, he asked for a second volunteer, and I stepped up. So I got written in as Ward, in the opening pages.

That’s what life was like writing around Jay. I learned how to write in a coffee shop by writing with him. Before then, I really wasn’t that great at writing in noisy, public settings. But by following his example, I got better at it and now, well. I grab moments in coffee shops, especially with my current work commute and all. Working at the same time, in the same place, with Jay was an education in and of itself in the nature of writing. There was focus–but we could also stop to discuss a challenge with the work. Above all else, we got infused with the spirit of the man’s psychotic persistence.

Psychotic persistence was Jay’s own term for his writing success, and when you look back over his career, it rings not just in his writing but in his battle with cancer. Cancer may have ravaged and attacked Jay, but by god, he turned around and battled it right back with the same spirit of psychotic persistence that propelled him to his stand in the speculative fiction writing world. It stands to reason, I guess, that he was felled by the sort of cancer that equaled him in psychotic persistence, something that was extremely aggressive and intractable. Even though most of us hoped that Jay would prevail, well, the big C won this one. But it was a no-holds-barred, all-out war.

That doesn’t mean the man didn’t have fun and didn’t bring fun to the people around him. The pranks we pulled at Radcon during the Radcon Bob era, including the cycle of pranking between Jay and Bob, were epic.

When I heard of Jay’s death on Sunday, I commented that the world is much smaller now. That is so very true. At the 2014 Norwescon, in the bar, we kept anticipating Jay’s arrival, even though we knew he wasn’t going to be there. I suspect that there will be many, many Orycons where we will keep thinking of and looking for Jay as well.

Jay kept giving. One of his last public appearances was a speaking engagement to my reading intervention classes. I’d had the kids read and respond to one of his posts about kindness. So he came up and shared with the kids. It is always hard to tell about kids as to whether the impact someone makes is large or not, but I think it stuck.

There is a Jay-sized hole in the world now. Eventually, those memories will ebb and the loss will feel less severe. But it is a loss, nonetheless. I am pissed at losing yet another friend to cancer, and I’m pissed that I won’t have more time to talk about writing, politics, and everything else with Jay.

Before we moved due to the closure of the Fireside, Jay was working on both Kalimpura and wrapping up the Clockwork trilogy. He was beginning to talk about Sunspin and the challenges of going off of a contract to write it. At the last JayCon, some of the cover poster boards made up for the Clockwork and Green books were raffled off. Thanks to Bob, I won the boards for Endurance and Kalimpura. I gave Endurance to Bob but, despite Mike Moscoe’s attempt to persuade me to trade for Green, I hung onto Kalimpura. At first I thought it was just because I liked the subject, but now I realize I wanted that poster because…well…it represents something that was part of my early writing life and the role Jay played in this latest manifestation of my writing life.

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Goddamn it, Jay, I’m going to miss you. Shine on. You will be remembered.

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Of Writing, Teaching, and An Announcement (at the end)

TL:DR–announcement at the end. I’m evil that way.

So I’m kind of behind on what my writing schedule says I should be doing by now. Some of that has been due to things like, oh, um, work life, other writing projects, reinventing the work life, um, horse rehab life, ski life or rather the lack thereof, real estate craziness, um, reinventing work life yet again, and, and, and…

But most of the delays have been due to the plain and simple fact that I really don’t know what to do with Netwalk’s Children yet. I’m still figuring out why that is, but to a certain degree, the issue comes down to the reality that this book is a crucial point in the Netwalk Sequence. This book hands over the major part of the Sequence to the next generation; from Melanie and Marty to Bess and Alex, Sophie and Don. Plus friends and relatives.

Additionally, it becomes a turning point in the series arc, because Bess ultimately has to directly take on Gizmo. Not only does she defuse an immediate threat but she lays the foundation for further protection against the power that Gizmo represents. She becomes a foundational element in a human-digital fusion which has the potential to affect not just one world but many worlds. Bess transcends worlds…but as of yet, I’ve not gotten a full picture of what that looks like. I have imperfect realizations but they’re far from what I want. Yet.

I do have this image of a young woman with long dark hair, cinnamon skin, and high cheekbones gazing up as golden bytes flow over her, on a blue background. I have some idea of what that event is. But it keeps changing, even as I keep working and writing.

I’ve been ducking this story for nearly a year. There is a completed outline. It’s insufficiently reflective of current canon, and one reason is that I’ve spent the past year writing stories to flesh out the Sequence’s backstory. They’re available for free on the website under the Netwalk Foundations tab. I also have the illustrated trilogy, Dahlia, Winter Shadows, and Andrews Ranch. All but the last one are currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play. I’m working on Andrews Ranch right now and having a lot of fun with it.

The whole writing world hasn’t been just Netwalk Sequence, though. I’ve also rewritten a couple of stories and managed copy edits for a short story and a novella. I have two short stories coming out so far this year, one in the inaugural edition of Fantasy Scroll Magazine and the other in Trust and Treachery (Dark Quest Books, April). My novella, Seeking Shelter at the End of the World, comes out from eTreasures Publishing in June. I’ve not exactly been idle.

But I am feeling tired. I do have projects to write. It’s just…getting to them in the face of the Day Jobbe.

Which leads to…Life In General.

I signed the final paperwork today. I am not renewing my teaching contract. After ten years, I’m not going to be going back to school in August.

This isn’t really new news. I’ve mentioned this in comments, and emails, and etc. It’s more of a matter of being tired, and tired of driving 80 miles a day, and tired of having to break off from a story because the clock says it’s time, damn it, and tired of being tired. Teaching, even part-time, is a physically difficult job. You are on your feet constantly, usually on tile-covered cement slabs. As a middle school teacher, you deal daily with the drama and agonies of early adolescence, and have to do so with a measure of equanimity and unflappability.  February and March are their own peculiar hells, and I’ve been experiencing those hells in a rather excruciating slo-mo this year.

I’m done with formal k-12 teaching for the moment. I want to leave while there are moments I still enjoy and savor. But I need to go. There are too many days when I hurt. Too many days when I am angry about what modern education has become. My ten years of teaching manages to span the effect of No Child Left Behind, and the taste is bitter in my mouth. No, better to choose the time, and go when I feel best. This year is a good time, not just for me, but for my memories of the place I have worked in and loved so dearly. I can make good memories with leaving this year–so it is time.

Doesn’t mean I won’t be a teacher of some sort or another. Even thinking about possibilities of some sort of teaching work that doesn’t involve a daily commute perks me up. I like tutorial work, and I’m a darn good remedial writing teacher. Heck, I like teaching writing, period.

But it’s time for me to move on from the daily classroom grind. What that will look like in a couple of years, five more years, ten more years–who knows? I get ideas all the time.

Where I go from here, whether that becomes Portland, Enterprise, or somewhere else–who knows. It’s a new adventure. The Next Adventure.

Onward.

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Looking back at 2013

I’m lagging a bit behind other folks this year in looking at what’s been going on in 2013, and, well, I guess that’s just the way things are these days.

So. 2013. A lot of stuff happened in 2013.

Professionally, I continue to see what it takes to recover in a school setting after several years of poor management. It takes a long time for a school community to renew itself after these circumstances, but it can happen. I took some interesting literacy classes focusing on the work of a major theorist in the field (Regie Routman) and found further support for the integration of neuroscience and education. Primarily, such linkages don’t come from “brain-based learning” techniques but through right brain resonances between teacher-student and student-student. I’ve also come to the conclusion that a certain degree of grammar understanding is key to developing higher level comprehension skills.

I’ve also developed a passionate dislike for high-stakes assessment and what prioritizing that does to a community of learners. Make no mistake, I think a single assessment and standards are necessary. But prioritizing tests and test-taking as the highest priority to the exclusion of the acquisition of other, necessary learning crashes and burns horribly. We are losing huge chunks of kids as a result of this test-driven culture. And that’s a rant in and of itself.

On the writing front, I’ve had some mixed successes. Several anthologies I’ve been in are doing reasonably well. I sold two books, a full length novel and a novella, to a small press. I brought out two independently published books and am working on more in that series. But I’ve not had the time to more aggressively pursue writing to the degree I want to do it. Emotions around the day jobbe, the fatigue of not only the day jobbe but the commute (80+ miles round trip each day) and the inability to keep on burning the candle at both ends have all interfered.

Mocha did spectacularly well (in my opinion) at this year’s show in September. She placed well and showed that she is particularly strong in Trail classes. Right now, though, she’s sidelined with a mild lameness that is tied into neck and shoulder muscle spasms. Light work seems to be helping, along with some massage techniques.

Skiing–um, well, no snow so far this year. I’m not enthused about skiing in low snow conditions and so the snow dances continue.

Personally–well, we’re looking at some huge changes ahead. Good changes, but scary, dramatic, and they’ve involved a lot of planning and worrying and agonizing. More on that later.

At least I seem to be reasonably healthy at the moment. It took most of the year to regain my flexibility from a hip muscle strain. My gut is still cranky but it’s settling, enough to give me hope that these upcoming changes will make it even happier. It’s amazing what ten minutes of yoga a day will do. My knees are making creaky and stiff noises at me, but I’m beginning to think that’s a sign that one particular pair of shoes have reached the end of their useful life, or else that I need to do something different for urban sidewalk hikes.

And so I march slowly into 2014, cautiously hoping that good things are coming. Just not sure about that.

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On time travel and oooh them awful girl cooties

So Charlie Stross appears to have committed one of those “oh no headdesk no no” moments when he asserted that there’s a dearth of female time travelers in SF, going on to claim that it’s harder for women to exercise the sort of agency a time traveler could/should enjoy in older, potentially more sexually repressive societies.

Ahem (Marge Piercy, Woman at the Edge of Time for starters, cough-cough).

While there’s been some most excellent counters to his assertions from various excellent women writers, I want to throw my two cents in as well, based on my own knowledge of local and regional history in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Right off the bat, I’ll confess to an occasional fascination for the tales of women adventurers in the Old West of North America (okay, maybe I’ll give Stross a pass on these, simply because that’s a regional focus and he may not know of them). Not all of them were cross-dressing as male, though there are some absolutely incredible stories about women who lived their lives out as remote cowboys, only to be outed upon severe injury or death. Some were spouses or female companions to males–Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spaulding are two who come quickly to mind, along with Sacajawea and Marie Dorion.

But there were plenty-many other women in the Old West who went out along with the boys and held their own. Some, like Elinore Pruitt Stewart, were simply trying to make a living. We know about Elinore because of her entertaining published letters, but she and her sister ranchwomen had no qualms about loading up wagons and horses and going out on their own for camping and fishing expeditions, either with or without the men.

Elinore wasn’t the only one, though. Looking at my shelf of memoirs and diaries of settler women, I find Eileen O’Keeffe McVicker, Phoebe Goodell Judson, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, Harriet Fish Backus, and others. If you add in the Victorian adventure travelers, there’s Isabella Bird as well as a host of others. Dee Brown, Janet Robertson and others.

Granted, these are all frontier colonial women, in a specific setting and we won’t go into the issues which arise therein (except to point out that Native women also had similar bold and adventuring women–we just don’t hear those stories). But if I can think of these histories of real, actual women on just one continent, of women who weren’t necessarily madonnas, teachers or prostitutes, then who’s to say that a time-traveling woman with appropriate research couldn’t have found a way to fit into these societies?

Hmm. Methinks I have a twinkling of a story idea here.

That is, after I write the Big Post-Apocalyptic story with strong female leads who don’t defer to Big Male Macho Boy Sex Fantasies (otherwise known as my oh no John Barnes no moment).

Yeah. Let’s just say I’m a grumpy and disgusted crone at the moment.

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9/11

It was just another morning in early September. The son was getting ready to catch Tri-Met for his zero period freshman English class at Benson Polytechnic High School. My husband was listening to the news on the radio in the kitchen. I was getting ready to start posting eBay auctions for my jewelry (back when I was living the Portlandia cliche of overeducated stay-at-home working mom, making jewelry and writing stuff to make some money).

Then the husband rushed into the living room. “A plane’s hit the World Trade Center.”

“WHAAT?”

“Probably something small. I want to see it.”

For the record, husband works in aerospace selling jet engine castings and other related parts. This definitely affected his work.

We turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. My first reaction to seeing it on TV was that it was a simulation, it had to be a simulation, it didn’t look real.

The son had to leave for school. Did we let him go or not? We shooed him out to the bus stop. High school, and Benson was pretty dang competitive in those days. He needed to go there.

Husband went to work and I kept watching, realizing that eBay wasn’t gonna be appropriate. What on earth had just happened?

Reports of the Pentagon crash. By then I was afraid for the son. Benson is across I-84 from the Bonneville Power Administration headquarters. I could easily see BPA as a related target–I’d worked for a contractor who had represented them in a securities litigation lawsuit (complicated story there–let’s just say I knew a bit about BPA).

I called a friend in Seattle. She turned on her TV just in time to see the first tower fall. We reacted together, then hung up to go about our day.

I was still active in church, so I went to Daily Mass. A lot of us younger folks were in shock. Many of the older folks remembered Pearl Harbor. They comforted us, steadied us. The old guys joked around about whether they could still fit in their uniforms, but their message was clear–live your lives, be watchful, and pray.

The silence from the airport was stunning. No contrails. The only planes in the air were the National Guard F-15s. Our house rabbit at the time, a rather pugnacious Mini Lop buck, took to following me around, to the degree that when I ran outside to watch a F-15 rocket down the Willamette, executing a lovely three (or was it four?) point barrel roll, he was right at my heels.

The day was heart-breakingly clear, beautiful and blue. I went to my hair appointment next to a flag and banner shop. They’d already sold out of flags.

I hung out on Usenet in rec.arts.sf.fandom, as New York members checked in. I hung out on my e-lists, where New York members checked in and people worried about family members around Ground Zero. As days went on, and planes started flying again, I still had a visceral reaction at spotting a jet coming into PDX, turning at just that angle that I had seen when we first turned on the TV. My online sales tanked, first in reaction to the economic crash that followed, then to the suspicion of mailed items that followed the anthrax attacks a month later. I stopped mailing manuscripts because of the anthrax scares and the resistance at the time to unscreened MSs.

Well, we know how things turned out, for the most part.

But I still occasionally get that twinge when I see an airplane turning at just that angle.

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Orycon: First Digestion

(Deliberate homage to E. R. Eddison, A Fish Dinner in Memison, for the title)

So I’m thinking big thinky thoughts about the past Orycon.  I had a good con, with my first significant participation in panelage there and the first time for Orycon’s Writer’s Workshop as a critiquing professional (I’ve been on the other end at Orycon and a critiquing pro at other cons).  Good stuff all around, even with a few glitches.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the news about Alma Alexander’s River anthology earning a Finalist slot for the Epic Awards came out just before the con.  Or, at a panel with Ken Scholes, where Ken and I both had the happy moment of mentioning stories and had audience members suddenly squeeing about the Kewlness Of Teh Story.

The other piece, though, was that many of the panels I participated on had an eager and intensely satisfying audience participation, more so than panels I’ve been on before at other cons.  A function of the con attendance?  Co-panelists?  I’m not sure.  But at the end of each panel I felt like (and tried to remember to do it) applauding the audience for their participation was entirely appropriate.  I like panels much better when we hit that freewheeling riff between panelists and audience.  We had good energy fairly consistently and that is something that requires both sides to make it happen.

I also had good barcon time, yakking with friends and fellow writers.

What was meh for me, for the most part, was party time.  Oh, I had good conversations and I met some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time.  Nonetheless, I’m not sure if it’s me or what, but the parties just didn’t pop out.  Probably just me as I think some parties got livelier later on in the evening, after I’d gone home for the night.  I’m now an old lady who needs her down time, I guess.

But…there are some other Big Thoughts that came out of discussions and a certain particular incident at that con.  I’m not really ready to share those yet, except for a couple of nibbles.

First of all, maybe I really DO need to find a way to articulate how my particular perspective differs from a lot of my day job professional peers with regard to disability, coping strategies, and attitudes toward difference and othering.  Some of these thoughts sharpened during the panels on “Geek v Nerd v Freak” and “When does a society stop being civilized.”

That whole thing about “what is ‘civilized'” is also a big thought.

I also had to defend my choice to go indie from someone who told me he viewed indie pubbers as scabs.  The analogy….doesn’t fly for me, especially looking at the power dynamics.  I want to write more about that.

Finally, I really do need to make more time for writer socialization and interaction.  I don’t do enough of hanging out with my writing tribe, and it does affect how I think and process.  I feel like I’ve finally fought my way out of the cobwebs of the nastiness of the past year or so.  Sadly, I don’t get the same sort of positive jolt from my day job, even in parts of it I’m passionate about.  My perspective is just different enough that I find myself keeping quiet and–well–I’ve got to do some thinking.

Off to write now.

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Cricket summer

There’s a bittersweet short period at the very end of summer that, if I had my druthers, I’d preserve and extend past its all-too-short tenure.  Before I began teaching it was the two weeks before Labor Day, before either I or my son had to go back to school (and when I was a kid, that was when my mother went back to work and I had the fierce joy of private time mixed with occasional town trips for back-to-school shopping).  Usually by this point the harshest heat of summer has passed, and the ever-shortening days bring cooling breezes to ease the day’s high temperatures.  The bite of cool damp in the air from offshore marine flows serves as a reminder that winter is coming.  Winter is near.

But not yet.

Now, too, is the glorious high season of sweet summer fruit.  Peaches, tomatoes, apples, berries, early sweet corn (here in the Willamette Valley, where tomatoes and corn can be iffy).  Canning season.  As a child, I spent plenty of time helping process peaches, pears, beans, etc, etc, etc.  For a while I continued the tradition but as my son grew older and I developed more commitments, I stopped doing as much home food preserving.

As the nights cool, the crickets begin their chirping.  As a child, I was told by my elders that the crickets start chirping six weeks before frost.  Well, considering the first frost is sometime around the first part of October, that’s roughly true.  The cricket song, however, identifies this part of summer for me, all the way from rural childhood to urban adulthood.  Cricket summer.  The last delicious bites of August, before school begins and the days shorten even more.  Cricket summer.  Where the grass crackles dry and sharp underfoot, a slight scuff of the foot raises uncharacteristic dust, and the light changes from day to day.

Cricket summer.  The fleeting, brief moment of the change from summer to fall, before the first steady rains.

In my farm youth I’d linger outside on cricket summer nights as long as possible.  The moons of cricket summer hang huge on the horizon.  Some evenings I’d wander out to the horse pasture and ride my first Shetland, Windy, bareback, with not much more than a lead rope around his nose.  We’d thunder around in the twilight, Windy enthusiastically leaping over the small ditches and scrambling up a small pile of gravel.  He liked a good wild gallop around the pasture in the dusk.  By this point he’d gotten past the point where unloading me was a priority–the two of us running together was much more fun and I wasn’t coming off of him very much.  We’d grown up together and, for a few sweet cricket summers, we had those wild rides.

Other summers I’d wander in the pasture, followed by Windy’s successors to see if I’d pick them some blackberries.  Horses could nibble blackberries off of the bushes but of course it was much better if nimble human fingers plucked berries to feed to horses.  I’d sit down somewhere, maybe play my recorder, or just sit and listen to the crickets sing.  One night I saw a meteor wink out just above the pasture.

Well, these days I don’t have the farm.  I have other memories of cricket summers as an adult.  The cricket summer in Wallowa County, thirty-two years ago, learning the rhythms of a new microclimate.  Learning the cricket summers of Portland.  Learning the cricket summers of my in-laws’ place on the Coast.

But where ever I was, I savored the cricket song, the cool moist bite of evening air, the soft whisper of the breezes in the trees hinting of winter to come.

This year is no different.  This year, this place.  The Gravenstein apple tree still clings to a few of its apples, big and full in comparison to previous years.  The little Grimes Golden apples aren’t quite ready yet, while the Italian plum trees are almost ready to be picked.  The crickets are in full song as the thickening crescent moon sets and the light fades away.  The breeze has a soft bite of damp coolness in it.  If I sit outside long enough I’ll probably see yet another raccoon family wander through the yard to eat the fallen plums.

Cricket summer.  Would that it were longer.  On the other hand, if it were longer, would it be as sweet?

That I do not know.

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Happiness #21

Finding lots of good social studies resources cached in the classroom, and getting my mind wrapped around teaching that class!  US History, here I come!

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