Tuesday, November 6, 2001

I am a bad Web Rat. I missed October entirely. Ling has threatened to unleash the dreaded Samorling Warriors upon me unless I shape up and write some more of this journal.

Hmm, let's see. I actually have lots of writing news.

First, I sold "Droplet" to F&SF!  Which was something of a surprise, but then, I am always surprised at what stories sell and don't sell where. "Droplet", you may recall, is a far-future erotic science fiction story. I wrote it after having my imagination tickled by Mary Anne Mohanraj's guidelines for her "Bodies of Water" erotica collection, but it was too hard-SF for her. I feared it would be too erotica for GVG, but I guess not! He did have me revise some of the profanity out.

It's funny, now that I know it'll be coming out in F&SF I'm kind of embarassed. This story has kinky sex scenes! My parents will read it! Heck, my grandfather will probably read it! Now, I have reason to suspect that my parents and grandparents have had sex themselves, and even read about it, before. Still, I'm afraid my grandfather will find the story vulgar, and lament with Cole Porter:

Good authors, too, who once knew better words
now only use four-letter words
writing prose...
Esther, you may recall, hated "Droplet". When I woke her up to tell her that I'd sold it, she said sleepily, "that's great, honey, but is he crazy? That story sucks!" (She didn't hate the sex in the story, nor what made me uneasy, which was the violence -- she hated the future worldbuilding.)

Meanwhile, the second of the "Other Cities" series, Ponge, is up at Strange Horizons. Lots of people wrote me to say they liked it. My Dad wrote me to say he hated it (well, he was a slightly more polite about it).

It's always odd what people like or don't like. I actually enjoy provoking strong reactions. It makes me feel like people are paying attention.

"Baby Love" is with Ellen. "A Siege of Cranes" is still at Black Gate. "The Death Trap of Dr. Freezo" was rejected from Hemispheres (the United Airlines inflight magazine) and is at TWA Ambassador. "The Orange" is at Quarterly West.
"The Book of Jashar" is at Century. "The White City" is at Affair of the Mind.

Revising the Clarion West stories is going gruelingly slowly. Partly I'm bamboozled by the huge amounts of comments I have on each story -- we're talking at least eighteen in-depth analyses per tale. I spent part of the weekend trying to collate and collapse the comments on "Embracing-the-New". It seems like too long ago that I wrote it. I kind of like the story, but the idea of writing more bits of it seems appalling. 

Crimp is also slow going. Ramin and I had another telephone pow-wow, had some interesting ideas, and promised each other a synopsis by the end of last week. It hasn't happened yet. I'm thinking maybe tomorrow.

I got lots of useful feedback from the Clarion West 2001 critique group (cw2k1-crits) on the "Other Cities" spinoff story "The City of Peace", but I haven't been able to revise it at all. It's too political and too raw for me to deal with at the moment. I sort of feel guilty, because we're at war and the world is in upheaval -- if now is not the time to write political fiction, when is? But I just want to write fantasies of far-off times and places at the moment. I don't want to poke at the things I wanted to poke at before 9/11. 

The world has gone mad today, and good's bad today, and wrong's right today, and day's night today...
On the other hand, I've been very productive in the new story department.

I wanted to write some literary fiction, after all this specialization in speculative fiction at Clarion West, so I wrote this very odd experimental short story "Starving". I inflicted it on cw2k1-crits and they gave me many suggestions (which I also have not implemented... you can see my revising stack is towering dangerously).

Then at the beginning of this week I ran into a bunch of cool stories by author Aimee Bender -- two fanciful ones are up at Vestal Review -- and that inspired me to write "Red Leather Tassels", a surrealist fable. And today on the train I wrote yet another story, a jungle fantasy -- I don't have a title I like yet, but let's call it "Tiger Story".

If you count the "Other Cities" stories as individual short-shorts, which is really what they are, then in the year 2001 I've written 25 stories. That's more than one every two weeks. Plus a good bit of "Crimp". 

I'm pretty satisfied with my level of productivity...

Oh, and that's not counting poems. I wrote a poem for Aviva recently, "Aviva at Bessuge", and I've been working on the poem formerly known as "Stuck in Traffic on Highway 101: A Meditation on the Virtual" and which is currently called "Eulogy for a Bubble".

Okay, I know, you've endured all that jib-jabber about my writing just so you can get to the Aviva update.

The bad news is -- brace yourselves -- no new pictures.

If anyone knows why my IBM ThinkPad running Windows 2000 Professional, even after installing RS232C and USB drivers downloaded from Canon, refuses to acknowledge the existence of my Canon PowerShot S10 digital camera no matter which cables I use to hook them together, then perhaps that person will explain to me what I am doing wrong and we can all have lovely Aviva pictures again. It worked fine with my old computer!

Okay, it's late at night, so I will cheat as usual and crib my Aviva notes from a recent letter to a friend:

Aviva is ten months old. She is teetering on the edge of a bunch of transformations  -- talking and walking, for instance. It's not really clear if she talks yet. I mean she seems to say "Dada" to me and "Mama" to Esther more often than not, but it could be coincidence, since she says a lot of things to a lot of people a lot of the time. Once a friend of ours asked "Where's Dada?" and Aviva pointed to me, and then "Where's Mama?" and she pointed to Esther, and did this several times... but we could never get her to repeat the performance. When we asked again she just gave us this look like, "I already pointed them out to you. I have now given up on your ability to retain this information." So who knows? She keeps her own counsel.

She also pushes chairs arpund the living room, hanging onto them with her hands, so ... is that walking?

She seems (but of course I'm biased) a very affectionate and adventurous child. She doesn't scare or dissuade easily. She likes it when you drop towels on her head and she can pull them off (recently she's started pulling the towel back up again to hide herself when we play this game). She likes to head-butt walls, mirrors and people. She is very excited about the yellow beach ball we have and she can now crawl with alarming speed, knocking the beach ball all over the apartment. 

When she wants to be picked up she comes and crawls up your pants legs and then she is damn well not going to take no for an answer, and similarly when she wants down she tres to launch herself, repeatedly, squirming, towards the floor. She hugs and kisses us, though she isn't quite clear on the concept and it's more sort of a head-butt-and-gnaw experience. But very cute. I am pleased this weekend, because the last couple of weeks she was in a definite mommy phase, and when Esther would show up, she would squirm out of my grasp to get to her -- but now the pendulum has swung the other way, and often this weekend she wouldn't stay put with Esther but insisted on being with me. This is nicer for both me and Esther; when it's one-sided it's stressful.

I now watch Aviva Fridays and Wednesday mornings, because Esther has gone back to work, taking four private-practice psychotherapy clients. Esther loves her job -- the clients are much more motivated than clients in the institutional settings where she's worked before. And I love being with Aviva. We play all day. We dance to the radio. We pull things off the shelf and put them back again. We throw the dirty laundry out of the hamper. We read books. We drum with wooden spoons on pans. We knock the ball around. We vacuum the floor and go shopping (with Aviva surveying the world from a backpack -- she kind of rolls with the motion of me walking and looks for all the world as if she was a Caliph perched on a camel's back). And we eat -- we love to eat all kinds of mush, to smear it on the table, to drink ourselves from a water bottle and then throw it on the floor. We also like pieces of stale bread, and oh, do we like carrots.

Yesterday we came up with an excellent game. It goes like this: the girl, looking innocent, suddenly flings the water bottle off the table. The Daddy (who has to keep his hands in his lap until the bottle is thrown) tries to snag it in midair. The Daddy gets a point if he catches it; if it falls on the floor, the girl gets a point. The score was about 17 to 15, Aviva, when we had to stop playing to do something else.

And my sister got married! We went to North Carolina for the ceremony. It was great. Mazel tov again, Shoshana!