Redemption in Indigo

I just read Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, and I was completely enchanted.  At first I was reminded of Amos Tutuola, but Lord brings much more to the narrative table than reworked folktale.  Funny, wise, and cleverly constructed, this novel is a delightful antidote to the excess of urban fantasies whose heroines possess the ethical sensibilities of paid assassins.  Karen Lord packs more skilled storytelling in this 188 page novel than most wheezy trilogies can crank out in a 1000.  I loved it!

Timothy Tiger

While thinking about my literary influences for Wilderness for a class I’ve been asked to teach on the novel, I thought of Timothy Tiger, about which I was deeply passionate at 4.  The influence on my work is clear:

Timothy was a dear little tidy tiger who did not have a mother.  He lived all by himself in the Great Big Jungle.  What he wanted most of all, was someone who could cuddle him and play with him and purr him to sleep every night.  So one day Timothy set out in search of a mother…

Canada Geese in Byrd Park

Canada Geese in Byrd Park

I’m moved by their dawn song, though I’ve grown to hate them,
a flapping, crapping infestation,
a non-migratory shit machine.
Still I’m a sucker for the splash
of their landing in the morning mists
upon the lake built to be so lovely in the 20’s
for man and goose alike. Only it’s
winter, guys, you’re not supposed to be here,
with more and more all the time,
a hazard to every water hazard,
destroyer of US Airways Flight 1549.
So where do you guys get off sounding so sublime?
Hired border collies roust you from the shit-slick promenade,
but still you keep coming back, determined. These are
your darkest days. The temptation must be strong to fly.
That must be what I hear in your song that moves me—
That longing to be birds again and fly the whole world round.
Hang in there. It’s Sunday.
Your pals with the Wonder Bread will be round shortly,
their chubby eager children, churning through the slime.

Patricia Anthony

Among the books I’ve read recently was the fine novel, Flanders, by Patricia Anthony, which I missed when it first came out in 1998. I was delighted to find it still in print from Berkley. She is one of my favorite sf writers, especially Happy Policeman and Brother Termite. The fantastic element here is ghostly and understated, but it is hands down the best novel I’ve ever read about World War I, a pitch perfect epistolary novel about a Texas sharpshooter in the trenches. I loved this book.  If you’re weary of hip noirish steampunk mushrooms, give Flanders a try.  It will break your heart.

Rereading Wilderness

I’ll probably have more to say about this when I’m done, but I’m in the process of rereading my first published novel, Wilderness, written 20 years ago, because Tom De Haven is teaching it in his American Fantastica class at VCU, and I’m guesting.  Except for a few scenes I draw upon for “greatest hits’ readings, I haven’t reread the novel.  It’s fun how often it surprises me.  The characters certainly smoke a lot of cigarettes and have red-hot libidos.  It’s nice to know I’ve gotten better, I remind myself as I read, but the damn thing does keep me turning the pages.  Let’s just see if it can make me cry—one way or another.

On addressing the elderly

“Sir,” people address me in increasing numbers. Not “Hello,” but “Hello, Sir.” It’s the overwhelming whiteness of the hair, the bald pate, and the beard, I suppose. “Old-timer” is out of fashion, so I get “Sir.” I know this is supposedly a term of respect or something, but I detect a note of fear in it—that I might pass along some unwelcome wisdom or gas if they give me half a chance. I know my young wife, barely eligible for AARP and with a pitiful bit of gray to show for all her years on the planet, has an equal affection for “Ma’am.” I like a simple “Hello.” It makes me feel young, and you know how we old farts like to feel young.

Hamstrung and The Windup Girl

My infrequent and brief postings of late are the result of a hamstring injury that is a literal pain in the butt. It has lingered for some time now, and I am learning to work (as I am writing this post) standing up. This makes me jealous of my computer time, and I’m about halfway through a new novel.  Blog and correspondence suffer.  Sorry to everyone.

Since I’m here, I must take the opportunity to rave about The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s every bit as good as all the reviews and awards would lead you to believe. The best sf novel I’ve read in years.

How I Became a Luddite

I suppose it began with the Walkman.  I never actually owned one, but I borrowed them enough to know I didn’t really want my own personal soundtrack except on rare occasions, usually stationary at my desk.  So I wasn’t tempted by the iPod, though I listen to most of my music on my computer.  But my big step was in not getting a cell phone.  I still don’t have one.  As far as I can tell, it’s still a chronically unreliable technology, rather like owning an American car in the 70’s.  A favorite subject of social conversation now is cell phone woes.  Nearly all of you understand these better than I.  A nice young woman at dinner last night said she’d started receiving anonymous porn messages on her cell.  Many wish they could do without their cell phones, but they are cursed for life apparently.  Sort of like me and heart meds.  I do appreciate that cell phones have made eavesdropping on intimate conversations about damn near anything way easier, and for all that good material, I am grateful and unrepentant.

As a writer working at home during the day, I’m not crazy about The Phone.  Or, as I often call it, The Phucking Phone.  The no call list helps, but since the biggest biz in the world (American Politics) isn’t excluded, interruptions still abound.  I’m also fond of those Rat Bastards who claim to be charitable raising money for the police, orphans, et. al. and keeping 90% themselves.  There are also times, I confess, that I haven’t wanted an employer or deranged lover to be able to reach me on the phone.  So I wasn’t exactly enticed by the cellular technology that evoked images of no escape.  Hundreds of earnest pitches have been made to me by users based on Safety.  What if I Break Down?!  Like I said, just like an American Car in the 70’s.  I’ll probably die being run over by a motorist on a cell phone who ignored me in the crosswalk, and I’m sure all the witnesses will have cell phones to report the matter, take my picture, post to YouTube…

When I teach science fiction writing, I’m always advising students to remember who doesn’t use the technology they’re imagining.  A homogenous world isn’t plausible. Now I’m in a minority of non-users of what I’ve heard called “a necessity of modern life.”  Most apparently agree.  A friend sent me a NYT article with the following factoid:  Only 15% of Americans don’t have cell phones for various reasons, mostly bad coverage or can’t afford it.  I’m in a well-covered city and could afford it, making my reason “Chooses not to.”  You know how many gave that answer?  5%.  We’re talking tiny minority.  This happened very quickly.  I know there were clunkoid phones in the 80’s, but the fever’s been less than 20 years.  It’s now become a cultural study for me.  How long can I hold out?  When will I join in the fun?  When will I be safe?