Thursday, November 28, 2002

Hope everyone has a great holiday. I'm hangin with the relative folks for the next day or two, catching up with people who I've lost touch with in the last couple of years. It's been fun.

In the Thanksgiving tradition, I'd like to say I'm grateful for having such great friends who have helped me in ways even they can't imagine, providing me with light in dark places. You all know who you are. (I should hope!)

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Not brooding so much any longer. I am casting off neuroses pretty quickly, ahem...

And in other news, the winter break is nearly here, and I cannot wait for it, to have an entire month off and to myself to catch up with writing and doing the holiday cheer scene. For the past two years, I've dreaded the holidays, due to a messy personal life. That's all getting cleared up now more and more, so for the first time in two years, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and feeling generally happy. It's been so long that I forgot how it actually feels.

Watched "Kissing Jessica Stein" last night. Well, the first three fourths of it, at least. Gonna rewatch it today. Got distracted with some kissing of my own, so I don't know how it ended, but what I saw of it was great.

Saw "Frida" a couple of days ago, which was wonderful wonderful wonderful. I'm a huge Frida Kahlo fan, have been for years now. Although her life and my own are very different, I feel a kinship with the sort of being she was--split down the middle of just about every aspect of her identity, and her internalization of the world through her art. The director did a nice job of incorporating scenes that reveal the conception of some of her more famous works of art--very light handed. You wouldn't know she was doing this if you didn't know Kahlo's painting very well, and the scenes still work, so bravo.

Christ I'm happy today. Somebody hand me a cigarette.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Oh yeah. At the mystery dinner, I was the murderer. My role changed from the one I'd written about earlier. I turned out to be a murdering French vineyard manager. But I got to exercise my rusty french, which was fun.

Ok, back to brooding over my pathetic neuroses.

Ok, so the foray into the new territory begins. Everyone wish me luck or put me in your prayers or something of that nature. And like send me survival packages of some sort. Or psychotropic drugs maybe. Yeah, those might help. Or valiums. Now we're getting warmer.

Does anyone have the key to learning to trust again? I don't have much money, but I'll pay in installments if I have to.

Friday, November 22, 2002

On losing things: For a year I dreamed that I was trying to cross bridges. These bridges could take a variety of forms. Sometimes they were rope bridges, like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with alligators snapping their jaws at me in the river below it. Sometimes they were covered bridges over creeks in the countryside. Sometimes instead of a bridge, it was a tunnel under a lake I had to try and use to get to the other side. Invariably, something would go wrong. The rope bridge would fray, snap in half, and I would fall into the river below with all of those alligators. The covered bridge would begin to creak under my weight (I always had everything I owned strapped to my back) and would collapse beneath my feet. In the rope and covered bridge dreams, all of my things would wash away in the river or creek, and I would be left with nothing. In the tunnel under the lake dream, I would get halfway through, crawling on my hands and knees through the slightly muddy space, and then I would come to a place where, directly under the lake, there was a leak. Water dripped in. Then suddenly a hole in the tunnel would burst, and it would fill with water and I would drown.

Someone told me bridge dreams were good--that it means you're making a transition in your life. But I kept dreaming of crossing bridges, and never being able to get to the other side. It was dreadful. I'd wake up in a sweat, as if I had actually been dumped in a river, or flooded in that tunnel. I couldn't get to the other side.

I've stopped dreaming about bridges, so I'm assuming that I don't need to any longer. I'm hoping that means I made it to the other side. I feel like I have, to some extent, although I haven't made much headway into the new territory on the other side. I keep looking back, or down at my old life that has been swept away in the current.

I think a moment of pause to regroup and reconstitute is completely due. In the Bible, God turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for looking back. I always thought that was a bit harsh. I mean, come on! A pillar of freaking salt! Bad form, God! It's not a bad thing to look back on your life, especially when you're leaving it. It's not a bad thing to long for it either. There were good things there too. Don't forget that. Don't think just because you have to leave a certain place of your life that it's all bad. A lot of it was good. That's why it's so hard to leave it.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

I've found my love song. R.E.M.'s "At My Most Beautiful", from their album, Up.

Now to find a karaoke machine that plays it. This will probably not be easy. There is a huge deficit of love songs in the karoke world from which a contemporary, self-conscious, fairly well educated young man can choose. I mean, come on. Elton John and Patsy Cline are wonderful, but they suit only particular personalities. Although I have been tempted to sing Patsy's, "Crazy", which seems to suit me just fine when it comes to love songs, although I am, as I have reported here and elsewhere, working on that, ok?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Alan has fixed the chronological error in "A Mad Tea Party", so you now have permission to read it if you'd like. heh heh.

Thanks, A.

Alan DeNiro has been re-tricking my webpage on the Ratbastards website. He's posted an essay I wrote, called "Notes Towards a Sort of Supreme Fiction", as well as made links to stories of mine on the web, and lots of other stuff. According to him, it's not all finished, but I think it's great, and really appreciate it.

Don't read "A Mad Tea Party" just yet, if you choose to visit the site. I published this story in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet in 1999, then revised it, and during the revision process, I made a change that makes two sentences in that story not make logical sense. I've since revised those sentences, of course (it was a chronological thing), and Alan will change them on the web version of the story too, so I'll let you know when it's ok to look at it again.

Otherwise, go visit, and visit the other Ratbastard pages too, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I just read ML Konett's "Gypsy Joe" in Say...Was That a Kiss? It was great. ML always has these really great characters. Admirable people faced with having to stand up to less admirable people. She never flinches from making her characters make important decisions about themselves and about the world. I always think her characters and storylines are noble.

Last couple of weeks in the semester. I may or may not be posting as much as usual. This weekend I'm attending a mystery dinner with friends from the graduate program. We have to do a little roleplaying. I have to be an Italian American early twenty-something who works in his mother's restaurant, but wants to play World Cup Soccer. He hates waiting tables, but that's enforced loyalty to family business for ya. His name is Marco. This feels kind of weird to me, but possibly fun. I'll be open to it being fun.

I used to play roleplaying games when I was kid, and really loved them. But now, not so much. It was like a thing to do at that time in my life. I feel like it couldn't be as fun doing it now. It was like reading certain books at certain times in your life. When I was a kid and a teenager, it made sense to roleplay. We were figuring out who we wanted to be. Putting on different sorts of characters. Remaking ourselves. This is something that I think continues throughout our lives.

It's hard to find the you that fits perfect. Maybe it's not possible. But it's worth trying to find ones that feel right. I'm not one for the idea that people are static. In high school yearbooks, kids write things to each other like: "Never change!" or "Always stay the same as you are now! You're wonderful!" Blah blah blah. I wanted to write in some of those people's yearbooks, "You better change, you bastard!" or "I hope you wise up!" I'm not being scathing of other people only (I include myself). But I can remember thinking back then, why is everyone so complacent about their identities? I felt cramped and crammed into something small and tight fitting. Nothing but white people, farms, factories, harvest festivals, a certain idea of what sort of work you'd do some day, what sort of house you'd live in, what sort of family you'd create outside of the one you were born into, which would bleed into that family in a clannish sort of way. Everyone knowing everything about everyone, which can be nice when you need help and a communal feeling, but terrible when you need space from others. Small town life is quaint, but also, well, small. I love a lot about where I came from, but I also hate a lot of it too. I decided it was best to love it from a distance. Even an hour away was different enough for me. (At least it was for a while.) But that's how things are in the midwest. You can pass through a city to a ruined city to a wealthy suburb into Amish country within the blink of an eye. But the geographic boundaries are real in a cultural sense too.

This is in the city too. I moved a ten minute drive away from where I lived in Youngstown last year. Where I was was considered "the bad side of town". Now, ten minutes away, I'm on "a better side", but not the best. I don't think there is a "best side" of Youngstown. Probably the west side. I was on the south. Now I'm on the north side, next to the university. I like it here better.

Well, I've blathered on long enough. Talk to you all later. Everyone be good and love each other.

Monday, November 18, 2002

The thesis is finished. Thank the powers that be. In this case, I'll thank myself for putting myself out of my own self-indulged misery. I mean, really. I've been sitting on finishing the damned introduction for weeks now, just because I'd rather be reading or writing fiction instead of an introduction to fiction. But there were spots in the intro that I enjoyed writing it.

I am pleased with Ms. Bond for not erasing what she wrote yesterday evening. I myself wrote in the "affirmation" vein of literature several days ago, and there is always a part of me that goes, "bullshit", afterwards. But you know what? Some of that life affirming bullshit is just true. As much as we've been taught to find it new agey and abstract and downright embarrassing, it is: it's true. I applaud you, Guru Gwenda.

I've been reading Say...Was That a Kiss? in between the thesis and my working class fiction course, and writing for my fiction workshop. Lovely lovely stories. I really liked Kristin Livdahl's "Ohkami", and Richard Butner's "The Secret Identity". Both were intimate and sad and sweet. Kristin's piece is a nice slice of Japanese nightlife--of course I was taken with the club scenes. And Richard's college romance was just, well, lovely and innocent in its revelations, and made me long for a me that's no longer around, or if he is around, is not so innocent any longer. Tim Pratt had an interesting cross-cultural fairy tale. Or should I say, "Unfairy Tale", an apt title. Justine Larbelestier has a good one here too; she always draws good dramatic scenes, with a rushed lyricism that, for me, has always recalled Joyce Carol Oates' gothic stories. I haven't read the rest of the stories yet, but this is a tight package. The poetry is all very good.

Gwenda is going to practice karaoke. I think the rest of ya all should do so as well. I will not forgive a second bad performance of Love Shack in the future. I've put the past behind me, so we can all move on. But no more faking that you're going to be up there singing the damned song with me, and then kinda singing. You all got the moves, I'll give you that. But can you belt it out next time we find ourselves in a karaoke situation. I have contacts in Madison who are making sure we have a place to jam when we're there for Wiscon. So you have all been warned. Gavin--I expect that if you do not karaoke, that you will at least teach me the Highland Fling. Deal?

I am in search of a love song actually. Either sad or happy, it doesn't matter. I noticed a few months ago that all my karaoke songs are slightly manic. Why can I sing The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated", but nothing sweet and sentimental? I have that side of me clamoring for attention too. I suppose this relates, to some extent, back to Guru Gwenda's hesitation to post her good approach to the world sort of meditation. (Am I afraid to be sappy in front of others?) If I have to put that in parentheses, it's probably true.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

So last night Jackie and I went to hear Christine Lincoln and Robert Mooney read fiction at the university. They were both wonderful readers. Christine Lincoln, though, read without the microphone in a deep, sonorous voice--her fiction has a quality to it like that of folktales, blues, jazz, and the South, but blues especially. She simply floored me. After the reading, we went to the afterparty at my mentor's house. I talked with both of them, but Christine and I had ourselves a good old time recalling debacles from our lives, shaking our heads and going, "Mmm-hmm," and feeling a little like kindred spirits by the end of the night, huggin like we were old friends. Robert Mooney is actually an old schoolmate of Jeff Ford's (any of you reading this who are scifi readers will of course recognise that name, but for those who don't, Jeffrey Ford is an ace writer in the speculative fiction genre). We talked a bit about fantasy literature, and how even realism is fantasy literature when it comes down to it, due to the nature of fiction. His novel inserts a wild fictional event into our historical reality which, for me, is fantasy as much as a hobbit leaving home to set out and save the world. Go read both of these writers.

After the reading party, we went to the B&O, the old railroad house that's been converted into a restaurant/bar, where Jim, another grad student in the program with us, was playing a set with his band, The Rainbow Tribe. They play these really long Reggae-like songs. Every time you go to hear the Rainbow Tribe play, you see so many of the same faces each time. They've been a fixture in northeastern Ohio, especially Youngstown, for over a decade now. We danced a little there, then headed off to a hip hop club, then after that, went to an all night diner and talked until seven in the morning. We hadn't even realized how long we'd been there till the sky outside our window began to lighten.

Of course, spent most of the day in bed, catching up on sleep. Then went Christmas shopping for my nephew and nieces, who are getting many good books from me in another month or so. The rest of the family will probably shower them with so much junk--toys and things that will become the detritus of passing years, forgotten or thrown out with spring cleaning--that I feel the need to give presents of books to the kids. Someone has to be on the lookout for their imaginations.

I should just finish my damned Master's thesis. I really only have three pages left to write, and I stubbornly refuse to write them, like a little kid--You can't make me. I think I'm burned out at the end of the semester in general. Off to bed, so I can wake in the morning at a reasonable hour and do what I have to do--finish the introductory essay to my thesis of stories.

Have a good Sunday everyone.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Sometimes it seems like it's the end of the world. But from experience I can say that it isn't. It may be the end of a world, but not the world. It's a dark and lonely place when a world starts to close down, or change irrevocably. But it doesn't mean we die. It means we move on. Grieve our past lives. Let them go, because they're leaving anyway. What's beautiful to consider is the new life that awaits us, to be shaped and formed. To build new friendships, loves, and family.

I grieve the loss of my life. I've lost best friends and lovers over the past two years. I didn't know what to do with that. I didn't know how to be myself without them. I did things I now regret. But regret isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can use it to learn what not to do in the future. You can make use of regret as a watermark--this is where I've been at my worst. When I near that mark, it's time to start thinking about what I may be doing that is moving me towards it again.

Leaving a life, an identity, is like losing a loved one. Love that life, but allow yourself to make a new one. Allow yourself to be open to a new life.

It's the hardest thing to do. It has been for me. I don't want to leave everything I know and have loved behind. But it's necessary sometimes. And not a bad thing at all. Just a thing. No value can be attributed to it.

There are a lot of us out there hurting right now. We all know who we are. I love you all. Maybe it doesn't seem like much, but my friends and family and their love for me, and my love for them, has kept me going through the darkest times. Sometimes I didn't think it would be enough. But it can be. Even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Why do science fiction and fantasy fans and writers react so badly to not being embraced wholeheartedly? I expect it's because of a history of ignorance on the part of the "mainstream literary" world. But I meet just as many genre-bound readers who are ignorant of "mainstream literary" conventions and foundations and culture as well. The ignorance goes both ways.

Couple of months ago, or maybe just last month, Locus reported a review of Ursula LeGuin's new collection. Here is what Locus said:

"Margaret Atwood, who's taken pains to distance her [Arthur C. Clarke Award winning] novel The Handmaid's Tale from the sordid genre of science fiction, reviews Le Guin's The Birthday of the World, immediately stumbling upon that same problem... Atwood spends several hundred words reviewing the early history of the genre ("It's too bad that one term—"science fiction"—has served for so many variants, and too bad also that this term has acquired a dubious if not downright sluttish reputation."), mentioning Shelley, Verne, Wells, Lewis, etc., with only Bradbury, Vonnegut, and Hoban given as relatively current examples, before turning to a generally sympathetic survey of Le Guin's career and new book. Yet the final impression is that Atwood finds her work palatable because, in the final analysis, it's not really fantastic..."

I immediately read Atwood's review, and felt that whoever had written this assessment of her review in Locus was way off. Whoever had dismissed Atwood as someone uncomfortable with the speculative fiction genre had not realized that this review was written with a specific audience in mind, and that audience was not speculative fiction readers. Why didn't she praise speculative fiction as God's gift to the world, as so many in the genre do? Because she would be preaching to the choir. Besides, the choir to whom she was preaching was the "mainstream literary" world, whatever that means. Apparently a lot of other people know what those terms constitute, although I'm skeptical of their meaning. Frankly I find the terms limited and limiting. In any case, with this audience--an audience not versed in speculative fiction--in mind, Atwood has presented them with a list of authors who are genre related and who the literary world generally authorizes, as a source of validation. In many ways, I find her review to be more helpful to understanding the genre than many of the reviews and essays written within the genre that only genre readers will read.

Why can't we accept the hands we are given? Why can't we admit that, yes, speculative fiction is a slut, dressed up in various genres as adornment? A little wild west here, a little space opera there, and a touch of Arthurian legend dabbed around the neck. Perfect. Who can resist me?

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Went out with friends last night and listened to a good local band, The Zou's, who sound very mellow and jazzy. Relaxed a little. Then went dancing. Was a good night had by all. The dancing de-stressed me a little. Physical activity has always helped work mental kinks out of me. Too bad I'm so lazy! But I do love dancing, so I have at least that.

There is a new blog listed on the little blog log on your left. Take note of 32 Degrees. Kristin is always able to cheer me up.

Sorry the posts have been fewer and farther between. Four weeks left of school. Defense of Master's thesis on the horizon, and several more pages needed written in it before it's presentable. I'm dragging. Would rather be working on my own fiction. I can't wait to be done with school and finish the few short story ideas I have waiting to be worked on, then move onto a novel. I'm ready. I think. I hope. I feel more ready than I have before, at least.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The best thing in the world, or one of the best things in the world, is to be hugged by your friends all at the same time. Miss you guys already.