Thursday, July 29, 2004

Just got confirmation that my work visa application has been approved in Japan.  Now I wait for their paperwork to reach me, and then I have to drive to the Japanese Consulate in Detroit, the one nearest to me, and have them process the paperwork and make me an actual visa. 

I've been on my last nerve the past week or so waiting for all this to go down, and now that it is, I'm relieved and also a bit freaked out.  Am I really going over there for a year, maybe even two??  Obviously there is some other person making these decisions for me. 

Okay, just a little political pissiness.  Everyone who disses John Kerry seems to dis how he "flip flops" on issues.  Now take that as you will, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, this flexibility.  Maybe it's happened on some issues that he shouldn't have, I don't know.  But the idea of flip flopping on issues themselves I don't think is a bad thing.  It's much better, I'd say, then having someone in charge of things that is close minded and doesn't listen to anyone else's ideas and who charges in on a plan of action, and even when he realizes it's the wrong one, won't stop and reevaluate his decisions and try to figure out a new course of action.  I'd rather have someone who can say, hey, I was wrong about how I thought on this issue, and I'm changing my mind about it.  Like I said, maybe there are specific issues Kerry changed his mind about that would frustrate me too, but the idea of someone being dissed for having the capability to change their ideas and how they feel towards various issues in and of itself is ridiculous. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

There have been some interesting comments on the zine conversation between me and Chance, which you can read in the comments section if you scroll down and click.  Add something of your own if you've got any ideas to contribute.  If you want a lowdown of the event, rather than to take your time perusing specifics, Matt Cheney has a good summary over at The Mumpsimus, which you should be reading for your own good anyway.

I suppose what I'd like to talk about in greater detail should be written as an essay.  But for now I'll just keep free flow writing here.  One thing that I think that is happening, which is a distinguishing factor between mine and Chance's commentary, is that hers is more about looking at a writer's credits, seeing a bunch of uninspired zines listed, and immediately assessing that wading through that writer's stuff is probably not worth her effort.  I think I may be inclined to agree in that assessment.  This is why in the comments section for that post some people have been more keyed into talking about resumes and cover letter subs being tailored to listing your best publications.  On that note, I agree resoundingly.  We don't have all day, you know, to assess your qualifications, and if you list fifty very small unknown zines as credentials, it probably very much does look suspicious.  (Why have you written fifty stories in a year or two anyway?  This is my own bias here.  I don't write that fast and when I've written too quickly, the work suffers, and often I feel the same way about reading stories by writers who write at notorious fast paces.  I suffer reading them most often.  This is another topic altogether though, let's save it for next week maybe, and keep on the idea of zines and small presses for now.)

Chance was mostly talking about looking at writer's credits, I think.  What I was inspired to write about after reading her entry was that, though she is right in a sense, it is unfair to dismiss zines and small press publications categorically, summarily, however you have it.  I want to stress that in any publication, professional or small press, I believe aesthetics and vision are essential to making the thing work and be worthwhile.  The zines I read most often are Say... , Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede, Flytrap, Alchemy (although I'm not sure if this is a zine or would be considered more along the lines of a specfic lit journal, like Century), and online I like Nerve, Scifiction, Strange Horizons, Fortean Bureau, Ideomancer, Failbetter, and Pindeldyboz.  Some of those I just listed, like Strange Horizons and Scifiction and Nerve, pay professional rates.  But I'm categorizing them as ezines, which is how they are referred to, because simply being online somehow moves them down a heirarchical system of value.  Even when the are edited by fabulous minds or when they have the money to offer writers pay for their time and efforts.

But yes, there are a lot of small endeavors that just don't cut it.  That's not what I wanted to emphasize so much as that there are some that do something amazing, and it's sad they are sometimes neglected due to a category of publication they belong to.  I hate categories.  That's probably apparent.  I know they're useful on some level, but I find them frustrating.  Probably because I tend to not pay attention to them and choose my reading based on other factors.  Sometimes I'm not even aware of what part of a bookstore I'm in until I look up and see a sign that tells me the name of the section where I just found something wonderful.

For instance, tonight I was at the bookstore and I watched how the young teenagers in the YA section of the bookstore walked over from the YA shelves to the general literature section to browse, yet not one adult in two hours walked over to the YA shelves to browse.  Why?  Hmm?  Maybe because they think if they did that they'd be reading "downscale".  For me, this is a literalized metaphor.  Adults relegating books with teen protagonists to their own "section" of the bookstore.  "Let's give them their own space, along with the gay people and black people.  God knows we wouldn't want to have to actually listen to them.  They're really only interested in what each other has to say anyway, right?  Of course.  My aren't we liberal and considerate."

Anyway, again, I'm off topic.  Probably because it's late and I need to go to sleep, so that's what I'll do now, and check in with y'all later.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

I just watched "Japanese Story".  *tear*.  Go rent it.  Toni Collette is just a gorgeous gorgeous actor, as usual.

I like Chance's message over here a lot.  It's inspired me to say a few things myself.  Some of what I say may sound like it's contradicting Chance's thoughts, but I understand and agree with what she's saying in the essence of laundry lists of sundry publications as proof of your ability.  This isn't necessarily a clincher for me to assume you're a good writer.  But on the other hand, a laundry list of "professional" sales isn't a clincher for me either.  So, with that qualification in mind, here I go:

I started out in the zines and they served me well.  I do think, though, that you need to read the zines and get to know them.  Some of them are worthwhile, the editors are serious about presenting good fiction even if they cannot pay professional rates or print the publication in a professional manner.  But in a publishing realm with only a few professional markets, it's almost necessarily true that good stories are going to not get published, and what determines that is completely random.

I had a friend who thought it was "cute" when I published my first story ever in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.  LCRW had only been on issue 5 at that time.  But I had a credit to list on cover letters afterwards, and several editors read the story and liked it, and when I submitted my next story to Strange Horizons, I got my first "professional" sale.  That story then went on to be selected for The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror.  My next story was then published in Nerve's sex and science fiction special edition.  I continue to publish stories in zines occasionally, because I believe in what they do, what they stand for, and what they offer:  an alternative market for stories that got passed over by four other editors, in most cases.  Which doesn't mean a thing.  There have been stories in zines selected for the Nebula ballot, reprinted in the various Year's Best anthologies, and discussed in earnest by readers of the zines.  I think what all that adds up to is a neon sign, of sorts, a radioactive message.  There are good stories not being published, and here is where many of them gather.

One of the interesting things to note is how the editors of the print science fiction and fantasy magazines often say that their subscriptions are dwindling.  They wonder why.  Some have tried to remedy this by attempting to "go back to genre roots" so to speak, by publishing stories that are "center of the genre", with voices that harken back to not only a decade ago, but perhaps several decades previous.  I will be a bit of an ass here and publicly wonder if perhaps numbers in subscriptions dwindle because so often the stories being printed are speaking to a generation of readers who are dead.

And yet the zines somehow manage.  Their numbers in readership are small, but I believe that's due to the lack of funding to create large print runs and to distribute the materials.  I think magazines like McSweeneys is one big zine that had a whole lotta money pushing it into existence to make it what it is today.  And if some of our fine zine editors out there working hard right now, like Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond, Gavin Grant and Kelly Link, Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw, John Klima and Steve Pasechnick, and others I'm sure I'm leaving out as I write this, forgive me, if they had the resources to invest in their publications, I believe there is an audience already out there waiting to read them.  The audience just doesn't always know these zines exist.

You can, but perhaps shouldn't, have a notion of quality or professionalism based on cash flow.  Stories, like people, are not numbers.  As they say in the Fight Club, you are not your Gap Jeans.  Your stories are not validated as "good" simply because you've been paid 5 cents a word or whatever the arbitrary amount is set to at the time due to various economic circumstances.  Authors are not always paid for writing good stories.  But we can make sure that good stories are still read and appreciated.  In the end, the money you make off a "professionally" published story is helpful to your life in some ways, yes, but not to your stories.  So many "professionally" published stories are nothing but lost in the ether of storyland.  A friend of mine says that good stories out in the end.  Over time the ones that need remembering rise to the surface.  And I think this is true, and I also think those that rise through time aren't always necessarily published professionally.  Or in some cases, hello Kafka and Ms. Dickinson, not published at all.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

I got a bunch of great birthday wishes.  Alan and Kristin are visiting Alan's family in Erie about and hour and a half from here, and came to celebrate my bday with me today.   My nephew and niece surprised me with an ice cream cake for breakfast, and pizza for lunch, and lots of significant smiles.   Mom and Dad included in gift giving and birthday singing, and then Alan and Kristin and I toured the country I grew up in.  Will write a more detailed journal entry about it soonish.  But as a teaser, we asked around at the local antique dealer/bookstore for directions to the house of Leigh Brackett, science fiction writer extraordinaire and script writer for  the Empire Strikes Back and also worked with William Faulkner on the Big Sleep.  Got to go by and feel all good about my hometown and her having been part of it, as well as Clarence Darrow, all you evolutionists, stand up and praise his name.  That's right, homegrown here, buster.  Anyway, into Youngstown to the B&O railroad station diner/bar for dinner and martinis.  Happy Happy, oh and Strange Horizons accepted a story, The Trail of My Father's Blood, for publication.  Great Birthday.  And so many lovely emails which I will respond to shortly.  Hugs and Kisses and renditions of I Touch Myself to all, which is a form of love, don'tcha know?  (Okay, okay, I'm still tipsy) xoxox, Chris

Monday, July 19, 2004

My friend Brooke was telling me earlier tonight about this show on tv where people get their lives made over.  They advertise for people who are skinny people trapped in a fat person's body, or for fat people trapped in a skinny person's body, stuff like that.  People who need help get their performance careers started (although they make it clear, she says, no actors or singers, so we were trying to figure out what they mean by performers, magicians?  mimes?) 
In any case, all this to say this Wednesday I turn 29 and can't help but think I should make a video to send into this makeover show and ask if they do makeovers for early twenty-somethings trapped in late twenty-somethings bodies.  I wonder what they would do with *that* problem.
Oh I'm sure they'd do something.  It would be interesting to see just what.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

What I'm reading:

The Confessions of Max Tivoli, by Andrew Sean Greer. Wonderful wonderfull stuff. I'm crushing hard on this one.

What I'm listening to:

The new Franz Ferdinand album. Good stuff, but it reminds me too much of The Strokes. Of course, they are smoother than the Strokes and in a way do the music better. There are at least two songs on the album that push my hottt button, so that is a plus.

What I just saw:

Spiderman 2. I love Spiderman. This one is better than the first one in a lot of ways. Loved it.

What I just did:

Went to the county fair with my mother and watched the steers show, the dairy cows get milked in their parlor, and the hogs laying on their sides in their pens, looking up at us squinty-eyed and pissed off apparently, at having to move around so much this past week. Ate lots of fried food, watched my mom continually be sought out for hugs and conversation by various young adults and adults that she has taught for the past 25 years as an elementary school teacher here, and ran into a few old schoolmates myself. Listened to some karaoke being sung at the fairgrounds. It was country oriented. I do not think my Love Shack or I Touch Myself renditions would have been appreciated here at this particular venue.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Doing the googlism thing via Barth:

chris is our god
chris is returned to an upright position
chris is a typical left wing
chris is the all mighty god of the gods
chris is the coolest vocalist
chris is a real chick magnet
chris is in our torch club and very active
chris is so hot and i can never get my mind off of him
chris is a huge physical presence; but don't mistake him for being all about brawn
chris is so scattered in his thoughts that he needs someone to coach him through school
chris is the bee's knees
chris is a class act
chris is the cutest guy in the world
chris is meat free in 2003
chris is social giant
chris is soooooo right
chris is available for adoption
chris is coming to
chris is a slack bunny feedback
chris is on the move again
chris is a rock star
chris is a bastard
chris is a hottie
chris is a very spontaneous person and looks for honesty and loyalty in potential girlfriends
chris is seventy he'll be so hot you'll barely be able to stand it
chris is another story altogether
chris is back & just as great as ever
chris is a remarkable young man who leads by example both on and off the playing field
chris getting checked
chris is always there to help with advice
chris is tired of the whole "boyband" thing and is leaving *nsync to start a rock band

So I am researching WWI right now for my next novel. I have to actually ramp up my knowledge on all of the 20th Century actually, wars especially. Yesterday I went with my 8 year old nephew to the university library to get some materials. We talked a bit about what was going on with everything happening in "the war on terror" right now. He has lots of questions I can't answer, so I feel like I have to qualify everything I tell him. He said he liked talking to me about it because I don't pretend like I know everything about it. He's really oddly old and mature for such a little kid. Today I was doing some research about all of the entanglements of WWI and went out into the living room to ask my parents, "So why did WWI happen?" to which they both looked at me blankly, then offered up some hmms and mmms before trying to make guesses, and then I started to go over some of the materials I've been researching with them. I actually found an article about how high school and college instructors often skim WWI compared to the time they spend on WWII because it is less clear cut in its reasons, whereas WWII seems so black and white. So people are getting an inferior education when it comes to the first World War in some ways. In any case, my nephew, after I was finished talking, started to try to put together various factors I'd brought up, and my dad told him maybe one day he could be a historian, to which he replied, "That'd be fun. I like this stuff. Yesterday Uncle Chris and I were talking about Presidents who make war for their own benefit, and that was really interesting too!"

And then I slunk out of the room before chaos ensued.

Seems like retired and formerly discharged troops have been called back into duty to go to Iraq. What the hell is going on here? Also a bill was proposed to reinstate the draft. it won't fly (although others say it will eventually, given enought time), but it's interesting that an African American Democrat member of congress is who proposed it, with the intentions to make the wealthy warmongers behind so much of this to reconsider their actions in Iraq if their own children or their children's friends were also capable of being mandatorily placed in the line of fire with the largely minority and economically deprived sectors of society that make up our armed forces over there right now. I'm still constantly astounded at how numb Americans are about all of this stuff already. It's the worst thing to be in times like this. That's a key factor, numbness, that allows the powers that be to take advantage of us over and over again, because we've dampened our own sensibilities and instincts in order to not deal with the absurd reality occurring. Wake up, wake up!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Well I am finally back from my vacation in NYC. I had soo much fun. Other than the Michael Moore episode, I also got to see a WNBA game with Scott and Justine, which was amazingly fun. I am so not the sports boy, but these women made me want to be. Becky Hammon is sexy. I want to play basketball with her. (This is not a euphemism, okay maybe it is, shut up). Also got to visit the Cloisters, which made me cry. Okay well I had had a bit of wine the night before with Justine and Scott, so my emotional balance was a bit off the next day, but really, medieval gardens and chanting really did stir me up a bit. I was all about the thinking about if I lived back then I would so be a monk, I just know it. Brother Christopher, that's me. Anyway, I also got to see the Bronx Zoo, which is so damned big, and they have the best gorilla exhibit. Man, and those snow leopards are gorgeous. I love and hate zoos. They depress me and yet I want to get close to those animals and really look at them, too. Also went to see two musical, Assassins, which is brilliant, and The Boy from Oz, and wow did Hugh Jackman deserve his Tony award. He was brilliant. So much different than his cinematic work. I actually liked The Boy from Oz better than Assassins, even though Assassins is probably technically better. Boy from Oz just got to me emotionally in a different way, and it has this beautiful Busby Berkely-like ending that just rocked the house. And crap, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli! Ha! It was great. Got to spend Saturday with my friend Mary, who came down on the train from Albany. Seven hours flew by like one. So much fun and so much good conversation. By then I had gotten part of the city mentally mapped. One of the things that bothered me endlessly while I was there is that the directions are all messed up. North isn't really north in New York City, see. It's really sort of Northeast. And like that, they're all sort of messed up, and there is no horizon, and so all of my normal mental mapping processes were thrown off. And people, please all of this avenue and street business. Eighth Avenue and Eighth Street. Waverly Place and Waverly Place. People! Who the heck planned that city?? It's endlessly labyrinthine for a small town boy who is used to place named roads like Sodom-Hutchings and Fisher-Corinth, and other such family names. Oh sure, Youngstown had streets and avenues, but it's not so big that you actually had to have a grid to use them. I bought a cd by the most amazing Ohio group while I was in the city. The group is called Over the Rhine (which is the name of a certain sector of Cincinnati) and the double cd I bought is called Ohio. I've never listened to another musical group that writes songs and sings songs that speak to me about the place where I grew up than this one. Go forth and buy and listen to them. They'll break your heart. The singer reminds me of Joni Mitchell. So do some of the songs.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I'm in New York for this week, visiting Rick and other friends. I didn't plan on writing in the journal while I was here, but I had such a good day, I feel like I should capture the moment. And make you all envious of me (see last bit of news).

I met my agent today for the first time. He was really nice, and I like him immensely. He's funny and smart and has great stories to tell. I'd walked to the restaurant to meet him, and on my way back, the sky opened up and I was caught in a downpour for twenty minutes. I huddedled under awnings occasionally, and once in a bus shelter, but finally decided I was soaked anyway, so I might as well just get back to Rick's place, and continued on my way.

We planned on seeing Farenheit 9/11 this evening, but when we got to the cinema, the first two shows had sold out already, so we bought tickets to see the 6:45 showing. Then we bounced around some bookstores, and made our way back a couple hours later. The movie was amazing. I cried buckets of tears. I don't care what anyone says, if there are flaws to film or whatever, it's one of the most important documentaries I've ever seen. One of the most important things made that really reached inside and stirred me in a long long time. The audience was rapt for the entire film. Crying, clapping, gasping, laughing. Moore has done something really special, as usual.

On our way out of the film, we were only a few steps down the hallway when I heard this kid in front of me say "Hey, there's Michael Moore." I was like, whatever, and then I looked past the kid's head and there he was. THE Michael Moore, standing outside our theater shaking hands with people and saying hello. I was dumbfounded for an instant, and then for some reason completely recovered and went right up to him and shook his hand and told him thank you for everything he does. He was shy and nervous looking, which endeared him even more to me. The audience as we filed by him clapped for him. It was the most amazing brush with someone like that I've ever had. (I know, probably not for a lot of people, but I come from no-man's land, and this stuff just doesn't happen in my corner of Ohio). It totally made my night. And I still can't quite believe that he was actually there, being filmed of course, as one of his audiences left the viewing and were able to express their gratitude for what he's done.

Still happy happy.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Yay! I have a new laptop. This is so cool.

And in other news:

Wackiness: 56/100
Rationality: 38/100
Constructiveness: 56/100
Leadership: 62/100

You are a WECL--Wacky Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a people's advocate. You are passionate about your causes, with a good heart and good endeavors. Your personal fire is contagious, and others wish they could be as dedicated to their beliefs as you are.

Your dedication may cause you to miss the boat on life's more slight and trivial activities. You will feel no loss when skipping some inane mixer, but it can be frustrating to others to whom such things are important. While you find it difficult to see other points of view, it may be useful to act as if you do, and play along once in a while.

In any event, you have buckets of charisma and a natural skill for making people open up. Your greatest asset is an ability to make progress while keeping the peace.