Tuesday, July 17, 2007

thinking hurts my brain

I've muttered occasionally about letting my OWW membership lapse, partly because I know I'm not keeping my end up with critiquing (though I have about 180 points* in reserve, and could probably post the rest of Willow Knot's chapters without having to do another review.) Partly because I haven't felt that I'm getting that much out of the workshop lately.
*footnote: it costs 4 points to post a chapter or short story, and points are earned by reviewing other people's work, 1 or 2 points per review.
Today I went to the website thinking I'd take down "Climbing Boys", because it had probably got all the reviews it was likely to get. And found that Eric Lowe had revised and expanded his already rather-good review, and Rahul Kanakia had posted a new review with very cogent points and useful suggestions.
So I'll have to re-revise the story, because they're both right (though maybe not on the points where they disagree, where I am right. Obviously.) and I need to
a) clarify that the terrace ghosts are inside Ned and not local hauntings, or trim them.
b) establish Stanley as an effective labour organiser, so the ending is more conclusive.
c) make Ned's bewildered suffering clearer.
d) either trim or expand the story, possibly both. More setting, less explanation.

Bugger it. I thought I was done. I'd already taken Eric's suggestion to try it as non-sf, and the sf dressing stripped out way too easily, except for the central idea, which I still believe is sfnal. But seems to work just as well in an alt-hist setting.
And double-bugger, I'd pretty much made up my mind to let my OWW membership lapse in October, but first there was David Cummings' brilliant review of "Chimps on a Blimp", then two incisive reviews of this latest one. So I should probably reconsider.
Darn you, Eric and David, darn you to heck. Rahul too. And I still owe you reviews.

Additionally, I'm feeling restless about a title for the Boxer Rebellion story. Usually the title just shows up, partway through the story or even beforehand, and I'm happy with it. "Chimps" was first titled "Milk Run", because I couldn't summon up the nerve to really call it "Chimps on a Blimp" as more than a working title, until Zolah pushed me. The Elfland story started out as "The King of Elfland's Daughter-in-Law", before I knew all of Janet's backstory. "Bride of the Vampire" had that name from the get-go, despite the workshop reviewer who wanted me to rewrite a satirical vampire-civil-rights story to have no reference to vampires in popular fiction and culture (oh, and to insert a diatribe against religious fundamentalists).
I like to think of myself as being not bad with titles. But this one hasn't come yet, and for some reason I'm impatient. Maybe I need a nice quote from the I Ching or something like that? Maybe I should ask Bart, since he's good with titles?

This weekend I'm driving to Farragut State Park, where I have no great desire to go, but duty calls. Then next weekend, leaving for Pennsic. I'd better put a note on my OWW information, to say I'll be reviewing again in September.
Events in Calendar are closer than they appear.

Just finished reading: July issue of F&SF (why yes, I am way behind, thank you). Nothing really useful to say about it, except that all the stories seemed kind of old-fashioned. I don't so much mean the writing style--I like trad narrative myself, as may be readily determined--more themes and plots.
"PowerSuit (tm)" could've come from the early '60s, when satires of corporate consumerism crushing creativity were trendy. "Car 17" could've been from the '50s, or whenever Roger Elwood was turning out all those anthologies. "Cold Comfort" was cute, but slight, and the man/machine theme was again, not exactly fresh.
The Lucius Shepard story had a great title, but the payoff was kind of meh compared to the hints of real eeriness in the body of the story. For some reason I connected it in my mind with the Laird Barron story "Hallucinogenia" from several months ago, which annoyed me greatly although/because I'm a Lovecraft fan back from my maladjusted early years. (I never tried to write like HPL--I knew my limitations).
This could all be sour grapes, since I have little or no expectation of getting a story in F&SF. Or I should be more hopeful, since I'm not an experimental sort of writer, and am just as unlikely to be accepted by more cutting-edge markets.
Or it could be that I'm reading to learn about the markets instead of for pure reading, and that takes the fun out of it in much the same way as trying to get pregnant takes the fun out of sex.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Write, submit, repeat

Let's see.... "Spellcheck" came back from Neo-Opsis, with a note about the beginning being slow, but the part in the repair room holding interest. So I've trimmed the beginning a bit, and will try On Spec, another Canadian zine, where I may have an unfair advantage by being Canadian.
"Foretold" will go off to Cemetery Dance, though I suspect it's not quite dark enough for them. I haven't tried it on Strange Horizons yet, so that will probably be my next shot.
"Climbing Boys" has been revised, after helpful crits on OWW, particularly one from Eric Lowe, who suggested changing the setting from Neo-Dickensian with sf touches to straight Dickensian. The central conceit of the story is (I believe) sfnal, but he may be right that the other sf details are more distracting than enhancing. Dammit. I now have two versions of the story, one sf, one, um, alt-hist, I guess. Is that sf or not? There are no airships.
Anyway, I'll probably send the sf version to F&SF for the quick turnaround, and the alt-hist version to RoF after that.
I don't know what to do with "Fluke". It's too long for most online markets. Kelly Link really liked the first half (Editor's Choice on OWW), and compared the voice to Connie Willis and Jennifer Crusie, but that doesn't get me a sale, does it? Torgo suggested it was two sf ideas fighting it out in one story, and I think he has a point, but I'm not at all sure what to do about that, if so.
I'm a bit further on with the Boxer Rebellion story, still undecided about the title. The working title is "Elementary Magic" which is both misleading and blah. I've found the books on the Boxers that I had before, and may have a chance to get back into it before leaving for Pennsic. And I need to read up on the Chinese theory of elements, so probably I should poke through the Joseph Needham history, Science & Civilisation in China.

Research: Reading more on the German Small States, for Willow Knot, and messing about with maps. I need to name at least two 'kingdoms' (Palatine states?), with cities and some towns.
Mark, in his helpful way, suggested that I only need one name, and that everything else will be Nord-name, Ost-name, Ober-name, Unter-name, Hinter-name, etc.
For which there is something to be said, though I might have to anglicise or latinise the system, because the story-setting isn't exactly Germany. Hm, Name-parva, Name-magna.
At the moment I'm happily reading through a list of the German States and Families in the Imperial Assembly, 1792. While it isn't always possible to tell from the list which are states and which are families, here's a selection of names (some of which I've seen in other contexts, some of which are quite new to me):
Hinterpommern (see?)
Thurn und Taxis
Taxis for Eglingen
Traum for Eglof
Leiningen-Heidesheim and Leiningen-Guntersblum
Wild- und Rheingraf zu Grumbach
Wild- und Rheingraf zu Rheingrafenstein
von Colloredo of his own person (probably not a state)
Westerburg Christophsche Linie
Westerburg Georgische Linie
King of England for Hoya
I see much google-time ahead of me, as I make sure that my made-up names aren't in use for something else, or meaning something awkward. Joy.

Side note: I have learned the meaning of palatine and of allodial, just today. Okay, I did know vaguely what Palatine meant, despite my early impression that it was a geo-political association like the Hansa. But only vaguely. I'm good at vague. For many years I thought an isotope was something like a cyclotron, and that bespoke was a type of weave, like twill or tweed. This is what happens when you guess meaning by context. I should be more tolerant of M--'s conviction that cloying means 'sticky'.
Secondary side note for those who are not already more knowledgeable than me, this public service announcement:
palatine adj. possessing royal privileges, having jurisdiction (within the territory) such as elsewhere belongs to the sovereign alone; of or belonging to a count or earl palatine.
allodial adj. from allodium n. (hist.) Estate held absolutely, without acknowledgement to an overlord.
bespoke adj. Ordered (now only in bespoke tailoring, boots, etc. as opp. to 'ready-made').

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

tight shot of fluttering calendar pages

All too soon I shall be off to the Pennsic War. Too soon in terms of all the things I need to Get Done before leaving. I desperately need to make more linen clothing because it will be bloody hot and humid, and wool is not the answer. And hose, I need hose that doesn't have holes in the toes.
I have to get my prescriptions refilled, so that I can pick things up and manipulate simple tools etc. I've already been caught by a prescription running out unexpectedly and having to phone my doctor and the pharmacy and the rheumatologist's office in order to get more Naproxen. Maybe, I thought to myself, I was supposed to stop taking it and not renew the prescription? Why else would it end before my next appt?
I'm such a chronic illness n00b.

Things to fuss about: the plants being watered while I'm gone. That the peas and beans will all come in, and wither on the vine. The Transparent apples will come ripe and fall and rot instantly (Transparents are like that) and none of them will last to be dehydrated. Whether I'll get any writing done. I'm bringing the laptop, but experience suggests that I'll spend much of the day lying very quietly in the shade, hoping it will be cooler after the sun goes down. Still, we have electricity in the tent, so it will be possible to write and revise, if I can find a way to sit up and do it.

Things to be pleased about: missing some large chunk of the construction going on at the university, as they append a building that is not a library and contains no books (Centre for Learning, it's called, as if most buildings on campus had nothing to do with learning.
I shall miss the 'deconstruction of the exterior walls', referred to in several emails. I'm quite curious which philosopher will be brought in to deal with this. Presumably someone quite persuasive, or who has taught enough undergraduate courses to be familiar with speaking to brick walls.
But enough heavy-handed sarcasm. How about straightforward annoyance?

This quoted from the Library Gateway:

Name the McPherson Library Café Contest

UVic Libraries invites all UVic students, faculty and staff to participate in a contest to name the new café that will be opening on the main floor of the McPherson Library this fall as part of the Mearns Centre for Learning.

Please go to: http://gateway.uvic.ca/coffee between July 3rd and July 20th, 2007 to submit your suggestion(s). Participants may enter the contest as many times as they like.

The winning suggestion will be chosen by the University Librarian and a panel of judges.

The winner will receive a $50 HFCS card to spend at the new café and other Food Services locations on campus.


Yes, that's correct, there will be a cafe attached to the library. The contest is being advertised in the library's elevators and stairwells, with posters in an early-60s scribbly pastel style. The graphics are a ponytailed girl sipping coffee over her laptop, and a steaming coffee cup balanced precariously on a stack of books.
Usually this poster is right across from the one that advises that there shall be no food or drink in the library and explains how spills and crumbs attract vermin and damage books.

About half my job is replacing damaged books (and lost/stolen books). The library already has a conveyer-belt book return that reliably damages heavier or fragile books. Now we're making it even easier for students to bring food and books into intimate relationship with each other.
Really, I have plenty to do for the next couple of years, just with what I have on hand. Really.
I suppose I can use it all as material when I get around to writing Bookwyrms. In the meantime perhaps I should suggest some names for the cafe.
Coffee Rings
Stained Pages
It Was Soaking Wet When I Signed It Out (yes, this has been given as an excuse)
Crumbs & Spills

But I said I was done with the heavy-handed sarcasm, didn't I? So I'll stop

Friday, July 6, 2007

fingerprints and a retinal scan

And what did you do on your vacation?

It happens that if you are volunteering at a govt-owned site, you need to have a criminal record check done, a concept I don't quarrel with. All of us engaged in the Living History week accordingly filled in forms with our birthdate etc. and sent them in. Some of us are in the military, or teachers, or already registered as volunteers, so were already covered. Others had to be run through the machineries of bureaucracy.
And of the roughly a dozen, who has a suspect name? Why, that would be me. Barbara Mary Louise Gordon, born Dec 25, 1957. There is, somewhere, a person with a criminal record, my first and last name, and possibly my birthdate.
It's like heraldry, in a way. Once you have that many points of resemblance, little things like middle names don't count as points of difference.
Therefore I must be fingerprinted, and the fingerprints sent (snail-mail) to Ottawa, or possibly to Montreal, depending whether one reads the police website's info on criminal record checks, or looks at the pdf the Parks people have emailed me. Of course, fingerprinting can be done Wednesdays only, at 1:30 pm only. And by the time Parks had informed me that I "may or may not have a criminal record" (but isn't that true, really, of everyone? she mused profoundly), oh, well, it was pretty darned close to the event, let's say.

Parenthetically, I was fingerprinted electronically in June, courtesy of US Customs and Immigration, and a fine botch they made of it, though I blame the equipment more than the people. Apparently at least 5 uniformed people must stare at the Mac to work out each screen. (IM IN UR NASHUN, STEELIN UR JOBZ, and I say no more because I'm still too annoyed to be properly Canadian about that incident.)

I arrived at the main police station, which has a wonderful piece of public art outside, by Jay Unwin, depicting, according to Robert Amos "working class heros propping up a marble column inscribed 'peace and harmony'", but which I have always mentally named "The People Crushed by Bureaucracy" because it looks like a 5-drawer filing cabinet falling on a crowd of nudists. Tragically, I can't find you a pic of the sculpture.
But let me not be diverted by public art, because I might be drawn into inveighing against architects, and then we'd be here all day.
The woman behind the (probably unbreakable but with a convenient gunslit-shape slot) window is a wonder. I was in a stroppy mood, and if I was, more obnoxious people than me must have been arriving ready for a fistfight. She was impressively calm and radiated in the 'I am here to help you' spectrum.
Which was good, because it turned out that Parks hadn't sent me the right letter. My letter said I should have fingerprints done, but didn't mention anywhere that it was for a volunteer spot. Which meant that I'd have to pay $50 for the fingerprints, and Ottaway would want another $20 for processing. Volunteers have the fee waived.
There followed some moments of AAARRRGHH, silently expressed.
Fortunately, she gave me the go-ahead to get the fingerprinting done anyways, then she would hold onto the form, until I could come back with a proper letter, that said 'for a volunteer' on it, on proper letterhead. And it had to be me bringing it in. Then we'd trade letter for form, and all would be well.
Coming in again, versus $70 to the govt? A clear choice.
So I waited my turn, and went in to the little side room, where the inkpad and the nice police man waited, and the fingerprinting was done in seconds. (The electronic pad took about 15 minutes, and that was on the low end of the range, from what else I saw. Yeah. Technology makes everything better.)
Then off to the washroom to remove evidence. See, even when I'm not working with quills, I still get ink all over my hands. It's a geas or something.

On Tuesday, first day really back in the modern world, I had my long-awaited ophthamologist appt, to examine my eyes front & back and record the current state so that they'll know if I become partially blind from meds.
It's only in the last few years that I've had anything more than a basic optometrist exam, and I'm still not used to having drops in my eyes and going around with hugely enlarged pupils. This would be my first real opthamology exam ever. It took longer to schedule than the rheumatologist exam, but that's probably unusual luck with the rheumatologist.
I sat about for a while in the exam room, finally wandering over to look at a chart of what can go wrong with your macula. The macula in a healthy state looks rather like a nice slab of fresh salmon, to judge from the paintings. I spotted the example of 'chloroquine retinopathy' with its 'characteristic bulls-eye pattern' and put that together with hydroxychloroquine, because I'm good with those foreign words.
The opth'ist wore a Hawaiian shirt. It did not, fortunately, resemble any of the states that one's macula can end up in. And he gave me the Very Good News that he had not, so far, seen any of the chloroquine damage show up when hydroxychloroquine was used. So yayness about that.

The next couple of hours (yes, really) involved having various liquids squirted into my eyes (to my intense disappointment, he said none of them would cause my eyes to glow under blacklight, bugger, I was looking forward to that), me apologising for my over-active blink reflex, another squirt to make up for that, and me sticking my face into a chin and forehead brace so that very bright lights could be shone through my eyes right to the back of my head. Oh, and contact lenses briefly applied, to make the backs of my eyes more visible.
I tried to wear contacts once. See above, re: blink reflex. Mark's blink reflex is worse than mine, but he can wear disposable contacts, an achievement I blame on his greater willpower.
Fortunately, very little of this required me to answer questions about the relative depth of colours or closeness of one little light to another little light. Those always stress me, because I'm sure there's a right answer and that I'm not providing it.
That part will come later, when I'm scheduled for a field test, which reportedly involves staring at a point while little dots go zooming at it, and pressing a button when they hit. Already I dread this, because I so suck at the twitchy-flexy thing. I'm old, my reflexes have deteriorated, and weren't that sparky to begin with. I asked whether young kids did better on that, and the opth'st said no, they had trouble keeping their eyes on the point, and the machine could tell if you cheated.
Good news is that there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with my macula or retina, other than that I'm extremely short-sighted, and that has its own potential problems. But hey, still good news.

I went in to work for a not-terribly productive afternoon, wearing my cute plastic-cutout shades that slide behind the real glasses, and after dinner I went to bed. Apparently having bright lights shone into your artificially opened pupils is tiring. At least for me.

By the way, googling doesn't seem to bring up anything about my evil twin. There's a Barbara Gordon who shot a man in 1997, but she was 33 then, which makes her not the right age, quite, plus she's American (Kentucky?) and thus unlikely to show up on a Canadian database.
It's also quite difficult to structure the search terms to avoid comics websites, especially discussions of the Joker shooting Batgirl.