rambling thoughts on colonialism and feminism

I didn’t freeze, and we appear to have a functioning furnace again, though it’s striving mightily to drag this old heap up from its freezing temperatures to something livable while it’s barely above zero outside. Learned many interesting lessons about survival in the cold without central heating, and also used up a lot of my candles and lamp oil.

But that’s neither here nor there. I want to ramble on about parallels and differences between two different projects of mine. One, Sunlight and Storm, is a fantasy western that was the fourth novel I wrote, back when I was in college. Its first draft sucked rancid goat cheese; its second draft is better, but I still want to rewrite it substantially before it ever goes public, and that will probably not be any time soon. The other is a series I’m contemplating for the future, which would essentially be about scientific expeditions going to study dragons. They share the common characteristics of being in settings that look a lot like our nineteenth century, and they both have female main characters, hence the desire to ramble on about colonialism and feminism.

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Ladies and gentlemen of the internets,

I am writing you this missive from the kitchen of my residence. It is a southward-facing room, and the doors to the rest of the house are shut. The oven is turned on, and twenty-four candles burn on my counters. Thanks to these measures, I am tolerably warm; though my toes are a bit cold, I am not wearing gloves, and the blanket I had wrapped around me is currently on the floor. I am, however, still wearing thick socks and slippers, sweatpants, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, and my nice warm bathrobe.

From this fortress I shall await the arrival of the man who is to fix our furnace.

If you do not hear from me again, please retrieve my frozen body from this kitchen and give it proper burial.

short story census

I have made a good start on “Kingspeaker,” which is the story I hope to finish this month. (For those unaware, the goal is to write a minimum of one short story a month. It’s an eminently reasonable goal; let’s see if that helps me meet it. My short story output has been crap of late.) The beginning is going well. Unfortunately, soon I will run out of beginning, whcih means I need to figure out how to put into the story that thing that needs to go into the story.

The goal is also to get one new short story sent out every month. Since I have a small backlog of things I’ve been meaning to revise for a while (in some cases, for years), this means the newly-written stories will have time to get beautified before they go out in public. All in all, it sounds like a good system. Hopefully it will work.

First lines of the stories that need revision:

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Definitions of fantasy I don’t like, #1

I’ve been noodling for a while now with the idea of writing a series of small essays for my website about various genre definitions and how I feel about them — their pros, their cons, their applications, etc. Since Rob Sawyer has started a minor internet dust-up with some recent comments of his on the subject, I thought this seemed a good time to address one of them.

We’ll start with this statement:

Fantasy and SF, on the other hand, are diametrically opposed: one is reasoned, careful extrapolation of things that really could happen; the other, by definition, deals with things that never could happen.

Delany has done a finer-grained version of this in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, which I’ll quote at length because I think any attempt at summary would end up being nearly as long:

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addendum to the fitness post

I begin to suspect that my standards for judging my fitness are slightly askew when I think, “I’ll know my glutes are in good shape when I can do a grand rond de jambe en dedans and not throw my hip out when I go from derrière to à la seconde.”

Not that I did that over Christmas or anything.

(I blame my mother taking me to her adult ballet class. They don’t require you to be at those standards, but the problem is, my muscle memory doesn’t remember how to do anything except at certain standards . . . which I no longer have the muscles for.)

I need to figure out fitness benchmarks that don’t come from ballet.

iconage with an excuse

The boy and I joined a gym recently, which means that for the first time in my life, I’m trying to exercise just for the purpose of exercising. That is, I’m not taking dance classes to prepare for a recital, or doing summer swim team with organized meets; I’m just going to the gym and doing stuff to be in better shape. This is a new experience for me.

Because I’m still having fun with all my glorious new icon space, I have an exercise icon; I figure Demi Moore doing a one-armed pushup in G.I. Jane is a good inspiration/motivator/what-have-you, because man, she was hard in that movie. (Edited to add: Also, a pic of Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby just seemed a little too ominous for my taste.)

This also seems a good chance to pimp something I encountered a while ago (I think from gollumgollum, though I’m not sure): Stumptuous.com. It’s written primarily as a weightlifting site for women, but honestly, half or more of its information is good for men, women, small children, and other humanoid creatures; things like the lowdown on sets, reps, tempo, periodization, nutrition, cardio, and the like are useful for everybody. If you’re a woman, though, you may particularly appreciate the advice that has specifically to do with female body structure and the difficulties that may arise from working out during your period. (I’d say go look at the pictures for inspiration, but the link to the photos seems to be broken.)

I’ve started out with just some very very basic cardio, keeping it easy because right now I think my biggest challenge is simply getting myself into the habit of going to the gym. Time enough to push myself into harder workouts when I’m used to working out in the first place, right? But I’m looking into picking up a bit of weightlifting (hence browsing Stumptuous) because, frankly, I want to look utterly smashing in my wedding dress, and most of them seem to be strapless. ^_^ Plus, y’know, upper body muscle doesn’t suck to have. I’m also stretching again; I love doing it, but apparently need a reason to do it (like an evening of dancing, or a workout I just finished). I’ve often tried stretching for its own sake, and can never make a habit of it. It’s also the one area of my workout that I have experience and familiarity with, where I can not only understand what I’m doing but choose reasonable goals for my progress. Step one: get my front splits back, reliably. (I’m close, but only get them after I’m warm.) Step two: get my side splits to not suck. Step three: get my side splits to the wall/walkover point. (Is there any purpose in pushing myself that far? No, because I’m not a ballet dancer anymore. But dammit, I want my 180 back. Or at least the 178 or so I used to have.)

I’d be interested in hearing advice from the peanut gallery, since I’m so very new to this whole “gym” thing.

a day of random research

Today has featured two e-mails to random strangers about research questions (for writing, not academic purposes). Climatology and contact information for a Spanish musician — we’ll see if either turns up results.

(Yes, I’m still trying with “Hijo de la luna.” A very helpful person pointed me at the Spanish poem that inspired Cano’s song, but having translated it, turns out it doesn’t contain the elements I’m basing my story on. I did, however, come up with a purportedly official website for Mecano that had some actual contact information [unlike Cano’s own site], so I’m making another attempt to find the man and ask him if I can story-ize his song. The site is even in English! Though I said in my e-mail that I can correspond in Spanish if necessary. As tough as that might be for me, I kind of want to, partly to continue validating my supposed proficiency in the language, and partly to not be a Stupid Monolingual American.)

(Okay, that parenthetical digression ended up longer than the supposed body of the post. Oh well.)

post of random linkage

Memento players in particular might be entertained by news of the International Alchemy Conference, billed as “the largest gathering of alchemists in 500 years.” Order of Purification, anybody? Let me know if they have a giant argument that results in one half going one way and the other half going another; it means we’ll have the Philosopher’s Stone in approximately 650 years.

(Either that, or Nicholas is calling them all together to let them know they can stop trying.)

(And hey look, it gave me an excuse to use my Memento icon!)

In totally non-Memento non-alchemy news, pandas! Click for cuteness. And be sure to scroll down for the rest of the pictures.

Campbell Award deadline

Please pardon a moment of shameless self-promotion.

One of the awards given at WorldCon during the Hugo ceremony (but not a Hugo) is the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Nominations and voting are based on WorldCon membership, which probably isn’t most of you, but there’s a post on Deep Genre with some timely information, namely, that if you weren’t a member of last year’s WorldCon and aren’t going to this year’s, then you have until the end of the day tomorrow (the 31st) to buy a $50 supporting membership that would allow you to do things like, oh, say, nominating me for the Campbell. ^_^

Given the financial state of a lot of my friends, I don’t expect people to drop $50 on this, nor to be making the pilgrimage to Japan for the upcoming WorldCon. But some of you might have been at last year’s, so I thought I’d toss it out there. And this is information worth spreading regardless, to newsgroups/websites/whatever that might have interested parties.

Normally I don’t shill for awards like this, but the Campbell is kind of a Holy Grail in my mind. Just getting on the list of nominees is a giant boost to a writer’s career, let alone winning, so it’s worth putting my modesty aside for a few minutes. (Fortunately for me, I’m only in my first of two years of eligibility, so I get another chance at this.) Anyway, spread the word, let people who have gone or will be going to WorldCon know.

And if I end up on the list of nominees, I will so totally give you a cookie. ^_^

VeriCon

Oh, right. Con report.

VeriCon ’07: The Little Con That Could. Seriously, I’m just bursting with pride that it’s going so strong, and has lasted for seven years (with more to come!). This alone makes me happy about attending.

But there were other things to be happy about, too. Awesome guests; I was on panels with Guy Gavriel Kay, R. A. Salvatore, Sharyn November (editor of Firebird, for those who don’t follow YA stuff and aren’t giddy that she’s brought so many awesome things back into print), Vandana Singh, and Jeffrey Carver, with whom I shared a signing at the Harvard Book Store. And I got to pick Salvatore’s brain for my ICFA paper: double bonus! He gave me some invaluable intel about the backstage processes behind his dark elf series and others; I want my paper to be about not just the texts, but about how they have been produced. (Can you tell I’m an anthropologist going to a mostly-lit conference?) I also got to have a lengthy conversation with Sharyn, interesting chats with various people outside the Masq, and numerous meals with friends, thus fulfilling my social quota for the weekend. (So if I’m hermit-ish for a while, you’ll know why — that, and my pile of Stuff To Do.)

I also read “Nine Sketches, in Charcoal and Blood” at Milk and Cookies. It really was a hair on the long side, which I feel bad about, but since I wrote a large portion of it at VeriCon two years ago, I really wanted to read it there. And enough people came up to me afterwards to ask questions about it that I’m pleased with how it was received.

Now I’m back home. Apparently the cold in Boston was training me for the cold here. Hello, winter. Nice to see you. Please go away soon.