new experiences

After ten years behind the wheel of a car, I’ve had my first accident.

I’m sitting at a stoplight, minding my own business — fortunately with nobody in front of me — and then there’s an ungodly bang and my head snaps forward. First thought: the hell? Glance in rearview mirror. See grille of enormous pickup truck, looking way closer than it ought to. Second thought: uhhhh, what do I do now?

See, I don’t even remember being in an accident, with someone else driving. I know my parents have had a few, but if any of them were with me in the car, I was too young to recall. So now I’m getting to discover the exciting world of insurance claims. I don’t feel particularly hurt (though I’m getting a neck massage in an hour or so, to be on the safe side, and I took some Advil). My bumper’s a little dented, maybe a little askew, but the bad news is the trunk: I got rammed by one of those oversized pickups, and some bit of its front end managed to slam into my trunk lid and dent it forward. I have a feeling that’s one of those things that doesn’t look so bad but will cost a bloody fortune to fix. <sigh>

Not what I wanted to have happen with my afternoon. I think I’m going to curl up on the couch with one of my new books as consolation.

the best stories have alligators

I’m fascinated. In researching for an annotated bibliography on games and play theory, I came across an article about the development of storytelling skills in very young children. The major focus of it is the effect that props have on the stories; children tend to tell better stories when they have figures in their hands than without, likely because they think more about characters than event sequences. But the really interesting part was where the researchers tested the effects of different kinds of figures.

Given a set of an adult male, an adult female, a boy, a girl, a baby, and a dog, most of the children (who were four years of age) told rambling non-stories where nothing actually happened. In those few instances where something happened, it was a lack/lack liquidated dyad, having to do with a breach of the natural order (e.g. an abandoned baby wandering around looking for parents to care for it). That was the first half of the experiment.

In the second half of the experiment, they replaced the dog with an alligator.

And you know what? The stories got better.

Seriously. The stories became structurally more complex, by a significant amount; stuff happened, instead of the four-year-old simply naming off who each figure was. Probably not coincidentally, villainy/villainy nullified also popped up far more frequently as a narrative dyad. Basically, it seems that children tell more interesting stories about things that aren’t normal (including things like the abandoned baby). In other words, to display my fantasy-writer chauvinism for a moment, normalcy is boring. Alligators are cool.

(The girls also performed statistically better than the boys, in terms of length, content, and complexity. Interesting.)

So the moral we should all take away from this is that when you buy small children toys, be sure to purchase them alligators and space-men and flying horses and dinosaurs along with the Barbies and the G.I. Joes. Their cognitive development will thank you.

a very good evening

Just ran the second session of “A Conspiracy of Cartographers” in Memento, wherein I merrily threw out everything I didn’t like about the merfolk and kept the bits I did like. This made me happy. High Seas Adventure! Or in this case, Underseas Adventure! Then I came upstairs and found that Talebones wants to buy “But Who Shall Lead the Dance?,” which I’d really, really been crossing my fingers for. It’s my second sale to them, and one of those submissions where I had a gut feeling that this was the place to send it. So, all in all, a very good evening.

still a little bit Morwen

My braid is fluffier than usual. As of bedtime last night, my rag curls had gone limp enough that I decided to forgo my usual habit of sticking my head into the shower to wet them down. Today my hair is mostly flat, but clings stubbornly to hints of fluffiness. It’s kind of weird.

For those who were asking yesterday, my dress came from Ravenswood Leather; specifically, it’s the Saberist Dress. I originally went to their site looking for a bodice (having decided, when Morwen walked out of the last High Court, that her next costume would be Adventurer!Morwen), but got sidetracked by the dress. The Kitsune is rather correct in saying that I have a writing career to support my costuming habit. But I highly recommend Ravenswood; they custom-cut the items to your measurements, and I was able to specify over the phone to them exactly how I wanted my dress to look. What’s more, their usual delivery time is about four weeks, but when I told them I would need it four weeks from when I ordered it, they sent it to me in about a week and a half. So they’re good people.

Gaming — oof. Three characters in three days. I love Sess just for being a low-maintenance character, compared to the two days of high costuming that followed. Getting to play the High Lord of Scathach was awesome, though I do wish the evening game had been longer, so I could have had more time to do things with her. (I wish even more that I’d gotten to flex her phenomenal badass-ness in the dragon fight, but alas, I was pulled out for a completely unrelated scene at the same time.) And then, of course, there was Morwen, who desperately wanted to Kill Something and never got the chance. But, as has always been the case with her, I was able to tell myself that whatever she did, she’d look good while she did it. ^_^

And now I’ve got just over a day to get my brain back in gear for my own game. As much as I’m loving Memento, man, there’s a part of me that’s looking forward to the day when it will stop eating my head.

Dunnett Despair

I’m beginning to think I should impose a moratorium on my reading of Dorothy Dunnett’s novels. Some authors I can read and be inspired; she makes me despair for my ability to write at all. On every level I can think of, she induces a feeling of abject inferiority: her dialogue, her descriptions, her characters and her plotting . . . and hell, that’s just re-reading bits of The Game of Kings, also known as HER FIRST BLOODY NOVEL. I like Doppelganger and all, but it just doesn’t compare, and I know it.

It doesn’t even solve the problem to write some manner of fiction very different from hers. A first-person urban fantasy would sound odd indeed if written in her style, but that doesn’t quite let me shake the inescapable awareness that the awesomeness quotient of any given sentence isn’t up to snuff.

Sigh. I should go read some crappy fiction to get my spirits back up — but that wouldn’t be nearly so enjoyable in its own right, of course.

return from Readercon

I enjoyed my first Readercon, though it’s the first time in a while I’ve gone to an sf/f con and not been on the programming, so I felt vaguely like I was slacking. That’s what I get for registering so late. Got to talk to some interesting people, though, and to learn some valuable lessons:

(1) Walking around the book room with a copy of Silverlock in one’s hands is a fantastic way to start conversations with total strangers. Everybody has their favorite bit. (Mine is the alliterative Norse rendition of the Battle of the Alamo.) And I am not, in fact, the only person convinced the book was written Just For Me.

(2) I do just fine picking up folksongs I’ve never heard before; in fact, sometimes I can predict the rhymes in advance, which is fun. If, however, I wish to attempt singing something I know, even for the purposes of a brief demonstration, I should take the time needed to coax my sense of pitch into providing me with the notes I need. Rushing this process will result in me sounding like I have no sense of pitch at all.

(3) Hanging out with fairy-tale-oriented friends and then going to the talk on quantum mechanics is either a recipe for brain meltdown or the Best Idea Ever. Or possibly both.

I didn’t get as much written on “The Last Wendy” as I wanted to while on this trip, but “Double Woman Dreamer” got unexpectedly resurrected from the dust-bin of story ideas (courtesy of one room-mate), and now I’ve got a notion for something calling itself “Schroedinger’s Crone” (courtesy of the other room-mate and Lesson Number Three). Cons always make ideas breed like flies in my head. Most of them are flashes in the pan, briefly shiny and forgotten before the con’s over, but usually there’s at least one keeper.

I’d prefer a keeper, though, which doesn’t involve someone e-mailing me a reading list in Lakota folklore, or self-lessons in quantum mechanics.