On “Ulysses”

dream landscape 2 I finished Ulysses. My goodness, that was a slog. The allusions are fun, though characterization and coherence suffer roundly, and while I understand it’s supposed to be one of the first and most important “modernist” novels I’m rather convinced it was luck that chose it for that laurel rather than some other pile of authorial navel-gazing coming to Sylvia Beach‘s attention. I also rather think Stephen Dedalus was Joyce as he wanted to be, Leopold Bloom more like the hapless fetishizer of bottoms Joyce actually was. Circe’s island as a brothel, the Sirens as masturbatory fantasies, well, it was a man writing it, and it’s rather uncomfortably in the spirit of the original’s social conditions. Making Penelope into a cuckolding Molly only serves to highlight the fact that Joyce didn’t know shite about women, and is the biggest blackening of the Odyssey‘s eye–and the one, really, that I did not forgive Joyce for. His overheated (and inaccurate) fantasies about what a woman might think made me roll my eyes so hard it was difficult to keep reading.

I agree with Jung that there’s no rest in the book. The presentation of bodily functions in its pages (part and parcel of the “obscenity” trial) is schoolboy-ish, rather like a kid writing “bottom” in a margin or snort-giggling over Lake Titicaca. (Had Beach been enamored of another author, I might well be discussing that instead of Joyce. He was well-connected, at least.) I suppose that was only to be expected, and that schoolboy-ish or not it was daring for its time and opened a door somewhat–so that’s one point in Joyce’s favor.

I understood the allusions and the games with prose and rhetoric Joyce was playing, but it felt like he was simply dipping a surface reading of the Odyssey into used bathwater without adding anything new, interesting, or worthwhile, while taking away a great deal of power and beauty. Also missing is the idea that choices the truly disenfranchised (women, slaves, etc.) make can affect the outcome of great events as well, which the original had in spades. I’d almost prefer O Brother, Where Art Thou? as a finer homage. The Coen brothers had the benefit of looser social conditions, but still.

My views are admittedly somewhat colored by my feelings about the Kerouac Factor–young males sponging off women and kin, going off in search of “adventure,” finally producing a pile of self-referential bullshit that seems marvelous when one is twelve to fourteen but ages badly and turns puerile once one has acquired some basic perspective by sheer dint of living and thinking about things. (Or, one who wanders unprepared into the damn wilderness because living on the fringes has given a false sense of superiority and an inaccurate estimation of one’s own survival skills.) You could also call this the Salinger Factor. It’s gotten to the point where I see a young guy buying On the Road or Catcher in the Rye and I think, oh, we’re going to stick that in a back pocket and use it to draw in girls who haven’t lived long enough to know better, aren’t we. As a “classic” that a lot of slightly older males use to seem well-read and Serious About Literature, Ulysses falls somewhat under the same shade.

My final estimation of the book: not one I ever think I’m going to reread, though I’m glad I made it through. The allusions were fun, and playing the “oh, this is the prose style we’re in now” game was enjoyable, at least. I still would prefer to read Nora’s letters. I’d rate it a solid B-, for the classicism and the glimpses of historical Dublin, and for the occasional flashes of brilliance struggling through in Joyce’s sendup of penny awkward (instead of dreadful) novels. I kept reading, hoping for more of those flashes, but in the end, they remained fleeting.

Next up: some history to cleanse the palate. Already it’s proving far more enjoyable.

photo by:

Constant Calculus

happy Yesterday was warm and damp while I was running. I arrived home feeling rather like moss was about to erupt all over me. Fortunately, a hot shower and dry clothes cured that, and I am already seeing the benefits of settling back into the base-building part of my training. Well, that and the almost-gallon of water I’m drinking daily. I’d forgotten what being fully hydrated felt like.

The Princess is determined to grow catnip in her room. I am unconvinced of the wisdom of this plan, but have supplied the necessary instruments for her to embark. She might learn what potting soil on her sheets feels like, if the Mad Tortie has one of her Moments.

I had also forgotten what it felt like to be out from under the mod queue. The sheer volume of nastiness arriving on a daily basis was insidious–I hadn’t thought it was affecting me so badly, but now that I don’t have to deal with it I’m experiencing a sudden flush of energy. (The kitchen floor has never been cleaner, the garden has never been neater, and my God, I will wash those kitchen cabinets soon or there will be TROUBLE.) “Don’t feed the trolls” didn’t work. (It never does, really.) What worked was closing comments down and putting the contact form up–now the IPs are logged and I can set filters to automatically archive evidence of nastiness I don’t have to see unless I make a conscious decision to check. Oddly, once the autoreplies of “Your IP address has been logged and your communications retained as evidence” go out, things get much more civil.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have this constant calculus of “where is the next harassment going to come from” going on inside my head. Men do not seem to understand the energy drain of being aware and ready to fend off threats. I saw an ad for an otherwise very cool company that does meditation support, showing a man meditating on a park bench. They didn’t seem to realize that as a female, I can’t afford to do shit like that, and very likely wouldn’t be allowed to just sit in a public place without several people (all male) assuming that their need to invade the space of a total stranger trumps my desire (and, really, perfect right) to sit quietly. Or even walk down the street.

I’m lucky, in that I don’t have to leave the house that much, but that’s no goddamn solution. Being naturally extremely introverted, going out is a double whammy of men assuming I need them to offer their opinions on me and the toll crowds and public spaces naturally take on introverts.

In any case, I’ve reclaimed a large chunk of my energy, and as a result, there is bread dough and soft-pretzel dough rising next to my office heater. There’s projects I am suddenly full steam ahead on, and a feeling of liberation doing marvelous things for the rest of my life.

And, I swear by the gods, I will get those cabinets cleaned.

Over and out.

photo by: huntz

Simple, Not Easy

come n say 'hello' to my new friend It’s a cold morning. I did glance up and see the entire east sky a rather disconcerting shade of pink behind the cedars, a sight so arresting I watched until the color bled away. It didn’t take long–Aurora is a vibrant goddess, but she moves very quickly. By the time she’s gone and Sol has fully risen–and in winter, he fills my office with his morning glow for a brief fifteen minutes before going about the rest of his business–I am settled and chipping words out of my cranium, one at a time.

Of course, the temptation to get up and start wandering the house, or to sit and stare or surf the glorious interwebs, is stronger on some days. Today’s one of them. I have a serious case of the “I don’t fucking want to”s. Even this post–the words you’re reading this moment–are a form of procrastination. At least with a blog I feel like I have to write at least something on a semi-regular basis, and it often serves as sort of a throat-clearing for the day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my advice to people who “want to be writers.” I say “do it every day, then. No day is so busy that you don’t have ten minutes to write. Writers write, writers write daily.” This is usually met by howls of indignation–how dare you tell me when to write, how dare you imply I’m not a writer if I don’t write every day! I mostly just shrug at that point, because, well, it’s time to get back to work. I realize there are professionals who don’t write “every day,” but you weren’t asking them for advice, you were asking me, and I say, write every fucking day.

Now, many people will take that for an answer and go think about it, but there’s always those charming individuals who start howling afresh. “But what if I’ve been in/on a car accident/earthquake/hospital/alien starship examining table, huh? WHAT THEN?” Well, then you’ve got some great fucking material. That upheaval in your normal life is going to affect a lot of stuff. Writing is part of a writer’s normal daily life; if your daily life is all fucked up by catastrophe, fine, get that settled and go back to writing.

“BUT WHAT IF MY LIFE NEVER GETS SETTLED?” Then you need to rethink things, honey, but that’s not my problem. You asked me about being a writer. There are people who live on crisis, there are even people who adrenaline-junkie thrive on it. (I should know, I was one.) If your crises are constant, maybe look at what need of yours is getting fulfilled by that constant emotional upheaval–and start writing that shit down.

Usually, once my questioner has gotten themselves worked up to the point of “what if my life never gets settled?” I disengage. At that point, it’s not about writing, it’s about my questioner wanting me to validate them on some emotional level I don’t have the energy to coddle anyone but my kids or occasionally very close friends through, and they’ve picked writing as a subject in order to get their indignation addiction fed or some sort of emotional tea-and-cookies session. I am considering a change in my behavior here, to disengage at least one step earlier, at the “what if I’ve been abducted by aliens” point.

Life is never going to be “settled,” for you or me or anyone else. You’re never going to “feel like it.” I never do either, despite writing being a deep psychological (almost physical) need, as well as the means by which I feed my dependents and my book habit. It’s a daily struggle. I enlist habit and discipline as allies to get that need (and my mortgage payment) met. It is extremely simple, but never easy.

There, throat-clearing done. Now that I’ve given myself this stern reminder as well, I have to go back to Cal and Trinity, and get him shot and her arrested. It certainly helps that I enjoy my job on days like this.

Over and out.

photo by: linh.ngan

Value Added

happy Having a story engine in your head is weird. Even when you’re dreaming about helping the Longbeards defend Moria, you’re trying to solve the problem of an elf’s never-empty quiver. Five different types of arrows, and each time I pulled one out, I whispered a charm to replace it. Tiring work, since even in dreams, the energy for magic had to come from somewhere. Plus, there were Ents to talk to, and all sorts of sneaking around in the dark to figure out what the orcs were going to do next, and to top it all off, there was no Richard Armitage as Thorin.

I feel sort of cheated. But then, well, I was just on the outside approaches to Moria, with the orcs coming from outside, so I suppose it was more Second Age, Thorin probably hadn’t even been born yet. I missed Durin, too, which sucks. I would have liked to talk with him, even just in a dream.

Yesterday was a bit bizarre, between the icky stuff and the sudden layoff of a beloved editor that I had just sold two books to. Publishing is a funny business, and the tone-deaf way this particular layoff was handled makes me very nervous about the future for those two books, or indeed, submitting to that particular publisher again. Especially since I suspect the reasoning was cost-cutting, without consideration of the value a well-respected, well-loved editor brings to any publisher. Extremely shortsighted and handled very badly–but at least the editor in question will almost certainly find work elsewhere, and I intend to keep submitting to her. Once one finds an editor one likes and respects, one tends to follow them from publisher to publisher, if one can. I wonder if this particular dynamic was why the layoff was handled the way it was–to stave off author flight, maybe?

Of course, when a publisher achieves a certain size, there tends to be a myopic idea that writers are easily replaceable, given the vast amounts of slush and dreck that pour in. The numbers are so large–anyone can submit, and the lists of self-published offerings at Amazon and elsewhere will convince one that indeed, anyone does–that it seems an economy of scale question, when it isn’t. It takes time, diligence, and craft to consistently produce a readable product, and none of those are cheap.

But perhaps I’m biased.

Today: fog, wordcount, another five-mile run. More listening to Joan Osborne, who I just found out has another album out. She’s doing good things for Rattlesnake Wind, even though most of that book’s soundtrack is turning out to be Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. I’ve been having good luck with a speaker placed behind me, so the music isn’t coming from the front–as my writing partner often remarks, music coming from the front makes one want to stop and listen or analyze it, and that takes energy that should be spent on the writing.

Happy Friday, chickadees. May it be everything a Friday should be.

photo by: huntz

Icky Icky

psychoanalysed I’ve switched over to Safari instead of Firefox, which upsets me a great deal. This is why. At least they’re admitting it was a mistake, so maybe at some point I’ll go back. It irks me, because a lot of the things I love about Firefox, Safari doesn’t do so well, even though it’s native to Mac. Oh well.

I’ve been reading up this morning on a nasty bit of business in SFF fandom. Yes, it’s Requires Hate, and if you’re interested, here’s a rundown on what the hell. Ten years is a long time for someone to run rampant with trollage and hatred. I’m just glad it’s come to light now, and that it’s over. I never had a brush with the person in question, but I saw some of the ancillary damage caused. Icky.

You know what else is icky? Thinking someone is perfectly nice, liking them a lot, but then when things don’t work out quite the way they want, having them develop a virulent case of Nice Guy Syndrome. Pro tip: when I say I’ll speak to you when I’m ready, pressuring me will not work. The only thing it does is make me withdraw. Just because I don’t respond in someone else’s timeframe doesn’t mean I don’t care–but trying to guilt me into working on your emotional schedule will never end well. And when I’ve blocked you on my various social media feeds and you text me something from one feed that you imagine is ALL ABOUT YOU? That’s, well, creepy. Also, sending me this snotty link after I tell you to leave me the fuck alone just makes me want to send you this one in return, and noting #5 is particularly applicable.

*dusts hands together* There. That, indeed, is that.

So this morning is for listening to the Beatles (still on my Fab Four kick) and moving on with the Red Clan having kidnapped Gallow and Robin, and the consequences of that. There’s also one scene closer to the end of Rattlesnake to get through. The book is eating my head, for God’s sake, and I just want to kick every other project away for a little while so I can finish it. Alas, that’s a luxury I don’t have. So once more into the breach, dear friends.

Over and out.

On Amazon (Again)

I haven’t spoken about the Amazon-Hachette stuff again, mostly because I don’t have time for the army of angry self-pub evangelists who inevitably descend (and send me nasty, ungrammatical, indifferently punctuated screeds) but thankfully, I do not have to with Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi doing such a good job.

Here’s Scalzi:

…I really really really wish Amazon would stop pretending that anything it does it does for the benefit of authors. It does not. It does it for the benefit of Amazon, and then finds a way to spin it to authors, with the help of a coterie of supporters to carry that message forward, more or less uncritically.

Look: As Walter Jon Williams recently pointed out, if Amazon is on the side of authors, why does their Kindle Direct biolerplate have language in it that says that Amazon may unilaterally change the parameters of their agreement with authors? I don’t consider my publishers “on my side” any more than I consider Amazon “on my side” — they’re both entities I do business with — but at least my publisher cannot change my deal without my consent. Which is to say that between my publisher and Amazon, one of them gets to utter the immortal Darth Vader line “I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further” to authors doing business with it and one does not. (John Scalzi, link and italics his)

Scalzi also points out that Amazon’s math is dependent upon the assumption that Amazon is the only book retailer that matters, instead of being “only” 30% of the market. (I put quotes around “only” because that’s still an incredible amount of market share for one company to have, really.)

I’ve been asked what I think of Kindle Unlimited–here’s Harry Connolly on that subject, which sums up everything quite nicely. After seeing what similar things did to the music industry, and taking into account Amazon’s business practices and history, I’ll take a pass on the whole damn thing. My publishers may offer some of my books through Kindle Unlimited, and I suppose I’ll see what happens there, but left to my own devices–whether it’s for my self-pubbed work or if I’m given a choice about other works, I’ll just say a polite no thank you. Shares out of a fund just seems like another way of saying “do it for the exposure!” And we all know how I feel about that. Also–and this is the bigger reason–I do not trust Amazon in this situation. Yes, I sell books through them and am using their Audible arm for the SquirrelTerror audiobook, but their business practices are such that I am incredibly hesitant to engage with them further. I won’t do KDP Select for the same reason–it’s a bad business decision for me, given Amazon’s behaviour.

And that’s that.