Kitchen Aliens

15 January 2003

Hey! Timprov's and my collaborative short story is up at Would That It Were! You can find it here, although the title is not supposed to be "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy." It's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy (With Aliens)," so I'm going to see if Don has room and inclination to change that bit. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with it. I think we did well with the aliens, and I'm very fond of René Magritte. So. Enjoy.

I'm enthusiastic about this story all over again, seeing it in print, which makes me a little sad that I've been so down on short stories. I really have. I've gotten a few titles here and there, but other than that, I've had no urge to write short stories in a good long while now. It's not that I don't have any good ideas, it's that they're pretty far on the back burner with all of the novelly goodness I've been indulging myself in. I begin to understand those writers who only write short stories for specific anthologies. I don't really want to get to that point, but I see how it can work now.

I had an almost entirely short-story-free time when I was writing Fortress of Thorns -- well, of course I did. I was doing nuclear physics grad school, starting a family (because that is not synonymous with having kids, thanks), living in a new place, and writing my first presentable novel, in addition to commuting two hours every day. There just wasn't room. Now I'm not doing all of that, but I'm thinking hard about enough novels that I think that's crowding the short stories out for awhile.

I think that's not a good thing -- it'd be nice to send some more things to Stan Schmidt, for example, since he's already published one of my stories and expressed an interest in seeing more. It'd be good to maintain that interest a bit. But on the other hand, it would seem like a shame to waste all this novel momentum and wrench it away into some other project just for the sake of doing so, so I keep working on the novels and enjoying myself and letting things unfold as they will.

I really am enjoying the novels, in case you didn't know. Dwarf's Blood Mead has much nift. I'm not sure if I'm throwing in too much of the kitchen sink in this scene, but I can cut lines later if I need to.

Columbine got a bunch of responses to a complaint about a game, and I had to smile, because everybody was doing the absolute most tempting thing, when it comes to games: treating them as metaphors.

I do it myself. This is the hazard of having a liberal-arts education (whether formal or self-imposed): you're taught to see metaphors for life scrabbling under every rock. And gaming makes it really easy, especially if you spent a few of your dissolute teen years playing bad role-playing games with other geeks whose wish-fulfillment fantasies were totally transparent. You only have to watch someone whose game-charisma vastly overstates his real-time charisma once to understand how much gaming can be About Life.

But it doesn't have to be. Columbine can play his games with rules he applies to life, or not. I think that's one of my jobs as a speculative writer: avoiding making every little thing be About Life. It's not all a metaphor, really. Sometimes a cigar etc.

So. Yesterday I wrote, picked Mark up from the airport, read a little Brust (so much fun!), and baked. Uff da mai. David said that he thought eplepai looked like the name of an alien species, but it was actually thoroughly well-behaved, apples and almonds and cinnamon held together by the barest minimum of baking substances. It's an ideal ice cream bottoming (not a topping, though, because its wedges hold their shape pretty well).

It was making the Icelandic brown bread that was like wrestling an alien species into submission. This is a good thing to know, when writing about an almost-Icelandic culture: the brown bread will attempt to eat your mixer. And your hands. And anything else it can get its hands on. It kept rising from the bowl in its vengeful wrath, and I kept having to beat it down with a spoon. Not a yeast bread, either, and no molasses, but my oh my, was it sticky. It's now crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, perfect with blackberry-peach jam -- or, we suspect, with honey, but our honey had gone stubbornly crystallized, so we'll find out later when we get new honey. Still, it was daunting, and I think I'll try some of the other breads before I make it again. Especially since there'll be a spare loaf of this in the freezer when I want it.

It was kind of a pain not to have a sugar canister. The seal on our sugar canister had evidently gone, so when Mark returned home on the 1st, he was greeted by a swarm of ants in and out of the kitchen. Joy. So he washed out the canister and killed all the ants, and I was thinking I'd have to move the Bisquick into the tiny canister and demote the tea back to its box. But now I'm thinking that we could use more canisters if I'm going to have different kinds of flour -- we could even use one for oats or one for pasta (or two for pasta, possibly), if we had canisters sitting around. So I'm rethinking this demotion idea and have pretty much decided on another set of canisters.

I think I took a left turn out of "interesting" somewhere along there, so I'm going to get myself showered and dressed and then see how much work time I have before I head up to David's. Have a good Wednesday.

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