14 March 2002

Go read James Lileks' journal today. Among other things, he says, "Genre writers usually sneak up on truth from behind, or drive past it and throw a beer can at its head. They dress it up in a funny costume and give it a walk-on part. Mostly they just write, because they want to. Modern lit often strikes me as a Gehry funhouse, applauded for its dazzling skin and insular disregard for the forms of daily life. Genre works are tract houses where the really interesting people live."

Why, thank you, Mr. Lileks. I love that. I can pick out which SF writers I think are sneak-uppers and which are beer-can-throwers, although I'd like to know which one all of you think I am. Or what alternate thereto, I suppose.

Also he indicated that it will have snowed when we get there. Which is also nice of him. I hope he comes through for us. Being in charge of the weather and all.

Oh, these are sad tidings. Merchant of Venus is going out of business. Merchant is Omaha's SF bookstore, and while it was no Uncle Hugo's -- it wasn't even Dreamhaven or The Other Change -- it was a good little place to buy books. And the guy there was so nice. We had stopped by his table at ConCussion right after I won the Asimov Award, and I saw the issue of Asimov's that had my photo in it for the first time. The guys and I clustered around and exclaimed over it, and the owner said, "Oh, I heard it was an Omaha kid, but I didn't know it was you. That's marvelous!" And then he was all nice to me about it and wanted to talk about the ICFA, and then Robert Reed came over and joked with me about how we'd surely share ToC's other times. It was a warm and lovely moment for me, made possible by the owner of Merchant. And now he's going to run a theology bookstore near the Joslyn, with a handful of genre books. Drat.

Star Realm did this, too. They switched from being an easy-to-find, large, genre bookstore to being essentially a hole in the wall in the middle of a flea market, selling mostly gaming supplies and those not well. And then Quizno's bought their place and -- this is why I don't buy Quizno's subs -- painted over the building-sized space mural. They painted it beige. They could easily have dubbed Quizno's subs out of this world and gone on with it. But no. They had to make it beige.

I don't really have any illusions that the other sub shops wouldn't have beiged the mural, too, if it had been their purchase. But the point is, it wasn't, and they didn't. So I can still eat their product if I need to. (Although I maintain that Little King and The Buffalo Company are The Subs to have. It seems mightily unfair that they should both be Omaha chains -- couldn't they share one with the East Bay? Just one?)

Oh, yes, and David wants me to ask people if they mooed at cows from their cars when they were kids. So did you? He mentioned this on Saturday, and Mark, Timprov, and I all looked at him like he'd gone mad. Heather (or so David claims) and Avi have since disproven the David madness theory, but C.J. is on our side: who moos at cows? So, do you moo? Question of the week. Let me know. In my family, we did announce their presence rather more enthusiastically than was warranted on some road trips, because it got the dog excited: "Cows, Ben, cows!" And he'd stand up on the seat and bark at them quite ferociously. Oooh, he was a match for any of those cows, just ask him from the comfort of his family's car. (This was our cocker mix, not our poodle-girl. Booboo couldn't have cared less for cows.)

Our theory is that if you see cows all the time (say, if you live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska...) as a kid, they're just not moo-worthy. But Heather grew up in Indiana, so that may not be right, either. I have no idea how many cows are in your average square mile of Indiana near her childhood abode.

So. Apart from cows entirely. I had a nice lunch with Avi yesterday (although the pizza was mediocre, worse than its delivery cousin by far), and then we came back to the house and talked to Timprov for awhile before Avi left for an appointment and Timprov and I went to get our backs fixed. Mark and I had Thai for dinner last night. Yum. I was even charmed by the silver plastic tureen from which we were served rice. It was quite an ornate plastic tureen. (And I just like the word tureen.)

I came up with the last pieces of inspiration for my novella yesterday. I'd had it wandering indefinitely around my head, and now it seems to have settled down, which is a relief and a joy. I've only written one novella before, so we'll see whether this one feels more like a short story or more like a novel in the writing.

My previous novella was written in a blue heat on the last day of spring break, my sophomore year of college. I was supposed to turn in a short story for my Intro Creative Writing class at the end of break, and I had gotten a bit beyond myself. I'd written a few pages at a time for each of the previous days of spring break, and then I got to Saturday. Knew that Christopher and I would spend most of Sunday driving Iowa. So I called up Kev and headed off to Borders. Kev is the world's easiest friend to entertain, in some ways. You can call him up and say, "Hey, Kev, I was planning on watching some grass grow today. Want to come with?" And he'll show right up, book tucked under his arm and ready to go. So I took Kev to Borders and sat in the café and wrote all day, about 10,000 words. I didn't stop writing on the drive there or the drive home. Came home and wrote some more, sprawled out on my folks living room floor. Finished up the last of the thing in the computer lab at college the next evening. It was an amazing experience, but not, I think, typical of novella writing. I hope not. I'm not sure my back will take that any more.

My Intro Creative Writing prof was astonished. More astonished than usual, even. She seemed to spend life in a perpetual state of astonishment. Even her hair was astonished. Michelle can vouch for this. If I was to do a smiley face caricature of "astonished" and a smiley face caricature of Joyce, it'd be the same drawing. She was exactly what I needed in a first creative writing prof -- she was my cheerleader. Still is, sometimes. One of them, at least.

Well. Time to work, I think. I have things that Need Doing before we leave tomorrow morning, which will be fairly early. I'll try to get a short entry out, but no guarantees. If not, I'll write here again on April 1.

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