Knowing, Choosing

18 April 2002

Baaaaad M'rissa. I would say "no biscuit," but I only had the stuff to make two rather small biscuits apiece for with our soup last night, so we've already polished off all the biscuits in the house. Which may be moot.

What is my evil deed, you are most likely wondering? Well. After yesterday's pleasant day and a tasty supper, I sat down at the computer. Did I work on the Not The Moose Book? Well, yes, a little, but not much. Did I work on the Lunar Epoxy story or anything else that has a theme issue or anthology due date approaching? Not even remotely. How about the likely novella (but possibly not) whose opening line I got yesterday but whose idea I've had for awhile? No, I ignored that, too. So what did I work on? Something new. Something new that's likely to be a fantasy novelette or maybe novella.

Aaaaagh. Just what I needed.

On the up side, I had, as I said above, a pleasant day yesterday. Timprov got up in time to take me to Dr. Bill's, which was much appreciated and changed my plans completely. (If you've ever gotten your back fixed, you'll know that sometimes you just feel blechy afterwards, and sometimes you just feel weird, and I was just as glad not to have to drive.) We had a nice lunch, good conversation, yummy tomato stuff, and then we drove in on Highway 4, which is officially The Long Way from Pleasant Hill to Berkeley, but it's all right. They re-paved and widened it since we drove it last, and it was smooth, a gorgeous ride. The wildflowers were in bloom along the sides of the road. Great stuff. Stopped in The Other Change of Hobbit (but didn't see the Nice Mean Man, so I guess it wasn't his day to work, or if the day, not the hour). Had coffee with Wendy and talked about many things. If you know Wendy, ask her to tell the story about the Korean guy in her lab who didn't know he knew Jewish people. (If you don't know Wendy, go ahead and ask me. I was appalled and amused at all the right places.) We stopped through Comic Relief to say hi to Alec on our way back to the car, and that was that.

Meeting people because of writing is very strange. I think it must be something like what it is to know people through work, because you know a lot more about them in some very specialized directions than in others. For example, I know more about Wendy's ideas about Borges than I do about her family. It worked like this in physics sometimes -- I would know how someone felt about theory vs. experiment long before I knew what kind of music they liked to listen to. But that's something that you only discuss socially among physicists or ex-physicists (right, Evan?). It feels Professional. With writer-types, the stuff that you discuss somewhat professionally is also the stuff that you and other people discuss socially. I know that one of my friends who is an engineer was talking about books with a woman on a date (and I assume that if she was a writer, he'd have told me). It's Social Conversation. But it's also Professional Conversation. It just works out strangely with the crossover that way, is all.

And with writing groups, I think it gets even more odd, because you get to read their rough drafts and hear their crits. That's another level of intimacy, of knowing fairly personal things about someone. But then you realize that while you know what plot twists will occur to someone in the first blush of an idea, you have no idea why she'd be going to Idaho when she says she will. Or else you know what kind of Witty Banter someone finds intolerable, but when he says his dad is in town, you don't have the slightest clue what they'd do together or whether it's exciting, nerve-wracking, both, or neither for him to have his dad around. There's this odd border of social and professional, and sometimes it just strikes me.

When I was in junior high or high school or even college, when I made a new friend, my mom would ask, "And what do his parents do?" (That was not supposed to be a generic "his." I made rather few girl friends at the time. A trend, don't you know.) And she'd be frustrated when I didn't know. But I didn't have the slightest idea. It wasn't really important at the time. What do his parents do? What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? Elephino. It wasn't that there was a list of approved professions, and if I said "lawyer" or "trash collector," my new friend would be out on his ear. It was just social noise. The sort of thing grown-ups tend to find out about each other, but not so much about each other's parents. But it didn't matter. I can tell you what some of my friends' parents did for a living, out of the high school crowd, but not all of them. Not because I forgot, because I never knew. As for my college friends, unless it was interesting, it just never came up.

There's a lot of stuff that just doesn't have to come up if you don't actively want it to.

And I don't really have any intention of sitting my writing group members down and saying, "Now. Parents, how many? Siblings, how many? Education, how much, and where?" It's just that sometimes it strikes me what I don't know about people. And then I'm glad I don't talk more specifically about writing group people to my mom, because it would drive her mad. "Where did she grow up?" she would ask, and in true honor-student fashion, I would offer what I did know in place of what I didn't: "Um...she thinks 'Bears Discover Fire' is overrated."

Ah well. I started reading Graham Joyce's The Tooth Fairy yesterday, and it's disturbing so far, interesting but not as good as Dark Sister or Requiem. It was really the only choice I could have made out of my pile of books. Piles, really.

Here's how I do it: I keep three piles. Books we own that I haven't read and intend to read soon. Books I have borrowed from "someone." (Lately, David is someone. Or rather, someone is David. Hmm. But David has always been someone, and I think rather many people will volunteer to be David, when asked, so someone probably has been for awhile. My godfather, for example, and Mark's dad, and...anyway. Not those Davids, who are referred to as "our David" and "Dave" for the sake of clarity. But these books are borrowed from David.) And books I have borrowed from the library. When I go to choose a book, one of the first considerations is how urgently the lenders will want it back. Usually library beats friend-lenders that way, although sometimes not, if the friends are impatient. Usually nobody is particularly hell-bent on getting their books back, though. Then there's the question of who wants to discuss the book with me. If someone does, and they're getting antsy about it, I'll read it sooner than later. About equal with that in importance is work relevance: do I need to read this book in order to get some work done? It moves up the list then.

After that, we see if something jumps out at me and does a little dance, going, "read me, read me, you know you want to." This is occasionally the case, but not always. And after that, the question is usually, "What else have I been reading?" Sometimes I want to keep with a theme or finish a series -- the Westmark books, for example, pretty much sucked me back into them. More often lately, I want to maintain some kind of balance. Not too much old SF. Not too much high fantasy. Not too many science essays. And so on. So when I finished Wonder Boys, The Tooth Fairy looked like a better choice than anything else on the piles. Complementary. And after it -- well, I don't think I have anything else that spooky, so I can choose what I want. But I do have Finnish Folk Poetry Epic to start.

Thanks to Zed's blog, I started reading Cat and Girl yesterday. I like "Halloween Party," although "Oxford English" is very cool, Zed is right.

Okay, I'm going to get clean now, and then work. Hopefully on something on my agenda. I suppose I could just add whatever I do to my agenda, but that seems out of the spirit of having one in the first place.

Back to Morphism.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.