23 June 2001

The moment you've all been waiting for: my Speculon book review is up. Despite computer set-backs the redesign is now mostly up, with some functionality to be added a little later (but not too much later). I like it. I hope you do, too. Karina's first e-book review is now there as well.

My favorite headline is "Presbyterians debate sending women into combat." I didn't realize they had a standing army, much less a battleground. I'm a little annoyed with Timprov and Cal for not telling me this.

I've already been to the grocery store today. Also have unclogged a drain (had to buy more vinegar) and started baking mint brownies, also done various small household tasks. I really hope Susan is wrong about killing spiders being bad luck, because the little tiny ones are getting in through our screens, and I must have smacked five of them yesterday while I was dusting. Just stand a little bit away from me for the next couple of days, if you believe her.

It may be sad that one of the things that got me out of yesterday's funk was making a grocery list and a (tentative and flexible) schedule, but I don't think anyone who knows me and The Lists should be surprised. Order into chaos, folks. So I'm no longer sad and funky. Also, I have a new story, "The Marrying Kind." I have no idea how the plot goes, or who the characters really are, or why, in fact, I'm writing this story. It just showed up: title, first couple of paragraphs. The folklorist in go-go boots was there from the beginning. I scowled at it. It sat there on the screen. So I went away and did some other things. Came back to write a few e-mails, and found out that the folklorist was in Minneapolis. Okay.

The last time this happened, it alarmed, annoyed, and disturbed me. It turned out to be "A Six-Letter Word for Mom" (or "A Six-Letter Word for Mother" -- I like the rhythm of the former better, but its ambiguity between the obvious answer and my intended story-answer may be a problem), and I like it. So. I guess I'm just going to go with "The Marrying Kind" and see where it heads. The title has all kinds of obvious speculative plot implications; if you think of any that you think are obvious, let me know, and I will attempt to avoid them all.

The case of Andrea Yates (the woman who drowned her five children) is highlighting something that annoys me: patronizing feminists. I've read letters to the editor and/or editorial columns from several different people who call themselves feminists, claiming that of course the woman was abused: she had five children under the age of eight, and that in itself constituted abuse. Excuse me? I am the last person to want five kids -- I keep saying that if my second one is triplets, we're giving one of them away, because I am just not having more than three, tops. But that's my choice. And while there are some abused women who have very many young children, claiming that that choice itself is abusive is just insane. Hello? Isn't that what you folks keep telling us you want: choice? Choice doesn't mean "everybody voluntarily agreeing with me." My friend Jen's older sister is well on her way to that number of kids under that age. It's a choice she's made. She could have been a physicist like Jen, but she just doesn't want to. Is she abused? I think she and Jen would gang up to demolish anybody who claimed she was.

Also, it highlights an aspect of the criminal justice system that disturbs me: first versus second degree murder. Pop quiz: who scares you more? A) Someone who is intent on killing a person for his or her own reasons and sits down to plan out this person's death in advance, because he/she is convinced it's a good idea. B) Someone who snaps and kills someone out of the blue, without being convinced that it's necessarily a good idea. This is kind of an IRS versus the post office question for me. I don't want to ride the train with either one of them. But with the first person, you can try to change his/her mind somewhere in the process. With the second, you just have to be lucky. The first/second degree murder seems like it shouldn't be hierarchical as it is. That's focusing on punishment -- which is fine, but it's not the first thing that's on my mind. First thing on my mind is making sure that I don't have to ride the train with someone who could be either A or B. And making sure that my cousins who are cops don't have to deal with them more than once if at all possible.

(Actually, I'd be happier if my cousins who are cops started selling shoes instead and left this whole violent-crime-response thing for someone else's cousins. But I know that's not going to happen.)

The following is not an actual conversation -- at least, not just one.

She said, "You wouldn't believe how interesting science can be."

I said, "I spent five years of my life doing physics."

"I always thought it would be hard for a young woman to deal with that environment, but really, you'd be amazed. You can't possibly know how exhilarating it can be to work in a lab setting."

"I spent two summers doing full-time research and did several other research projects during the school years."

"This is just amazing! I wish you could know the joy of new scientific discovery. Don't be intimidated by it! Math is not that hard, but it's interesting!"

"I have had more Hilbert space dreams than I can explain to you. Me and math are fine."

"I'm so glad we had this conversation!"

Oh yeah. Me, too.

Or maybe it wasn't science. Maybe it was writing. Maybe it was religion. Maybe something else entirely. Maybe she was a he. Maybe not. Maybe it was all of the above, and more.

Cut it out.

Here's the one I will never hear again, oh, thank God:

"You're a nuclear physicist?"


"That must be really hard!"

"Uh, it's a challenge, but --"

"It's so amazing that a girl like you can be good at that!"

(Let's define our terms, shall we: "LIKE ME???") "Uh, thanks."

"I'll tell you, I have nothing but respect for you."

(Nothing at all? That's pretty amazing.)

"You girls -- you're pioneers! I just want to hug you!"

(Oh, it's mutual, I assure you. And note: do not say the word "pioneers" to a Nebraska girl who wants to be a writer and expect her not to run screaming out of the room or start murmuring obscenities about Willa Cather. Just don't expect it. If she manages, good for her. You got lucky.) "Uhhh, thank you. I just do my work."

"With all those boys. You must be so strong."

(Lady, when I punch you, you're gonna find out.) "It's really not too much of a big deal any more."

"Oh, nonsense. It just brings a tear to my eye."

That one was pretty much verbatim. Not one conversation, oh no. Every single time I volunteered for a public event that was science related, I got to do that one. Plus every time one of my male or non-physicist friends' moms found out what I did.

Makes me quite, quite grateful to be a science fiction writer.

Five hours left. Woohoo!

It's Jonsoknatten. Unmarried girls are supposed to put seven kinds of flowers under their pillow if they want to dream of the man they'll marry. None of my friends ever had time for that, but if you do, um. Fabulous for you.

Back to Morphism.

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