Airplanes and Celebrations

9 July 2001

Today is National Ice Cream Day. And if ice cream isn't worth of some celebration...well. Timprov thinks National Ice Cream Day is silly, but I think he just doesn't like holidays. He seems to prefer celebrating events.

Which we did last night. Some of you -- even some of you who have written books -- may not know that you get to celebrate a book five times. Yep. Five. 1) When you finish the rough draft of it. 2) When you first send it out to a publisher or to your agent, depending upon where you are in your career and what you're doing. 3) When it gets accepted. 4) When it goes to press. And 5) When it shows up in the bookstores. Of course, you can also celebrate the New York Times bestseller list, or the Hugo/Nebula/Tiptree/whatever award floats your boat, or when you sell a million copies, or other milestones. Or you may not get to celebrate more than the first two, sad though that sounds.

But that won't be the case with Tim, whose book we were celebrating. He sent it out. Finally! Yay! So Timprov and Mark and I BARTed up to Oakland for pizza and pear cider (or beer, or Coke, depending) to celebrate with Tim and Heather and Susan. (That sentence could have been a link-fest, in case you were wondering.)

Anyway. Everybody was fabulously witty. Splendid time had by all. Mark and Timprov and I walked back to the MacArthur BART station and sat on one of their round concrete benches, leaning back-to-back-to-back, surrounded by freeways and trains, looking for stars and finding only airplanes. And arguing about whether the airplanes were stars or airplanes. One of those lovely moments -- not the ones where everything feels right. The ones where it feels like you can deal with everything that's not right.

It called back to mind a story I've been putting off since the summer I was in Ohio. For those of you who don't know, that was '97. A full four years have passed since then. And I still haven't written this story. Which is not that unusual. What's unusual is that it's still worth writing. I had almost nothing of it, at the time, and I doubt that I would use what I had, if I wrote it tomorrow. (I have other things to write tomorrow. Perhaps the next day.) But it's still a good story to tell, and I'll get around to it one of these days.

Fast writer. Whatever.

"Wishing on Airplanes," the story in question, was conceived of on the night Gene Shoemaker died. (Gene Shoemaker of the Shoemaker-Levy comet that crashed into Jupiter several years ago. Geologists will tell you other stuff about him, though.) I was doing astrophysics that summer, and Shoemaker was supposed to come to Gustavus for Nobel Conference the following fall. So his death actually meant something to me, and to the people around me. None of us knew him, but we felt his passing. A group of us bought a bottle of plum wine and climbed up to the observatory, which was open to the roof, as most of them are. Don brought his guitar, and we sang songs and danced and looked at Jupiter through the telescope. I could see stripes, and the Galilean moons.

So. I got a lot of work done this weekend, actually. I did finish "The Handmade's Tale" and get it sent out, and I worked on Reprogramming, and I did some stuff with the Garth Nix interview, and I wrote a synopsis for The Grey Road (which gets extra credit points: I hate synopses!), and I did some edits to "Dark Thread." Remember "Dark Thread?" Of course you don't. I wrote it on the of my story-a-day week, clear back in February. It was the one Timprov told me to write, and he was right. I'm going to finish up the edits this afternoon, I think. I hope. There are many, many things I want to get done this afternoon, almost none of them on any deadline but my own. I have the chili in the crockpot for tonight. I've never made chili for company before, I don't think. Well, not chili. I made double-mushroom chili for David clear back, but that was different. (Because of its double-mushroomness, not because of David.) It was not something you see every day. When people come over to my house for a meal, I want to feed them something they won't get at home. I know that they come over for my company, or Mark's or Timprov's or some combination of the above. But I still feel the need to provide something else they couldn't get at their own house or a restaurant. Chili is really good to make for company, though, because dinner is now made. I just need to unplug the crockpot and eat when everybody is here. I can make cornbread if I want to, but how long does that take? This is a distinct advantage. Running around making sure everything is finished at the same time is not the optimal way to handle guests, I imagine. We'll find out.

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