Kalevala, Ktundu

11 August 2001

Ahh, blueberries. Second best food on the planet. (First best is cherry tomatoes. The garden kind, not the store-bought kind that taste like miniature regular tomatoes. I like regular tomatoes, but not that much.)

Dr. Bill worked his magic yesterday, and after waves of nausea, I found the knots easing their way out of my newly reconfigured back. I also found that I was very, very hungry and very, very tired. But you know what they say about banging your head against a wall because it'll feel good when it stops? It's true: it does feel really good when it stops. Anyway, I ate a lot (for me), slept a lot (for me -- but nine and a half hours is not too shabby for anybody), and am doing better today. Although still shaky. My body doesn't seem to know what it's supposed to be doing, now that it's now tying itself in knots.

My brain, however, is quite certain: it's supposed to be working on the Not The Moose Book. I've been kind of sloshing around, working on a book here and a book there and some short stories. And I'm going to keep working on the short stories. Maybe on the other books, too, but it is definitely time to be daily-work serious about the Not The Moose Book.

It helps me to have one big serious project. Otherwise I feel like I'm trying to do all of them, and that's no good. For awhile I thought perhaps I couldn't write the Not The Moose Book now, thought I might have too much research left to go. But there's enough of it that can be written without the research, especially since I don't write sequentially, that it'll work out like this, a bit at a time, with the scenes coming as I can do them.

Some of the research is strictly necessary. For example, while it only comes into play in two or three scenes (as I have currently conceived of the book -- do not quote me on this, as it may have radically changed by the time it's done), I need to know how British Intelligence was functioning at the time, hopefully also how it was functioning in Finland in specific. This is possible to find out. I just have to do the reading, and I am. Some of the things I brought back from the library, though, are not strictly necessary but may make the book better. I looked up all books related to Finland at our local library, and as a consequence I will soon be reading about the Nokia "revolution," about Finnish design furniture, and about Finnish folk dances. Not all of this will go into the book. Not even remotely. But you can never tell when one sentence will spark something.

For example, I found out, in reading Scandinavia Since 1500, that Iceland was the only country that had more men accused of witchcraft than women. SS1500 had no theory as to why this was the case; it was simply presented as a fact. But I have theories. Oh my, do I have theories. (Those of you who know me or who read the journal often are now ever so surprised. Sorry for springing that revelation upon you without warning.) I even have real-world theories as well as "alternate-world" theories. But it's the alternate-world theories that are useful to me, unless I was to decide to go back to school for a PhD in ScanStudies.

I really love it that the stuff I make up whole cloth is more useful to me than sober academic-type theory, even though I can do both. I love this job.

I was delighted, at TimFest2001, to hear Tim Powers hold forth on the subject of what was and was not an alternate history or an alternate world. (TimFest2001 is what I call the time when we packed Timprov and Tim into the car to go hear Tim Powers read.) He claimed that he had by God done the research and not a single thing in Declare contradicted recorded history, although he knew some of it contradicted science, and that if it was an alternate history, so was War and Peace. (I believe that was the example he used.)

Timprov has exactly opposite views of what constitutes an alternate history: if it could have happened with current laws of science and so on, he doesn't consider it one. At least that's how I recall his position; I may be wrong. But I don't think the subgenre is well-enough defined that either of them is claiming utter moral rectitude in the matter.

At any rate, the Not The Moose Book will be an alternate history by Timprov's definition (I think) but not by Tim Powers' (I think). But there isn't that much recorded history of northern Finland, at least not available in English. Or any other languages I read. So I'm pretty much home free on most of it.

On the other hand, I'm glad Kev is a reference librarian, because I have no idea how to find out how common SUVs are in Finland right now. Where is that kind of information? But it's necessary, because my three modern-day main characters include a Kalevalic witch, and in my system, the Kalevalic magic-users need a lot more ktundu than the average person. Some of it large and heavy. So I want to know if the villagers will be staring at them or if they'll be blending in. This affects several scenes. SUVs in Finland. I really hope somebody has numbers on this, because 99.9% of American readers would only know what I told them, but the remaining 0.1% are almost sure to be letter-writers. Besides, one ought to Get Things Right.

Ktundu, by the way, is a lovely word that Jen taught me from her time when her parents were missionaries in Africa. (Jen Hightower, not Jen Spande. I find it most amusing that I have two bright, blonde friends named Jen and can't distinguish between them by making references to Africa.) It means the crap we schlep about as part of our daily lives or work, much of it totally unnecessary. When we were doing our cow-box experiment, Jen often found cause to shout, "Too much ktundu!" as a precursor to a thorough lab cleaning.

One of the things I miss most about being a physicist is the opportunity to swap lab stories. My Worst Lab Partner is a favorite topic, as is How Long Did It Take? But when I try to tell these stories to the general populace, sometimes they laugh, and sometimes they don't know they're supposed to. And sometimes they laugh like that wretched boy-thing in "A.I." and I sigh and change the subject. But I have quite fond memories of sitting around with Dawn, Kathy, and Jen (yet another Jen, neither blonde nor interested in Africa in any way) swapping My Worst Lab Partner stories and My Worst Boyfriend stories, which somehow got into I Dated My Lab Partner stories. Which, at one time or another, I think all of us had done.

Sounds like a '50s True Confession, doesn't it? I Dated My Lab Partner. Don't worry, Mike, if you're reading this; I didn't try to make it juicy enough to read like one.

My body is indicating that blueberries, while they may indeed be one of nature's perfect foods, do not, in themselves, constitute lunch. So I'm off to figure out what does, and then back to work.

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