In Which There Is Raving, Confusion, and Ranting

14 August 2003

And then there was the curious matter of the child screaming in the night. Like the dog barking, it was curious in its absence. Which is a sad commentary on our apartment complex right now, but hey, I'll take it.

In other miraculous news, I managed to trade three duplicates for a non-duplicate book on Greenland, and the library had all seven of my "hold" books. All seven, right there in the "express hold" section with my name neatly attached! Astonishing.

So after David went home and I did yoga and all those good things, I started reading Garret Freymann-Weyr's When I Was Older. I fell into that book, hard, and barely came up for air until I was done with it. Wow. It was one of those books you didn't know you needed until you found it, and I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of her stuff. It reminded me of the best of Madeleine L'Engle's non-genre YAs, in that there were smart people thinking about big issues and how those issues fit into their lives, without managing to make it into An Issue Book. It was a good deal more modern than the L'Engles, more matter-of-fact in some ways, less floaty. That was not a bad thing. This sort of book can so easily be done badly, and it's such a joy when it's done well. Go thou, and have that joy. I highly recommend it.

I also read Jane Yolen's Touch Magic, a collection of essays about children's lit and fairy tales and such. Interesting stuff, although I think she was just plain wrong about a few points -- the distinction between fantasy and science fiction, for example. Most of the books I had on hold this time were surprisingly small volumes, so I shouldn't have a problem finishing them before we leave for our house-hunting trip. (And I actually don't have to get them returned by then -- we should return here two days before they're due.) I have a sneaky plan for getting my hold materials to show up at the right time. I'm going to reserve them right before we leave. The library will hold them for ten days after they arrive, so that should take care of a range of timing. I hope. Anyway, I'm reading Kara Dalkey's Ascension next.

I finished "Heart-Shaped Hole," mostly, and I'm going to pick at it a bit more this morning before shipping it off. It's a novelette. I could probably slash it back down to short story range, but I don't know if I'm going to. Not just for the sake of doing so, not unless I run out of novelette markets for modern Greenlandic fantasy. If I read through it and find a couple hundred extraneous words, then it'll be a short story, hurrah. And if not, a novelette, hurrah. Same stuff. Just hovering around the line.

Lately I've had this conviction kind of hanging around extraneously, that I can't write short stories. Obviously I can. Some of them even get published. Of those published, some of them get enjoyed. I've even had the sneaking suspicion on more than one occasion that some of my friends like me better after reading one of my short stories than they did before. (This is not upsetting to me. It's kind of nice, actually.) And yet something in my brain scoffs, no, no, that's not what you do. Novels are what you do.

Even though I've published short stories and haven't published novels yet. Even though I respect people who are primarily short story writers; even though I hope to spend more time writing short stories this late-fall/early-winter, unless other happy projects intervene. Something in my brain tells me that I can't do short stories.

Whatever that something is, it doesn't seem to interfere with writing actual short stories. The brain just waves its hand dismissively when I finish another and says, oh, well, besides that one. It doesn't tell me that the new short story is no good. It just tells me that it doesn't count, and I don't understand what it's doing up there. What are you doing up there, brain?

Singing Liz Phair songs. Great. Thanks, brain. Some musicians in your head are like having the stereotypical Tourette's patient in your head, but Liz Phair is almost worse than that, because the worst bits of her songs are often composed of words that are just fine on their own, or else sound really sweet and not particularly angry, and it's the combination that makes it...not for public consumption. And then you're walking through the grocery store singing sweetly under your breath and realize you'd better stop abruptly, or those funny looks will change to horrified fascination. And I've had Liz Phair in my head so often lately that Timprov expects her to come springing forth fully formed from it, which may be the only time in my life I've been cast as Zeus.

Aaaanyway. In addition to the un-short-story conviction problem, I've had a hard time with editing lately. I think the problem is just that I've been expecting myself to do too much. (Everyone who knows me is now reeling back in shock and horror. Yes, I know.) Each week, I've been expecting at least one new short story, 7-10K of novel, daily freewrites, moving stuff, friend stuff, family stuff, celebration stuff (because it's celebration season in Mrissaland), non-moving house stuff, health/exercise stuff, and general sanity stuff of myself, plus I've been expecting that I should get major edits done to Reprogramming. I've been doing pretty well with the rest of it -- not always as well as I'd like, but pretty well, don't-beat-yourself-up well -- but the editing has been the part that's fallen most consistently by the wayside. Which is frustrating, because it's a lot of work, but certainly no more so than drafting and editing short fiction or drafting the Not The Moose. And it makes me feel like I'm giving up on Reprogramming, when I'm really not.

So. I may make that the priority for when I'm gone to Minneapolis looking for houses and let the drafting of the Not The Moose stuff be the "extra" while I'm out of town. It may be that all work is "extra," because it may be that looking for houses is time-consuming and frustrating, and that by the time we're done with some part of it, I will want nothing more than to relax and get hugs and see the people I care about there. But I'm not sure I can do better than to put it ahead of the Not The Moose, in the next two months. Anything else may just not be feasible. Move stuff has a deadline; it has to get done, and it has to get done thoroughly. I can't just say, "Eh, well, most of our dishes got wrapped and packed, good enough."

We'll see. It also could be that a week and a half up home will energize me. I'm almost certain it will. The question is in what direction, and how much will I need that extra energy for the move stuff anyway.

I think it's a sign that this book is not destined to be called The Long Night, that I can't make myself refer to it that way, or haven't been able to so far. It's always the Not The Moose. Which is not a title for a book one actually wants people to, you know, buy and stuff. Maybe if I could get you-all to be hordes of screaming fans, chanting, "Not the Moose! Not the Moose!" Hey, that's a neat idea. Why don't you do that anyway. You know I'd do it for you.

Today, Mark and I have been lawfully wedded for four years. (Yes, that means I was just-21 when we got married.) A couple of weeks ago, Patrick Nielsen Hayden linked to this, and I think it speaks for me a great deal on the recent political mumblings about gay marriage. Especially the bit about the penguins. One guy wrote into the Merc this week to say that he thought gay people in committed partnerships should have all and exactly the same civil rights and benefits as straight people in committed partnerships, but he didn't want to call it marriage. I need some incluing here: how do people justify that? On what grounds can you claim exclusivity on the word but not the deeds? It just makes no sense to me.

One of the surveys today's paper cited had asked people if they would support gay marriages if churches weren't required to perform or recognize them. Which just made me angry: to the best of my knowledge, no one in the current political arena has proposed forcing churches to do any such thing. I keep reminding people that you can't even force Catholic priests to marry non-Catholics to Catholics or to each other -- you can't force a church to marry anybody, to recognize any marriage as valid, to believe in the morality of any marriage or any other act. We do have that freedom of belief in this country. And bringing up the churches, while it may look like a clarifying factor to some, looks to me like it's muddying the waters. The right word there was not "if," it was "since." If you have a religious problem with your religious leaders' take on homosexuality (in any direction!), that's a different problem entirely. Leave them out of it on this argument. Leave the sex out of it, too, actually -- this isn't about who does what to whom. I personally don't care if two people get married and never have sex. I don't care if they get married and have sex in ways I would not personally enjoy. It's none of my business. This is about civil legislation that makes it easier for people to take care of themselves and each other.

My family life is not about civil legislation. My family life is about the people I love. Mark was in the middle of that four years ago yesterday just as thoroughly as he was four years ago tomorrow. It gives me some comfort to know that while the current state of legislation doesn't do much to encourage families from forming in a lot of configurations, it can't prevent them, either; people will love each other and take care of each other and be there for each other. It's how humans are. It's pretty much my favorite thing about us. I just think we should do more of it in every direction.

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