In Which There Are Boxes, Pantries, and, Of Course, Books

6 September 2003

We have boxes. They're down in the car, and I'm sure we'll need more before we're done. But still: boxes. This is progress. I also have Trader Joe's groceries, and I tried on a bridesmaid dress for Michelle, and I also did the magic I can do when I have payment coming from more than one source: I went to the bank and deposited the check I already had. Hey presto, another one showed up in the mail last evening. Now if only I could get this to work when I wasn't expecting payment for things.

I finally finished rereading Timescape. I complained to David in e-mail about the ending. It just seemed to me, this time around, that it was really obvious what the outcome would be of the major question in the book, and some of the more minor or relationship-related questions were dropped or were only handled indirectly. So the ending just seemed anticlimactic this time. I don't remember if it was like that before. I read this book as part of my Physics of Science Fiction J-term at Gustavus, when I was a sophomore. It seems odd that I read Red Mars before it. Those years are kind of a science fiction jumble to me, and I have to remind myself that I had not read The Dispossessed or Firestar or any of a number of other books yet at that point. The books I read in my sophomore year and the summer after it have become, in my mind, books that have always been with me; books I read in my junior year and the summer after that are part of an orderly progression of books towards the present. It makes sense to me that I have not always known Glory Season, for example, or The Female Man; I can place those firmly in time. (The Female Man is even specifically associated with Franck-Hertz, which is still my favorite of the Advanced Lab experiments -- it was so pretty, and it was the first experiment I did that my dad had never done.) And I can remember reading Timescape and the others from sophomore year, if I try. It's just that they seem to have joined some kind of vast genre background reading for me. It's not that they blend together. It's that they seem like they've always been there. Not eternal, not all of them; just perpetual.

It was in the summer after my sophomore year that I started attacking the field of science fiction systematically; maybe that's why the break came there. That was when I decided to collect and read the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novels, and I got my hands on some genre criticism that made dubious claims here and there, and I started jotting down the titles to find out for myself about the dubious claims. When the Crowd graduated at the end of my sophomore year, they could still reasonably ask me if I'd heard of a given writer, and the answer would fairly often be no, even for writers who had published several books that sold well. I've heard of writers who haven't published anything at all. Because it's my business to know, I suppose. Because I like to. But some of the Crowd will still pop up asking whether I've heard of Kim Stanley Robinson or someone like that, and I try not to be too amused or exasperated about it. I still want them to bring up good books they've read, because maybe I haven't, or maybe I want to talk about the book; and it's got to be hard to know how to take it when a friend takes up your hobby as a profession.

It's just that it's different now, me and books, and it's hard to see when the change came. Was it the solitary writing summer in Oregon? Sitting on the floor outside the lab on first Olin, reading Joanna Russ while the experiment ran? Reading T.S. Eliot to Jen at the Coffee Hag? Having Timprov come tearing down the Wahlstrom stairs with the manuscript of "Gardens" in his hand, ready to browbeat me into submitting it somewhere?

I've often said that winning the Asimov Award gave me the confidence to actually go forward with this, to present myself as a writer to people and to submit stories and open myself up for rejection and make it a priority and always, always have another story idea and not hedge my bets. It was a catalyst. I'm just not sure how much of one. I'm not sure how long I would have lasted in physics without it anyway, because at the end of my sophomore year, a few months into keeping a journal, the wheels were already turning. The brain was already changing.

I've been talking to an old classmate/friend this week. Terri. We've been out of touch for four years, more or less; since graduation. She asked if I ever thought I'd end up a writer, and I had to say yes. Last she saw me, I thought I'd end up a physicist as well. But the work was not a change. Believing in the work, that was the change.

Sometimes I forget what it was like to really, truly not believe in what I was doing. I kid myself that my "down days," my low moods and discouragement are the same thing. They're not. I have a list of credits and some really exciting projects. I have solid things I can poke at. The difference in uncertainty between "I'll never write anything good" and "I'll never write anything else good" is much larger than we realize when we're in the moment.

Am I trying to say I've been having doubts about my work lately? Actually, no, not lately. Lately it's been a matter of making the time to work -- and I have been, just not in the quantities that I'd like. And I really need to just accustom myself to that. It's part of the hassle and headache of moving -- having less time. Also carving out time for specific things I want to do. Anyway, I don't know if it's just left no room for whining self-doubts or whether I'm doing good work when I can or whether I'm just not in that frame of mind for whatever other random reasons. I can remember what it was like to be that girl. But sometimes I have to try hard these days.

And that girl is really all Terri knows. When Timprov found her again and mentioned me, the only person she knew as me was the one who didn't have credits to her name, didn't have a bibliography, had just barely gotten anything finished that she'd be willing to see out in the world, had never written a novel that she was willing to let out into the light of day. That girl was still me, and I think Terri will be able to see the continuity. It seemed to me like a smaller bridge than when I got in touch with Matt again. It is a smaller bridge, a shorter road -- doesn't just seem that way. But it's still a bridge and a road. There's still a gap to cover, to fill in quickly. With Matt, I regarded it essentially as getting to know someone new with whom I had a few odd things in common (like attending RHS, for example -- that's an odd thing if ever I've seen one). But with Terri, it's not distant enough to work that way. She's not someone totally new to me at this point. That's interesting, too.

I like finding people again. I like finding people I cared about and finding that they cared about me, too. That's very nifty. I really hope there aren't old friends and acquaintances reading this journal and not telling me -- not because I don't want them to know my seeeeecrets, because this is the internet and nothing on it is a secret. But just because the reciprocity would be nice.

You know what I don't understand? People who write to authors to tell them they don't like a story. In detail. Also, people who don't seem to understand that when a story is published, the author has no incentive to go back and rewrite the ending, inserting government agencies and alien conspiracies that appeared nowhere in the story at all. I got one of these awhile ago, a woman talking about how I should change the aliens in "Drops of Yesterday," which had none to begin with. I tried to be nice. Don't know if she was miffed, but I just had to laugh. I wonder how often this will come up in the future, though. I hope I can continue to try to be nice then. It's a little bit annoying to have aliens put into a story without my consent, though, only to have someone suggest that I take them out again. Hey, other writer types, have you gotten anything like this? Anybody reading so far between the lines that you begin to suspect the pixels talk to them at night?

On a totally different note, Zed has written a bit about being a homeowner now. I appreciate any insights people have about necessities of owning a home. Zed needs an earthquake kit. So I thought about it. Me, I need blizzard supplies. Also tornado supplies in the spring. The blizzard supplies will be fairly easy, I think; I like to keep a full pantry most of the time, and as you have all seen by now, the pantry in this house rocks. Its fullness will be a thing of beauty. I will take pictures of my full pantry, that you may all appreciate its glory.

For now, I'll continue cleaning out our current fridge and pantry, a bit at a time. And there are a few things I'd like to get done today, but nothing truly urgent -- which is a good feeling for a change. Maybe I'll actually have weekends, since I've been dealing with people's work weeks with this mortgage stuff. That might be nice. I could enjoy that. A weekend. Huh.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.