6 October 2002
Dizziness and intermittent nosebleeds! Hurrah! What a great way to start a Sunday!
On the up side, yesterday was a very good baseball day. Four games, and three of them had the outcome I wanted. The Angels knocked the damnYankees out of contention, the Cards did the same for the Dbacks, and the Twins beat the A's and brought it all down to the last game, today. Which we will be watching. Of course. (Although as the Dbacks were putting Kim in to pitch, I said to Mark, "I can do Aunt Dor for you, if you want. I know exactly what she's saying." He declined, being perfectly well able to hear Aunt Doris in his own head.)
I read a lot yesterday. A lot. I don't know why it was such a big reading day for me. I finished Staying On, which was all right, interesting, worth finishing. I read The Chinese Experience in America, which was not as helpful as one might have hoped but still was a decent bit of research. I read Mary Gentle's The Architecture of Desire, which I actually liked quite a bit. I'd like to read a sequel, or even something else in the same world. The only thing that really got at me with it was the way the main character's husband's weight was handled. He was fat. And we had to hear about it in nearly every sentence that contained him. She didn't stoop to tagging any of the dialog "he said fatly," but it was a near thing. A very near thing. And he was a positive character -- he had his flaws, but he was talented and loyal and good at making his wife laugh, and their sex life was portrayed in a pretty positive way. So it wasn't like that Paul McAuley book, I forget which one, where he was constantly on about how fat a character was, in a way that seemed to be intended to provoke disgust with the character in the reader. It wasn't offensive. It was just annoying. If I'd been critiquing it for writing group, I'd have started writing "We know" and "No kidding" in the margins about a chapter in, and then just underlining all the references without comment. Still, I'll probably read at least a few more Mary Gentle books now. Worth my time. Not a world-shaking plot. A person-shaking plot. Sometimes better.
After that, I read a bunch of clippings my folks sent from the Omaha paper, and then I finished reading Avi's novel fragment for the next writing group meeting (don't know when that'll be). And then I started Michael Cuneo's American Exorcism, recommended by Alec. It's really interesting so far. It's about the subcultures of people who have and perform exorcisms in the last 50 years. Fairly respectful of people's beliefs without overlooking explanations for their behavior outside their belief system. I'm a little over halfway through, and I'm sure I'll finish it today. Especially if I don't get less dizzy, quickly.
I get kind of frustrated with myself when I have to lean on things all morning.
I was writing to Scott about why I like the Barenaked Ladies (so it's a good thing Scott's used to long e-mails from me, right?), and I came to the conclusion that a lot of artists are the world's least efficient people. Most people, if they want to know what they think about something, just think some more. Or read up on it, ask other people, talk it through, think some more. But sometimes I do all that and still feel the need to write a short story to figure out what I think. Sometimes an entire novel. Sometimes an entire series, actually. And I can hear in some BNL songs -- "I Live With It Every Day," for example -- that they're doing something sort of similar. Find an angle. Poke at it. Find a different angle. Poke again. I've seen it in other people's work, too.
And I have to say, I like stuff like that, in stories and in songs, my own and other people's, better than I like the stuff where they already knew what they thought. I like Tracy Chapman, and I like "Behind the Wall," but I think "I Live With It Every Day" is a much more interesting study of violence. I don't mind when songs deal with issues, or when they Deal With Issues -- heck, I listen to folk music, and if somebody isn't dying in a folk song, they're joining a union. But the offbeat, "what the heck are they on about now?" issues, or the entirely personal issues, or the intersections of the two are mostly more interesting to me.
I'm interested in a fairly wide variety of people's thoughts and impressions -- look at the reading list above, from yesterday alone. I read a lot of stuff. So it doesn't strike me as particularly difficult to believe that other people might be interested in my exploration of something totally and obscurely personal. Like my first impulses when people I love have a problem, for example, on a much more dramatic scale with ideas about talent and application in art, and some architecture geekery. I can't always come up with who would want to read my stuff, but my reaction is almost always, oh, yeah, if I do that right, someone will want to read it, charge!
The "charge!" part is fairly important.
We pause to sing along with The Presidents of the United States of America: "Everybody wants to be naked and famous, everybody wants to be just like me, I'm naked. Aaaaaand famous." Okay, so I'm neither naked nor famous, but the thirty-foot smurf song amuses me. And perhaps at some point in the future I will be both. I think I'll have to dance around singing this song, at that point. Even if it's just in my bedroom. That would be fun.
Especially if I wasn't dizzy then. Grrrrrr. Naked, famous, and not dizzy. Okay, well, we have a set of goals, at least.
Anyway. Where were we. Charge! Right. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about who's going to buy a particular story. Well -- I do spend a lot of time worrying about who's going to buy a particular story, but it doesn't matter whether that story is very firmly entrenched in a specific genre or not. Enough people are publicly and firmly committed to expanding the boundaries of genre that I don't fuss too much about that part. Zak and Columbine have both been discussing their own worries about genre, and both of them have mentioned sex in their stories as a factor of concern in getting published. This confuses me a bit, considering how much sex there is in novels I read. Even magazines like F&SF accept stories that were originally intended to go to erotica anthologies, or so I hear lately. Am I just reading all the smutty stuff? When Sarah had a colleague who wanted sex-free books to give to her kid, I had a really hard time coming up with them. I just finished a book wherein the sympathetic main character had to deal ethically with her own act of sexual violence. Said act was depicted graphically enough that the reader could not excuse the main character. It was in a fantasy novel, published by non-erotica fantasy novel folks. And it leaves me wondering what, exactly, is off limits.
That sounds like a question to make a point, and that point would be that nothing is off limits, go sell your work, tra la. But I really do want to know: what do you guys think is off limits for a non-erotica genre novel? What content is prohibited? And how do you know that it is, or why do you think so?
Having run out of steam here, I'm going to come up with a title (I swear, when I do the journal redesign, titles are gone) and sit my dizzy self on the couch to read more about exorcisms. And other stuff. Have a good end to your weekend. Go Twins. Etc.
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