Long Night Brain

7 November 2002

It's grey and rainy here, but insufficiently cold. If it was this grey at home, I'd be back to wearing my pea coat. You know what? I really like coats. If I was going to spend an insane amount of money on clothing, much of it would go to coats of various styles, colors, materials. Actually, much of it would go into tailoring so that I owned some garment, somewhere, that actually demonstrated that I have a waist. But I'm never going to spend an insane amount of money on clothing anyway, so it's a silly thing to worry about.

Grandma bought me a moose while we were at Rosedale (it was an easy meeting place for my friend Andrew to find us). It's soft and floppy and very cute, and it lives on the sofa for now. Next to the protruding spring. I also got some Finnish research materials at Ingebretsen's, and moose napkins for the I Finished The Book party (when I do finish it), and a moose stamp. My mom and Mark were teasing me about what a rack my moose stamp has. I love Ingebretsen's. We didn't even go into the textile half of it. Daddy ate some fresh lutefisk there. Mother and I Did Not. (But I did get lefse at Lund's.)

And the work itself went, and is going, beautifully. It was energizing to be home, and I was rereading bits of The Kalevala while I was there. I'm going to keep doing so, but it's a bit difficult, as I don't seem to be able to go through an entire poem without stopping to make notes on something for the book, to mark an image, to jot down a short story idea. Very fertile ground for me there, even more so than when I first read it. Sometimes I have to put it down to write another NTMB scene, inspired, though never directly, not this time.

And then, of course, the Icelandic YA had to come clear on Monday morning, so I've been thinking about that one. It's going to be gorgeous. I know it is. And after seeing Sharyn November on panels at World Fantasy, I want to send it to her. That whole "it's not written yet" thing is a problem there. Not a permanently insurmountable one, but I really do want to write the book I'm writing, so. I'm just making copious notes on the Icelandic YA (which isn't actually set in Iceland, it's set in a culture slightly offset from Iceland so that I can do what I want with the politics). I suppose Dwarf's Blood Mead is a terrible title for a YA, but I'm all pleased with the role Kvasir's mead plays in it, and with the prophecies in it in general and how they do the right things all wrong.

Is it a terrible title for a YA?

I'm a bit in the mood to watch movies, but I don't know that I'll be getting around to that any time soon. The rest of the "to do" list is daunting enough. And yesterday I cleaned the fridge before I went shopping because Mark has been snozzly, and he didn't know if he was allergic to something in the apartment, so I wanted to make sure we didn't have anything nasty in the bottom of our fridge that was producing allergies. Actually, that's not true. I cleaned the fridge because I didn't want to write the synopsis of the Not The Moose. But now I'm going to! Today! Soon!

Or else we'll have the cleanest house you've ever seen by tomorrow. Or both.

I'm putting something, anything in the CD player, because I've got Sheryl Crow songs stuck in my head. It started with "Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man" last night, naturally enough: "God, I feel like hell tonight...." I did. I was just wiped. Whumped. Beat-down, dog-tahrd, and half-daid, as Jen The World's Best Lab Partner often said. I'm still a bit like that, but I'm energized enough mentally by work that I can ignore the physical stuff a bit. (Not too much, Timprov, I promise.) Somehow, anyway, that morphed into "These are the days when anything goes: every day is a winding road!" We don't own any Sheryl Crow. I usually think of her as Not My Kind Of Thing. So...something else it is, then. (Sheryl Crow is one of those people I'll probably want a Greatest Hits album for...except that they'll include my two least favorite, cruddy Sheryl Crow songs on it, I just know it. I want an Elton John Greatest Hits, too, except that none of the things I think are cool were hits at all. I want to be able to buy the songs individually at high quality and have them burn my own CD! And this is why the music industry depresses me: I think they actively don't want me to have that, even if I'm willing to pay them for it.)

It's days like this that I would like to be a physicist still. Days when I have a million and one things to do. I don't want to be a physicist instead of my million and one things. No. In addition to. The more fun things I give my brain to chew on, the more it wants to chew on. And the more varied stuff it wants. I am in dire need of math, for example. I think if I could spend half an hour doing differential equations, that would be really great. I think I've done most of the diff equs we have in the house. I wish they made books of them. Like crossword puzzles, or those things where you have to figure out whether Alice, Betty, Cynthia, or Deirdre has a white house and a ruby ring and an Irish setter. Only with differential equations instead. I've mentioned this to several people, and some of them look thoughtful, and others give me the look like I ought to have my head examined very, very carefully.

Maybe Evan has some diff equs I haven't done yet. Evan, what books did you use, and do you still have them?

On the best panel I went to at World Fantasy, the awesome Sharyn November asked her fellow panelists (also awesome) what internal age they were, what age they felt most comfortable writing for. The logical top bits of my brain were saying, well, really, I can write protagonists at just about any age, for just about any age, and I have. And the insistent little voice said, very quietly, "Twelve."

Huh. The voice is right: I really am internally twelve, I think. When I do a YA, I almost always have a twelve-year-old narrator. Why? What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? But I do. When I was twelve, I read Beggars in Spain and A Brief History of Time, and I started to learn to flirt. It was a pretty big year.

The World Fantasy panelists who were talking about this almost all had a year -- eleven, usually -- when they had a great intellectual life and no hormones muddling things. I never had that year. I mean, I was a bright little kid and was encouraged not to limit myself, but the year I really got that I could participate in the life of the mind in a meaningful way, right then, whenever I wanted, I was twelve and already built more or less as you see me now. Breasts. Hips. Hormones. All that good stuff. When I thought about it, I think it turned out well that way: I had to integrate stuff, I couldn't separate out sexuality and intellectualism and compartmentalize them in my life.

Several of them also talked about emerging from their mental fuzz of hormones just before or during college, and that's not familiar to me, either. I'm only 24, so I suppose it's possible that I just haven't gotten there yet, but I think it's just a difference in worldview. Maybe. I'll let you know if I have a sudden clarity that wasn't there before. But frankly, I don't feel particularly muddled, and I didn't in late high school or college, either. Some things were difficult and confusing, but I think they were genuinely difficult and confusing, not just me being fuzzy-headed.

(You know who is awesome from that panel, and I didn't know it? Delia Sherman. I have no idea how she is as a person, but after seeing her on panels at World Fantasy and WorldCon, and after reading The Fall of the Kings [which I recommend! Sex! Politics! History! More sex!], I trust her. As a writer, I mean. I trust that her characters may not be sensible but will be sensical, as in, opposite of nonsensical. I trust that she has a strong enough sense of history to realize that things have antecedents, so she won't just pull cultural norms she likes out of an orifice. I have become an increasingly cranky reader over the last few years, and so it's so much more of a relief to read someone who does not make me cranky. And is also interesting in other ways. Caroline. Marymary. Julie. Go read this one. The rest of you, too.)

Several times on the YA panels, someone said the words "totally inappropriate," and confused me mightily. I was the kind of little kid Madeleine L'Engle talks about: if I didn't understand something (largely sexuality stuff when I was in the 7-to-10-year-old range), I wasn't particularly interested in it. I adored blood and politics from a fairly young age. Blood and symbolism was good, too. Just blood was no good, but that was because it was boring rather than because I was all that disturbed. My stomach twisted when characters lied to each other and betrayed each other, but heck, it still does that. So the idea of totally inappropriate books for an age kind of confused me.

Then I spent part of an evening with my cousin Rebecca, age 10. Rebecca and I have a lot in common, and I love the kid, but we also have some pretty big differences. One of them is that she's the kind of kid to get nightmares from things that are too nasty for her, movies or books or whatever. After that, the concept of totally inappropriate books sunk in a bit better -- especially because she was a sorceress for Halloween, so it was clear that it wasn't just that she has no interest in fantasy or that it's not "her kind of thing." Hmm. I'll have to read the rest of the Pamela Dean YA series once it's re-released and see how it goes for a recommendation for her. (Yeah, sure, that's why I'll read it: it's all for the children. I'm such a humanitarian.) Maybe. I've been on a Westmark kick (great stuff! Read it!), but The Kestrel, the second book in that series, is pretty much the epitome of blood-and-politics books.

I'm still not sure this is a function of her age and not of her personality. She may just never like sex, blood, and politics in her novels. My grandma doesn't. But it gave me a bit better grasp on what people were talking about with it.

It will surprise no one that I read a good bit on this trip. I read Nick Hornby's About A Boy, Pat Barker's Another World, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's The Disappeared, and most of Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds on the plane out. The Hughart was fine, but I kept being annoyed with it for not being Lori's book, of which I have only read the first section. It never claimed to be Lori's book. I really shouldn't have been annoyed. But I wanted to read Lori's book, and this was a different historical Chinese fantasy novel instead. Bah. I also read O Holy Cow! (baseball announcing as poetry), Kent Haruf's Plainsong (for Bobbie's book club: not recommended), Primo Levi's The Reawakening, a less-than-useful book called The Lost Daughters of China, Joanna Russ' Extra(Ordinary) People, Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (why, oh why, do some people find quotation marks extraneous?), Kate Wilhelm's Let the Fire Fall (you knew you had to be a Wilhelm in here somewhere, didn't you?), Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan, Gary Paulsen's The Winter Room, Italo Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight and the Cloven Viscount, James Hetley's The Summer Country, Cecilia Dart-Thornton's The Ill-Made Mute, and Inkeri Väänänen-Jensen's The Fish of Gold and Other Finnish Folk Tales. When I look at it as a list like that, there was remarkably little outstanding in it, for all that I read. The Singh was good, and it did some work to counter my Rushdie-dominated view of Indian lit in English. It was almost the anti-Rushdie: brief, concrete. Not at all rococo. I enjoyed it, although I do enjoy Rushdie, too. Oh, and the Primo Levi was good, but it didn't go as far as I'd hoped it would, temporally speaking. Perhaps he has another book that goes further. I'll have to find out.

I got my fix from my supplier yesterday: more spiced blackberry jam. Yum. Also, my grandparents' copies of my nonfiction books finally popped up, the day after the post office swore it didn't have them. I'm not sure if this should be reassuring or not.

For dinner last night, Mark and I had beef and rice stuff that Timprov hates, and I think I'm going to poach some pears this weekend. Producing another smell he hates, but giving it time to dissipate before he gets back. Those are the only things I can think of to make specifically while he's gone, though.

Ramble, ramble. I'm doing this and reading Columbine's Mei Wah stuff because I am not in the mood to write a synopsis. Do you know how you can tell I'm not in the mood to write a synopsis? I'm breathing. That's how. Ah well. I can do it. I've got half my brain in The Long Night anyway, so it should be fairly easy, comparatively. A good bit of the time I really feel the difference between Midnight Sun Brain and Long Night Brain. Long Night Brain is a little scary, but definitely worth the scare. The World Builders was definitely a Midnight Sun Brain book. This one, despite the presence of the Midnight Sun days in the third section, is a Long Night Brain book. It's kind of nice that both kinds of brain get to write books.

It's nice that I get to write books. So I think I will now.

Back to Morphism.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.