Yellow Rose of Texas

10 December 2001

It's Emily Dickinson's birthday. Which is why this entry title is what it is. You can sing a lot of her poems to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," as Connie Willis so kindly taught us all. (Or all of us who read that particular piece, anyway.) Just try it: "Beeeeecause I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me! The carriage held but just ourselves and Immortality...." Or else, "Iiiii died for beauty, but was scarce adjusted in the tomb! When one who died for truth was lain in an adjoining room...." See? Just right.

(I'm going to listen to some Ben Folds today to get this out of my head. Saturday it was "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain," "Pop Goes the Weasel," and the very worst songs from "My Fair Lady" and "Oliver." Argh.)

I have an article on Bose-Einstein Condensates at Strange Horizons this week. You should go read it! It's written for the lay person. One person said to me, "It's not that I don't like physics, it's that physics doesn't like me." Well, this is supposed to be friendly physics. And if it's not, let me know where you got lost, and I'll try to help.

Yesterday I played cribbage with Mark and read Analog and The Cancelled Czech. I really shouldn't have done that last, at the very least -- there's plenty of "work reading" I should have been doing, if I was going to be reading. But I needed a little light reading, and Lawrence Block never pretends to be deep. He doesn't care if he's deep. He cares whether he's told an interesting story. I can respect that. As for Analog, they started another serial. I hate serials. At least with Strange Horizons, they asked what people thought, so I was able to tell them: I hate serials. And now they know. They don't have to act on it, but I had a chance to say.

But Analog has solicited no such information from me, and I don't feel it's the absolute best thing for a young writer to go whining to Stan Schmidt about his serials. Especially because one of my complaints about Analog serials is that they are invariably by "names," so these books are getting published anyway -- the reader is getting nothing he/she couldn't already get by waiting another month. But I don't want that to sound like, "Make room for myyyyy stories," because that's not the point. The point is that I hate serials. At best, they're like listening to different movements of a symphony with weeks or months between them. At worst, the lines aren't divided along movements, they're divided along minutes. So it's like listening to a 20 minute chunk of a symphony, after which the orchestra puts down their instruments and leaves, and everybody goes home, only to show up the next month (week, whatever) to play another 20 minute chunk...sigh.

I also hate novels that end in mid-plot: oops! This isn't a real novel, it's a 600-page piece of an 1800-page novel! Sucker! I am then left emotionally suspended for at least another two years while the remaining 1200 pages are written and doled out. And then I can't win, if I wait and read them all as a chunk, because the author has to stick in connecting tissue at the beginning, so I have to keep reading summaries of what I just read. The Amber novels, much though I like them in other ways, are the worst this way. They were very short novels to begin with, and there are two plots in ten novels. And a lot of the short novel is summarizing information or reminding you of things you should have known from the previous book. Bah.

It's a hard balance, I know, and if you have an 1800 page story to tell, you're not going to have a happy time of it regardless. But I have a hard time thinking that some of these authors have done the best they could. There may be some bits of plot left hanging around, but they could shape the story arc so that there was some resolution at the end of each volume. I really think that's not too much to ask.

You have my permission to mock me mercilessly, if you should feel that I've done this very thing.

So the plan for today is to finish "MacArthur Station" while my hands are still doing okay, then to focus on reading stuff for the Not The Moose Book. Oh, and to continue reading Divine Intervention in my spare moments. My first thought was to encourage Timprov to read it first and review it right away so that I could take it on the plane (paperbacks are good that way), but then I decided, you know, if it's good, there are people who need Christmas presents....

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