the velocity of inwards

If you couldn’t tell from the exponential upspike in fanart production, I started rereading The Silmarillion last week. I’m participating in the Tolkienreadalong on tumblr (Team Angband ftw!), and it’s serving well to feed the fannish hunger I’ve had these past few months. But it’s also been a reminder: I like being wholehearted.  I consume consumption. I have this urge to find new obsessions or sustain old ones. But sometime I have to remember to hold back.

We’re only one week into The Silmarillion and won’t be finished till November, yet I’m already trying hard not to kick through the whole book this very instant. I want to pace myself, so I’m going slow.  What’s the point of participating in a readalong if you’re not actually going to read along? I’m in this for the neck-deep onslaught of intestinal Middle Earth  mayhem (and all the dark lords ever), but it’s the ‘along’ bit that I’m excited about. Being in the same ephemeral headspace as a couple thousand others, seeing the divergent and intersecting bookspawn people create via headcannons, meta, fanart/fic/vid (I mean hel, we already have a booty dancing Annatar–aka Sauron–video)–it’s a glorious leviathan overload of community, and I want to ride with it, not ahead of it.

I guess it’s as simple as I don’t want to be alone. Especially not with The Silmarillion. One, it’s vast, and sometimes silly and wonderful in its vastness, and these are not things that should be bibliomaniacally imbibed on one’s own. For example: it’s one thing to think to myself, Melkor is a metal god, and quite another to see a billion fanartists in pen-and-inked-accord with this thought. Also, it’s been years since I last read the book, but I have no doubt this reread will prove The Silmarillion to be problematic; I’ll catch some of the terribleness, but not all of it. In other words: bring on the meta-tons of destructive criticism. In the meantime, I’m going to teach myself how to slow down.

 

new poem up at strange horizons

new poem up at strange horizons

MY HAUNTING IS A LOAMY SKELETON…

or so begins my new poem, Ekphrastic 22/The Drowning Girl, now up at Strange Horizons, as part of their special speculative poetry issue.  It features a number of excellent poets, and poems (I recommend Jessy Randall’s Food Diary of Gark the Troll, and Rose Lemberg’s The Rotten Leaf Cantata).

When I first wrote Ekphrastic 22/The Drowning Girl, I said this about it:

…(an) ekphrasis made by the book I’m sharing my bed with now.  The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan.  It’s a haunting of a book; already it’s dredged up echoes in me.  I dreamt with the light on last night, and felt the resounding truths all day at work (two pieces of sausage in a cup of soup, a ribcage in what I wish were the wind, empty bowls, crab forks).  (Will write them down later.)

Anyway, many thanks to Sonya Taaffe for contacting me about this piece.  I’m glad it’s found a home outside my skull (both bloggish and bone).

Fandom’s OTP: fanfic/folklore

Is fanfic the new folklore?

That’s the thought that’s been pacing in my skull for seven days (and counting).  Ultimately, my answer is probably no.  But I can’t stop thinking about fic in relation to other things.  I’ve spent half a decade avoiding fan-communities/works, because as much as I love it all, getting involved is hugely invasive and hungry for attention–and then Mjolnir struck me in the ribcage, cracking it open for heart-access, and when I got up, it was with obsession.  The THOR/Norsk fandom wriggled in past my cracked ribs, crawled up my throat, and eventually settled in with my (very few) intellectual faculties.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a  lot about folklore, and literature, and the headstrong crossover between the  two, mythpunk*.  With the appearance of an old obsession (fanfic/art),  all these electrochemical signals naturally collided with all the force of mid-Ginnungagap (am I giving myself too much credit?  I am.),  and I began noting the similarities between fanfiction and folklore.

(Warning: most of this is brain-vomit.  I’m just letting my thoughts dance about unchecked.)

Obviously, there’s a lot of fic that spins around rewriting lore, replacing traditional characters with, say, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin; tweaking gender roles;  contorting tropes to better fit plotlines and character arcs; and, of course, the addition of lots (and LOTS) of sex (not that folklore shies from fucking–it just tends to be more graphic and long-winded in fanfic).  This use of lore is especially prevalent in the THOR fandom–which is only to be expected, given the source material, though in this case, replacing the characters isn’t always necessary.  However, the re-imaginings are frequently slant, are often re-imaginings of re-imaginings, as a lot of fic  is based on the movies, which are based on the comics–etc, etc, you know what I mean; stories are reincarnations of stories are reincarnations of stories; it’s just the nature of the beast…

Anyway, my point is folklore can be like fanfiction: a retelling.

Call them tropes, stereotypes, fanon, canon, tale-types, or motifs plucked from the Aarne-Thompson Index–fanfiction, like folklore, is full of repetition, darkened mirrors, and doppelgangers.  Think of the endless pairings, the descriptions (hurt/comfort, angst, AU, PWP, etc)–they’re all filters, methods for us to pick and choose how we like to feel.  To find a new iteration of the familiar.  I often read fanfic for the experience, to get that certain clutching of the upper-chest and throat, to find an emotion catharsis, to experience the characters I obsess over, until they’re more, deeper, than obsessions–until they become human.

Perhaps that’s elevating fanfic too high.  But maybe not.  What do we seek in fanfic?  Humanity–a potent, emotive dose of humanity.  And isn’t folklore for learning about humanity, for feeling it like a punch to the gut?  The stories aren’t always right, sometimes they say wrong things, and in this way, reveal the many, amazingly snarly, nasty truths about the nature of human creatures–but all the repetition that occurs in lore, all the circling, all the  characters with news faces, but familiar hearts?  Sometimes, it’s all just the human-beast’s collective voice speaking to us.

So maybe folklore and fanfic are just two different voices speaking to, and of, the same spinal things in us.  Folklore’s a primal, bone-fed voice; fanfic is a spitfire tale-spinner that feasts on and subverts our memetic hearts.

*For the record, I don’t think mythpunk has much to do with the bridge between fanfic and folklore, as I don’t feel that bridge is particularly anarchic in nature.  But mythpunk’s been on my brain, so I mentioned it.  I think the reason it came to mind is that there may be a parallel relationship between mythpunk and myth-driven fanfic (mythfic?)…

once, a short story killed me

once, a short story killed me

I recently read two books that gently removed my brain, fiddled with it as softly as a piranha eating breakfast, and put it back in all reconfigured, chewed upon, and terrible.  The first  was At the Mouth of the River of Bees, by Kij Johnson.  The other was Catherynne Valente’s The Melancholy of Mechagirl.  Both short story collections, both heart-eaters.

Before this year, I wasn’t sure what I thought of short stories.  I knew I couldn’t write them, and wasn’t sure I liked reading them.    I certainly hadn’t read many of them.  But because my attempts at making them always churned out glittery, half-masticated beasts with broken legs, I knew it was time to get better.  This meant reading, because as a writer, reading is possibly the second most important thing to do (the first involves going outside and letting life punch you in the gut—again and again and again).

So I went to Clarkesworld.  I read some E. Lily Yu (who I love, and please, Ms. Yu, won’t you finish your novel so I can eat it?) and then listened to some more E. Lily Yu, while I was working on this piece (which explains why the elk in the drawing looks a little tragic).  But as much as I inhaled those pieces, short stories still weren’t utterly my thing.  So I decided to trick my self.  I got a couple collections, which are like novels-in-disguise (because when you sardine a bunch of stories between two bread-like covers, you get something that looks pretty much like a book).  I began with Wonders of the Invisible World, because this review said it wasn’t going to be “like consuming a box of crackers.”  And it was right!  The stories in this book are not crackers.  Or at least, they aren’t saltines.  They’re more like pita chips–far more delicious, but still missing something (hummus, obviously).

The next collection I read was At the Mouth of the River of Bees.  It contains The Man who Bridged the Mist, which won the 2012 Hugo Award for best novella.  Whatever your thoughts on the Hugos, this probably means it may have been pretty good.   At the moment, I don’t feel like commenting on the Hugos (just don’t want to dive into that particular bag of slugs just this moment), but the story is most definitely good, and most definitely deserving.

What happened after Bees was an accident.  I never meant to buy Catherynne Valente’s The Melancholy of Mechagirl–though I desperately wanted to (after all, it in contains my favorite poem ever in print form).  But then I was writing this paper about myth and story and hearts and robots–and suddenly, this book became very necessary.  So I bought it, because I had a reasonable excuse (wanting something so badly I found a way to trick myself–again–into getting it).

At this point, you might want to know more about the piranhas and brain-eating I mentioned earlier.    It’s this: because of these two books, I love short stories so hard right now.  I’m learning so much about form, and what a short story can be, sometimes I can hear my brain clanking around in my skull it’s still so shock-frozen (the piranhas obviously have ice-picks for teeth).

Now for the funny thing: I just sold my first story, to Shimmer–a story I wrote months before reading these books.  So, while I’m not so confident I feel could free climb El Capitan, I’m feeling a bit better about my ability to write short pieces.  I have a number of new stories with sharper edges, that do stranger things with stronger grins, and soon they’ll be sent out–and if I’m lucky,  find homes.

The piranhas ate my brains, but they left a few scraps, a few loose teeth, and right now, I think I can feel it all regenerating.

Omphaloskepsis (on preparing a book for rejection)

I’ve written this quirky novel called Fable, and I’m going to submit it to this quirky publisher called Chromatic Press.  There.  I’ve found my beginning and end.  The middle, the spine connecting head to tail, is (as always) the hard part.  All those tricksy vertebrae…

Fable is the story of Moss, an anorexic, A-sexual drummer, who’s spinning  circles in the emotional wasteland left to him by his suicidal parents.  It’s also about Phoenix–half fire, half human pop artist extraordinaire–who’s come to earth to murder her father.  When she and Moss cross paths, they upend each others’ lives to the point of no return.

So, the spine: what comes between  writing a novel, and sending it out  for rejection.  This is what Chromatic requires, and thus, it’s what must be done before I press send.

    1. Edit the hel out of it.  (More than I already have, which must mean I’m dealing with Dante’s Hell.  I’ve got eight levels to go.)
    2. Write a pitch.  (See above.)
    3. Outline the novel chapter-by-chapter.
    4. Polish my resume.

But this is all grubfood (even if it’s a tiny bit contextual and specific to Chromatic Press), things you know (or should know) already, even if you’re a writer who knows nothing.  So why blog this?

Mostly, I’m just working my finger jaws, trying to get all the shiit out of my system, so it’s gone before I start editing.  Because I’d rather my manuscript be free of E coli and anything else that might scare off readers.

Only, I don’t want it to be clean.  Fable is quite dirty, actually: there’s sex, and you know, that stuff’s pretty nasty.  There’s also honesty (so much messier than lying), and people doing that stupid thing where they yell at each other over and over and over, because anger is the only way they can express their love for each other. (I say stupid, but there’s a certain logic to anger as an expression of love, the intensity and focus of it…)

Still, an E coli-free book is probably a better read than one that’s not.  Because no one likes fecal matter in their word-food.

My Books are Cannibals

Each time I finish writing a book, I look up, wondering why the sound of battle has yet to fade.  Why I haven’t transcended, why my brain doesn’t suddenly feel fat with wisdom, why I haven’t sprouted myself a lovely pair of goat horns that spew story like Loki shoves out baby Sleipnirs.  Actually, that’s exactly what my process is like, already–minus the horns and the eight-legged horses.

But I really would like a pair of goat horns.  How useful they’d be, for ramming into things when I’m lacking catharsis even after writing THE END on the last page (which , by the way, is something I never do.  Nothing’s ever done.).

I don’t have goat horns, though.  (Cavan has a giant cow’s horn, but there’s only the one, and it’s not growing out of my skull–how useless.)   So instead of smashing things, I go out and buy myself a book.  It’s helpful to remind myself I’m not alone in this bloody cycle.  More importantly, it’s good to know that some people make the rounds with gore-stained swords and oily guns–I might not be to that point yet myself  (I’m still using my canines and ragged nails), but it’s good to see that advanced weaponry exists.

There’s another reason I  buy myself a book after I’ve finished writing one, though.  The real reason.  I buy these books to forget; somehow plunging headfirst into the toothy baby some wretched author birthed makes me forget that the baby (the, uh, process–the writing) exists in the first place.  I mean, hel.  After I finished The Dream Tree, I bought myself A Dance with DragonsProblematic, but entertaining.

A week ago, I finished another book (it has a name: FABLE).  This time, I’m choosing to climb inside the baby’s mouth.  I will stay awake to the cycle of teeth, but I’ll do it from the comfort of a well-cushioned baby’s-tongue.  (What have I DONE to this analogy?)  Which begs the question, of course–just what sweet, hungry book have I chosen this time ’round?

Since you’ve kept on reading past the bit about the baby’s tongue, I’ll reward you with an answer:

At the Mouth of the River of Bees, by Kij Johnson.

When I’ve finished reading it, I’ll let you know if I feel gnawed, replete, or just slimy with milkblood baby spit.

Ekphrastic Poems

(Twenty-five poems inspired by art.)

Ekphrastic Poetry Archive:

Ekphrastic 1/RIN: Daughters of Mnemosyne

Ekphrastic 2/Blood Meridian

Ekphrastic 3/The Walking Dead

Ekphrastic 4/ A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords

Ekphrastic 5/Sextraterrestrial

Ekphrastic 6/Andrej Pejic

Ekphrastic 7/A Study in Aphroxology

Ekphrastic 8/雲のむこう、約束の場所 (The Place Promised in our Early Days)

Ekphrastic 9/Breaking Bad

Ekphrastic 10/The Hunger Games

Ekphrastc 11/Jessica Naomi

Ekphrastic 12/The Fifth Element

Ekphrastic 13/Redline

Ekphrastic 14/Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ekphrastic 15/gored

Ekphrastic 16/Remedy Lane

Ekphrastic 17/Basilisk

Ekphrastic 18/Fudoki

Ekphrastic 19/Sisters, Pain of Salvation (Sean Thomas covers)

Ekphrastic 20/Wonders of the Invisible World

Ekphrastic 21/With the End in Mind

Ekphrastic 22/The Drowning Girl

Ekphrastic 23/The Drowning Girl: A Memoir

Ekphrastic 24/Death Note (coming Friday the 19th!)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middle Earth

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middle Earth

I like fiction like I like peanut butter–I eat it like it’s Apocalypse Eve. (In my apartment, a jar of nut butter disappears in three days–two and a half, if I’m being honest.) So I have to trick myself into reading non-fiction by having no other lunch-reading material at work.

At my previous job, I had wifi. I also had lots of dishes to wash, so my iPod accompanied me everywhere (because dishwashers require a constant ear-injection of black, battle and power metal to wash things quick and efficient) which meant easy access to said wifi, and thusly, easy access to free fiction. Free fiction that always superseded the non-fiction in my bag that I’d packed the previous night for lunch, along with my inevitable peanut butter and spinach concoctions.

(Some people might equate non-fiction reading to vegetable consumption–only, I love vegetables. While I appreciate non-fiction, I don’t inhale it quite like I do, say, kale. Kale I eat like other people eat bread.)

Travels through Middle Earth, the path of a Saxon pagan is the first non-fiction book I’ve finished in far too long. It’s written in simple, homely prose, which makes it quick to absorb. I read it mostly for short story research, and it gave me exactly what I wanted from it: a brief, biased (but openly so) peek at Anglo Saxon paganism. Didn’t get too much from it except the very basics (I expected–and would have like–a larger dose of personal experience, as the latter half of the book’s title implies)–and lots about mead, and other mead-related booze.  (But that’s to be expected–this being about Saxon paganism–and anyway, I like reading about edibles, so no complaints here.) There’s still more research needed before I feel comfortable writing the story, but this book was a good place to dig my fingers into the dirt. More hole digging (uh, research…what the hel kind of metaphor IS this, anyway?) to follow.

………………………………………………….

Books read, 2013:

2312
Prince of Thorns
Wonders of the Invisible World
Travels through Middle Earth, the path of a Saxon pagan

the man-factory

Mosh-pit disaster-preparedness, phallic stuff, a garden of books.  Also, why I love doing dishes.  And enough links to feast upon:

The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 174): Inteview with Seanan McGuire (So.  I listen to anything that involves Seanan talking.  Because she gives the best interviews.  Really.  And has quirky loves like I do (disease! zombie-preparedness!).  Also, check out the SF Squeecast, of which she’s a part of.  Just saw they posted an new episode, and thought something along the lines of–Hel yes!  Dishes!  because I like to keep my hands busy with mindless tasks while I listen to podcasts.  S0: SF Squeecast means the only time I scrub things with verve.)

Why I don’t Own a Firearm (Disseminating pointless writing advice.  This article explains one–of many reasons–I stopped reading Writer’s Digest.  Also, there’s brainsplatter, which I always enjoy.)

Ephemeral Garden of Decomposing Books (Books and decay, two of my favorite things.)

Mosh pits could aid could aid disaster planning (Need I say more?  No.)

Is this bestselling fantasy author sexist? (So, I was thinking of reading Rothfuss.  But had this…suspicion, probably inserted into my brain due to all the reading I do concerning sf/f and sexism…after investigating this suspicion, I think–instead–I’ll start on a piece that’s been called the best book of 2012 by numerous parties.  Also: if you ever doubted straight white men are basically churned out of a fucking factory–more on sexism and brainless writing.)

celestial wolves

celestial wolves

I don’t use bookmarks because I’m paranoid that someday I’ll lose my mind. You’d think I’d try to find some better insurance against memory loss, but Escher made my brain-mechanics. Which probably spells doom for me either way. But I’m hoping that memorizing page numbers will save me from Alzheimer’s.

There was a point to all this.

Oh. Right. I forgot, just like I forgot to finish Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book, 2312–which happens to be why I started this post in the first place. So, the book: I started it, gobbled it, and then stopped reading the thing five pages from the end. Why? That’s a question I can’t answer. All I know is that I’m a little in love with the main character, Swan–a wolf-chasing sculptor of planets who runs around the solar-system trying to solve the mystery of her Mercurial city’s murder. Among other things. (Of which there are many.)

Sometimes I felt distant –the pain Swan’s supposed to feel when her grandmother, her ‘everything,’ dies never resounded–but you, know, she ate some aliens once, which makes her a little extra-terrestrial, so resonance probably isn’t what I’m supposed to feel. And yet. In those last five pages, I was grinning so hard when she finally (silently, Swanishly) said yes to her toad-ish lover. And, of course, I share infrasonics with her, for the wolves and her feral depth.

So maybe I’m confused, maybe our aortas tangled a little–but it was the alien in her that knotted us together, no so much her humanity. Which seems to speak of how we humans are as disparate as the elements–and as inseparable. Which, in turn, speaks to the core of the book: spacers verses earthlings, spacers as earthlings, earthlings with space-longings. We are star-stuff.

………………………………………………….

Books read, 2013:

2312
Prince of Thorns
Wonders of the Invisible World