(Twenty-five poems inspired by art.)
Ekphrastic Poetry Archive:
Ekphrastic 24/Death Note (coming Friday the 19th!)
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 Free fiction that always superseded the non-fiction in my bag that I’d packed the previous night for lunch, along with my inevitable peanut butter and spinach concoctions.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:
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.)
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:
It all started on Twitter. We were basking in the glow of Chicago’s Worldcon and missing that special feeling that comes from hanging out with friends at a convention.
John mentioned that if he went to next year’s Worldcon in San Antonio, he wanted to throw a glitter party for all the science fiction and fantasy people that he knows. Michael helpfully showed John a link to The Rollercade, San Antonio’s #1 roller skating rink that does black light/glow-in-the-dark roller skate parties. Not exactly a glitter party (and what was that anyway?) but pretty awesome nonetheless.
We decided in an instant that not only were we going to the San Antonio Worldcon, but that we had to go to The Rollercade for a glow-in-the-dark roller skating party.
But why just throw a glow-in-the-dark roller skating party when you can also make it a book release party? And what’s better than a glow-in-the-dark roller skating party celebrating a book about the secret history of 20th Century nightlife/party culture?
Nothing, that’s what.
So we’re editing, assembling, and printing an anthology as a co-production with Apex Publications between now and August of 2013 when we’re all in San Antonio for Worldcon. Yes, that’s foolish and overly optimistic, but it fits the title that Kat Howard unintentionally gave us: Glitter and Madness. Lynne quickly crafted a writing prompt:
Roller Derby, nightclubs, glam aliens, (literal) party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, etc.
Glitter & Madness will be published by Apex Publications and will feature a standalone novella from New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire set in her InCryptid universe. We also have commitments from other talented writers including Alan DeNiro, Amal El-Mohtar, Daryl Gregory, Damien Walters Grintalis, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Vylar Kaftan, Jennifer Pelland, Tim Pratt, Cat Rambo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Rowland, Sofia Samatar, David J. Schwartz, William Shunn, and Rachel Swirsky. There will be an open reading period so we can uncover glamorous writers that we’ve overlooked.
Lynne M. Thomas
Michael Damian Thomas
Yanked from the Glitter and Madness Kickstarter page. Support ‘em so we can read Seanan’s story. Also, debauchery. !
So, in the spirit of trying to shame myself into reading more, better material, I’m keeping track of every book I read this year. But the shaming, apparently, is failing. Why? My first pick: Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence. It was exactly as I expected it to be–which is to say, full of unrelenting rape and misogyny (and no, it’s not just the story). Actually, I read it because of the rape and misogyny. Because I like to feel sick and degraded. 
I’d write a review, but I think these two say all that needs to be said:
(Which isn’t a review, precisely, but is still enjoyable.)
 Uh, no. I read it because part of me enjoys raging at things, and also because there’s a lot (something?) to be learned from bad books.
Books read, 2013:
Prince of Thorns
Writing, publishing, money and glitter–or, some of the links currently taking over my digital floor. I like to keep clean, so I’m passing the mess off to you. Just for the record, the links themselves aren’t messy–they’re just making firefox crash. Really. That’s how many links I have open in my browser. (These are just a few.)
Quick and Dirty Submission Tricks (The advice here is actually good, not the usual McDonald’s fry-oil dreck you typically hear about submitting.)
The Financial Reality of a Genre Novelist (Something to depress you, if your world’s upholstered in skinned and tanned Edward Cullens. Personally, it made me happy; I like non-sparkly stuff.)
Glitter & Madness (I’ll let the project describe itself: A fiction anthology filled with Roller Derby, nightclubs, glam aliens, (literal) party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, etc…I contributed a couple dollars today, because giving away money’s a good thing. Because it encourages others to do the same–others who, hopefully, have more monetary value than I.)
I worry about losing myself to overexposure, harsh light. As if putting myself into publicly intimate words will erase me into non-existence. But look at that metaphor–it negates my fear. Espaliering and evisceration will give me knowledge. I’ll be my own intestine-oracle. Know myself better. And other people? Will think they know me better, but let’s be honest–good luck with that…
So I had this dream. Partly inspired, I think, by N.K. Jemisin‘s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. If you haven’t read the book, the main character (Yeine) has sex with the god of night, chaos and change while flying through the universe.  So–that was basically my dream, only I was fucked by Thor. I don’t actually remember the sex (probably thankfully), just that I had it with the god of thunder. And then, the dream jumped and I was watching my husband record growls for our upcoming EP in a co-worker’s car, while said co-worker was watching outside the window with her boyfriend.
Hm. (WHAT?) I just…dunno.
 Do I think I’m ego-brained and special? I think I’m ego-brained and special.
Maybe today, I’ll be a real writer. Because I said so. Because starting today, and for the next week and a half, I’m spending six hours a day locked to a chair, in a cafe with my laptop (resolutely ignoring the internet’s sirenic song) so I can finish The Damn Book. Isn’t it funny how people get these rules-for-being-a-REALLY REAL-artist embedded in their brains? You’re only an author if you sell something. You’re only an writer if you’re drunk and suicidal. You’re only a writer if you dig yourself a hole, crouch in it and write your epic in your own blood on your own skin, surviving only on fingernails and muse-piss.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been a writer since I was nine. A real one because, you know, I write things. But I don’t feel the need shove the fact in people’s faces. I don’t stagger about, spraying out my self-appointed title like it’s lifeblood (though writing does happen to constitute a good portion of mine) which can obviously only be shared and disseminated by ripping out my jugular and hosing everyone down with my hot hot true writer-ly AWESOME.
Like this woman I met at the teen writing club I used to coordinate. First, I was confused as to why a seventy year old showed up to an event with teen in the title. But everyone was comfortable with her being there, so the age difference didn’t matter. What did matter was her constant self-promotion. I write memoirs! I teach memoir-writing workshops! Writer’s Digest is publishing my book, so Ima Writer! All those things are awesome (except the Writer’s Digest bit. I am not impressed with anything Writer’s Digest-related. Unless it involves bonfires…), but really. Writers talk about writing. Not credentials. (I made that up. I have no idea what writers talk about, because we are human and weird and prone to tangents.) If you’re a writer, we’ll figure it out. Cause you’re at a writing club…
So anyway, I’m going to a cafe to finish my book, but really only so I can call myself a real writer. Or maybe it’s because nine years is far too long to work on a book and it needs to be done. Most people would say that if it’s taken that long, burn it. And I probably should. Only, I’m THIS close, so I’m going to finish the gods-damned thing and write the next one in five months. The. End.
We are scarce.
Make me want you.
The rose, ice-petaled and exhaling fog.
Her robot was a nice one.
It had loved her, but not enough.
To her luck, she had never loved it.
So things were good.
Then she met a man.
She loved him.
He loved his robot.
Hearts lined with machine oil.
Is that supposed to make us start?
Love me. Love me not.
Take me. Take me. Take.
This life is just ice.
Her eyes were wood grain.
Brown globes. No continents. A core, though.
Curl next to me.
Our serrated edges fit together.
Also, everyone should read this article in The New Yorker about The Hunger Games:
[Ekphrasis is art in reaction to art. Basically. And I don’t think about the art I consume enough. And I haven’t been writing poetry as much as I should. So every Friday, I’ll post an ekphrastic poem about whatever art I’ve been eating lately (books, poetry, anime, paintings, films, so on).]
Ekphrastic Poetry Archive:
Because I just went for a twelve mile run and refuse to eat until my dear lover wakes up, my empty stomach is too distracting to get any book-editing done till after I’ve eaten. In the meantime, articles on The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, and other book-related posts I’ve been reading.
I worry a lot about appropriation, because I write. And I try to write deep and complex and specific. I write about aliens, I write about earth goddess; I have characters who kill people, characters who are men who love other men and–naturally–have sex with other men, characters androgynous and aquatic with blue-silver skin, characters who are more swamp than human.
Keeping all this in mind, I obviously don’t just ‘write what I know.’ Strictly following that rule is an act of stupidity. I’m a writer, I’m a liar. I’m going to write what I like. But. I’m going to do it with care. And that means authenticity. It means specifics. It means research and heart, a lucid mind and sensitivity. Which is why I worry about appropriation. Taking someone else’s beloved, or painful or–or just heartclose experiences and basically raping them is not okay. And needless to say, I don’t want to do that. But, also needless to say, no matter how hard I try, I probably will.
So what to do? Write. Write. Write. Research. Talk, interact. Absorb. Observe. BE. Be human.
Yes, I’ll screw up. But hel, I was born, I exist. Screwing up is a way of life.
One way I try to minimize the screw-ups is by reading. By understanding the art I enjoy and, simultaneously opening my eyes to its flaws:
[Take note: I don't strictly agree with everything said in the following. Accord is not my purpose.]
These articles are about Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games. About how she’s basically emptiness shelled in badass. I like The Hunger Games. I grew up reading Hatchet (and the million books that followed thereafter) and Far North, My Side of the Mountain, Hungry for Home, Julie of the Wolves and essentially any book that involved trees and killing/wildcrafting to fill your belly. Add in wolves and I was a very happy, feral child indeed. The Hunger Games is all this (minus the wolves–no, the mutts don’t count), plus dystopia, another favorite thing of mine. But it still has its problems.
Another good article about The Hunger Games. This one, though, discusses not how screwed-up its characters are, but rather, its fans.
I like A Song of Ice and Fire, but we have our troubles, that series and I. This article touches upon some of them.
Also, an article about writing sex and what you DON’T know–Queering SFF: Writing Sex–To Do or Not To Do?
And, finally, just how much is Smaug’s treasure-hoard REALLY worth?
Below, you’ll find two of my favorite comments (by the same guy):
Since I no longer have professors cranking me on the rack, I have to stretch myself on my own. I like reaching for things without an extra set of shoulders, there’s a certain satisfaction you get from that, that can’t be tasted any other way. But sometimes it’s helpful to have a guide.
So I bought a book. It’s called The New Book of Forms (A Handbook of Poetics). Lewis Turco wrote it. It’s not full of prompts or tidbits of force-it-down-your-throat inspiration like some books on writing. It’s an encyclopedia, really–and, if you’re creative, it can become a mentor (a nice, quiet one that doesn’t berate you when you spend too much time trying to play the The Mars Volta’s Inertiatic ESP on the drums, instead of writing poetry). It’s like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Wordplay, only it doesn’t have a big, friendly DON’T PANIC on the front. With its help, I’m going to wander the land of poetic form. Every week, a new form, a new poem, posted here–probably to my complete and utterly well-deserved shame.
But you’ll get to laugh at my poetic failures and maybe (maybe) I’ll learn something.
Sometimes I think blogging wastes my time and divulges too much, but I’ve come to realize this: the hel it does. Doesn’t.
I blog more when I’m productive. For example: the past few weeks, sure, I’ve been completing Moss of Moonlight‘s album art, but beyond that, all I’ve done is finish A Clash of Swords, the first five volumes of The Walking Dead, start A Feast for Crows, do a lot of tabata, eat puffed millet and kimchi and tempeh (not at the same time), travel to my hometown and work full-time. Which is a lot, to be sure. But nothing productive (except that new album I’ve started recording with Brian Buller).
This week, however, I’ve plunged back into the editing of my book The Dream Tree (it’s time to finish this thing). Yesterday I made raw sunflower-rye flatbread and chocolate-avocado mousse, both lovely, and worked on the book. Today I ate the mousse and the flatbread, washed dishes all day, went for a bike ride, wrote, realized the only way to improve my double-kicking (it’s a drum thing) was to torture my left (my weak) foot into submission–and I blogged.
And this is why:
I have things to write about when I’m productive. Not that my entries are actually all that interesting, but if I blogged when I’m useless, when all I want to do is eat cacao nibs, bananas and peanut butter, and read. Read. Read.
I’m thinking no one wants to read about how I lay in bed for two hours (granted, after an intense workout, but nevermind that) nibbling organic cornpuffs and pumpkin butter, seeing how many kings George R. R. Martin can murder in a single book. Also, I’ve no motivation to write about that.
And I’ll be honest, I eat cornpuffs and read GRRM even when I am productive. But I do others things too, and blogging keeps me on task.
Sometimes I feel too many ideas could kill a girl.
But instead of dying, I’m just going to write.
This book’s been seven, eight years in the making and I’ve learned so much from it. About writing, about hungry aliens more human than human, maybe even a little about love. But it’s the next book that’s pushing me to finish the current one–I want to write this new story so badly. Not that The Dream Tree doesn’t have its own drive and flog pushing me forward. But there’s no discovery in the writing of it. I know the world, the people, too well. I like writing it. But it’s not shoving me along. I’m not its captive.
This new one, though. I think about it periodically, about how much I wanted to write this dark, absurd and tragic and hilarious science fiction that’s more about the humans than the technology. And this lust I have for this new story–it’s a really a good thing. Because it’s exactly what I need to finish The Dream Tree.
So I’ll wrap up the current book, all the while longing for starved drummers who eat only lemons, conniving shapeshifters who take over apartments, and elven vocalists that curb their manic depression with peeps (yes, the sugar-crusted baby chickens).
Catherynne Valente’s written this epic about mechagirls. I like it because it’s made me think about my own relationship with anime. For example, part of me (probably a really horrible part) loved High School of the Dead. Which contains swords, guns, zombies, and panty-shots (but mostly panty-shots).
It’s sad the materialization of women is so common that I felt no discomfort watching all twelve episodes. Sure, I felt silly. Stupid. And part of my brain probably rotted somewhere along the way. But hel, I had fun. Which isn’t an excuse. Never, never, never an excuse. I should be uncomfortable. (But because of the flesh-eating undead humans or the gratuitous lingerie close-ups?)
My intent for tonight, though, was not to write an essay on the objectification of women in anime. I just wanted to share a poem.
Make sure to listen and read at the same time. Catherynne Valente doesn’t speak in the drool-milking monotone some poets use–her voice here is more of a mildtone that still lets the poem’s music be heard. Even so, the reading’s subdued enough to be a fitting contrast to the DRAMA-saturated nature of (many an) anime, making the metal numbness of the mechagirl literally shine through. But part of me still wants her to read it like it’s a bad J-pop song (I know, how redundant of me).
Ekphrasis is art in reaction to art. Basically. And I don’t think about the art I consume enough. And I haven’t been writing poetry as much as I should. So every Friday, I’ll post an ekphrastic poem about whatever art I’ve been eating lately (books, poetry, anime, paintings, films, so on).
Ekphrastic 2/Blood Meridian
Eating from the bowl of an ancient infant skull
sawed in half
filled with mud
milked from the sun when she lived
in the black of a blackhole
existence at all points in time, all the space in between
how to drain your veins of crimson
dwell in a desert that has beneath it a sea of it
where the plants store it
and when you dig a hole it always fills with
blood which you do not drink
blood you let soak into the sand
for by bloodwaste you exist
for you are dust only dust
Ekphrastic Poetry Archive: