This is late because yesterday we took a day off to see some of the area we hadn’t seen yet. One such was the covered bridge at Salisbury Center, NY. It was built in 1875 to span Spruce Creek and is still in use to this day, though as the warning sign indicates, with caveats.
Both Present and Coming Soon is one way to describe Beneath Ceaseless Skies Special Double Issue #250, in that part of the issue went live on April 26th, containing stories by K.J. Parker and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Part 2 will go live on May 3rd (Thursday) with the balance of the issue, which is “Silence in Blue Glass” by Margaret Ronald (you gotta love that title) and “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” which is the longest title I’ve ever used for any story, so unlikely anyone will remember it. Just remember this coming Thursday. The link is up there.
This is the third story in the adventures of Jing, Mei Li, and Pan Bao, which officially makes it a series, by my definition, though I’m at the point of wondering where it’s going to go, as in remain short stories or eventually morphing into novels, the way Yamada did. Plus I’m wondering just how long I really should spend in 5th C BC Warring States Period of what will eventually become China. There are other things I need to write and only so many usable hours in the day. Not to mention we’ve started yet another major DIY renovation project with its own demands.
I’ll sort it out, which is just another way of saying it isn’t sorted at all, yet.
Weird weather yesterday. First it snowed for fifteen minutes to a half hour, then the sun came out and melted the snow, then the clouds came back and it snowed again. Lather, rinse, repeat all day long. It felt something like being back in MS, getting the remnants of whatever latest hurricane had just pounded the coast. What we got further inland (other than wind) were bands of cloud and rain, one after the other until the storm completely dissipated. Substitute snow for rain and you get the same effect.
Speaking of conditions—other than weather—I’m going to talk a little about writing conditions, as in conditions favorable for getting something, anything, done. It’s a bit Captain Obvious to point out that this varies. Some people can work anywhere, such as a bookstore display window, which Harlan Ellison has famously done. Or in crowded, noisy coffee shops, which is so common as to be a cliché, these days. I’ve never needed an ivory tower myself, which is a darn good thing considering the rent. My only real need, however, I have to express as a negative.
I do not need a television screen anywhere within sight of me.
See, I was a TV baby, one of the generation that grew up after the darn things were ubiquitous. My earliest exposure to f/sf was not Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, or Robert Heinlein. Nope. It was (really dating myself even more now) The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Fireball XL-5 (to this day I can still sing that hokey theme song). Books came later, but at least they did arrive, thank goodness, but I never did completely escape the boob tube’s clutches. To this day, if one is on within sight of me it draws my attention, no matter what crap is on. I’m not proud of it, but that’s just the way it is. When I was a kid I would often do homework watching the Adam West Batman or Dark Shadows with no problem at all. However, I’ve tried writing in front of a TV and it’s just impossible. The best I ever managed was, while living in a small apartment, writing with my back turned to it where it functioned more like a radio. In that configuration I could turn it into background noise and get on with working. Anywhere in front of me? Forget about it, and that holds true even today.
There are times when it would be more social and certainly convenient to work in front of one of those things, but it’s just impossible. Which is why I have to keep a library/study room wherever I am with no TV in sight. Computer screen? No problem, even with video streaming available, since it’s not the same thing. A TV?
That would be a “no.”
The taxes are done, which is probably my biggest accomplishment for the week, aside from taking advantage of spring to start demo on the F.R.O.G. (that’s Free Room Over Garage, or at least that’s what the real estate lady said when we bought the place). It was an apartment at one time, then a sort-of workshop, with some really crappy bench tops and shelves that all had to come out, plus a rotted floor (because the back section of the space is a former kitchen with a wooden floor over concrete, which naturally wicked up water and rotted).
When it’s all done it should make a nice treatment/meditation space for First Reader. It’s the last(?) of the renovation projects we had in mind for our interior spaces. Over the years I’ve learned a lot more about DIY than I ever wanted to, but needs as needs must, or something like that, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more doing this one. Which, if I’m really lucky, I’ll never have to use again, since we’re not planning on moving once we get this one how we like it.
Barring alarums and excursions, “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” the third in my Daoist series should be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, in the latter half of this month. On a parenthetical note, this will be, officially, at ten words, the longest title I’ve ever used, beating out “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts” by one word, and both “Idle Conversation at the End of the World” and “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” by two.
Any change to the schedule, I’ll be sure to note it here.
October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018
I haven’t written anything about the passing of Ursula Le Guin before now because I couldn’t put two coherent thoughts together. I’m still not sure I’m ready but I’m going to try, despite the cat purring in my lap demanding all the attentions. Living creatures have their own priorities and in that sense I’m no different.
I never met her. Other people who knew her best will have the personal remembrances of the woman herself, I can only speak of her work and its effect on me. I’ve spoken at times about influences that made me whatever I am as a writer, though as I look back on it these influences were more about teaching me something I needed to know at the time I was ready to learn it. Parke Godwin? He taught me lessons about humanity. Fritz Leiber? That the limits of genre were illusory, and there was very little it could not do. Ursula Le Guin? She taught me what magic was and—just as important—what it wasn’t.
There are other lessons, of course. Some I still may not be ready for. Take her classic, The Word for World is Forest. I’m going to have to come back to that one, I hope when I’m a little stronger and wiser. At the time I needed it, however, there was The Earthsea Trilogy, which later became the Earthsea quintet with Tehanu and Tales of Earthsea. Yet in the beginning, there were three: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. They were first marketed as “young adult,” probably because Atheneum, the original publisher, didn’t know what else to do with them, and it was true as far as it went. However, I read them in college, when I really was a young adult, or maybe just a kid trying to figure out what “adult” as in “grown up” really meant. Ged, the young wizard in Earthsea, was trying to sort out the same thing, and in the course of the three—then four—books, he does, even though all the books, especially the last few, aren’t really about him. Which makes sense—a lot of growing up isn’t about you at all, but everyone around you and your relationship with them. Some things I can see now that I couldn’t then, but that’s all right. The lesson was waiting for me.
Then there was her classic, The Left Hand of Darkness, which made me and a lot of other people think about gender and what it does and doesn’t mean. Her early collection of stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, which remains one of my favorite books ever.
Now Ursula Le Guin the person is gone from the world, but Ursula Le Guin the writer remains, and there is, I realize, a lot of her work that I have yet to get to, and I hope I will.
I hope I’m ready.