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March 30, 2005
Jeff VanderMeer dreams of Tor
Posted by Teresa at 03:52 PM * 51 comments

Tor author Jeff VanderMeer has been having REM-intensive disturbed sleep, resulting in nightlong extra-vivid dreams. I’ve gone through some rounds of that myself, and aside from the disturbed sleep, it’s a lot of fun. I think my favorite sequence was when I spent the night painting pictures drawn from traditional fairy tales. I remembered the paintings in detail when I woke up, and have recycled parts of them into cover art memos.

Being an author, Jeff has of course been having dreams about literary politics, his publishing house, and the editors he works with. Being an author, he has of course written about it. The literary politics show up in the first dream:
Whiling Away the Hours in the New Weird Wing of the Old Folks Home

Variation #1: China Mieville, K.J. Bishop, and I are sitting in moldy lawn chairs amid a sprawl of yellowing grass. In front of us is a paint-peeled white picket fence, beyond which curls a road that looks like it came out of toad’s wild ride in Wind in the Willows. Beyond that is some kind of sickly looking river. It’s not much of a view. We’re all ancient. China’s bald and so am I. We’ve both got big beer bellies, are wrinkled as hell, and are wearing discolored white tank tops and Bermuda shorts. Kirsten has the mannerisms of Katherine Hepburn, which is beginning to grate on both China and me, and is wearing a huge white hat with a yellow flower design embroidered around the brim. She has a cane that’s got a huge fake emerald in the pommel. At our back is the New Weird Wing of whatever old folks home we’re in. But it’s not much of a wing—I know in the dream it was built by some reader benefactors and apparently they didn’t have much money, because it’s a bunch of muddy tents adjunct to the main old folks home, which is made of marble, and is strictly Off Limits to us.

I’m grousing about the New Weird, something along the lines of, “I never wanted to be New Weird—fought it, actually, and yet here I am, China. Wonder how that happened? Fossilized as a Old New Weird. In a stinking old folks’ home.”

China says something like, “Oh, fuck orf, will you. How many fucking decades do I have to hear this inane prattle? I said I was sorry!” And then goes on with his own rant—which is about how he invested in stock in publicly-traded Marxist communes, and when they all went belly up, he was reduced to near-poverty conditions.

And then I say, “How many decades am I going to have to hear about Marxist communes? How many times have I told you I could care less about Marxist communes?”

Kirsten breaks in with, “My, my, you’re almost like an old married couple. How cute. And takes a sip from a huge mint julip that has magically appeared in her hands. Then says something like, “But just you wait. My memoirs are coming out this month, and that’ll make me rich—again—and I’ll be out of here, and I won’t have to listen to either of you for any more decades.” …
Then Cheryl Morgan drives up and says:
“I just thought I’d look in on you dears and see how you’re doing. Oh my—I say, you don’t look too good. Perhaps you might want to get out of the sun.”

I say to her, “Why the hell aren’t you in here, Cheryl? You were part of New Weird, too, on the reviewer side. How’d you escape from this fate?”

Cheryl says, “That’s a very unkind way to speak of the largesse of your admittedly dwindling pool of readers. Why, you’d all three be out on the street panhandling or busking if not for the New Weird Wing of this fine establishment.”

“How did you escape from all of this?” China asks.

“I invested in [she says a word I don’t understand; I want to think it’s “mainstream literary” but I think that’s just my conscious mind interpreting - JV) with M. John Harrison. He’s got quite a posh place up the Thames.” …
It goes on. JV says that in the other variation, it’s Cheryl who’s stuck in the New Weird wing with them, and Kirsten who drives up in a gold convertible. Then there’s the second dream, which he remembers only in flashes of bits of scenes:
Working and Living in Tor Headquarters in the Flat Iron Building

Flash #1: I’m in Tor Books headquarters in the Flat Iron Building in New York City. The building is one of the narrowest in the world, but in the dream, no matter how narrow it is on the outside, on the inside it’s very, very wide. So wide that one of the administrative assistants actually walks to Argentina to hand-deliver copy edits to an author, without leaving the building at any time. My editor, Liz Gorinsky, is running around with an AK-47 under one arm, wearing an army uniform and a green beret. I don’t know exactly why she’s running around. David Hartwell appears around a corner, wearing a beret that’s paisley. I say, “What can I help with?” And they both shout out, “NOTHING.”

Flash #2: Liz and David are loading writers into a truck. The truck is down below and Liz and David are on the third floor and just literally throwing the writers through a window and down into the truck. None of them seem hurt. When it’s my turn, I say, “No thanks, I’d rather stay here.” But then I see that the whole inside of the building has turned into a volcano and I realize they’re not loading writers—they’re saving books. And when I look down into the truck, it’s full of books with writer’s faces on the front cover, with various looks of dismay on them.

Flash #3: I have been hired as a medium by the entire Tor editorial staff. I am to walk back and forth through the corridors, and any time any one of them needs a medium, I am to help them. I’m now wearing both Liz’s beret and David’s beret. They’re itchy. Patrick Nielsen Hayden pokes his head around a corner, beckons me into his office. There’s a huge orange the size of a medicine ball on top of his cluttered desk. “Tell me what the hell this is? Tell me where it came from. Tell me what it’s going to do.” I say, “I don’t know where it came from. And it has already done what it was going to do.” Patrick says, “That doesn’t help me. Try to focus. What-is-it-going-to-do?” I say, “It is going to explode.” Patrick says, “Really?!” I say, “No. I really don’t know what it is going to do.” Then it explodes.

Flash #4: It’s a war zone outside and we’ve all been issued automatic weapons. I don’t know who is out there and why we’re shooting at them, but it’s very important that we hold out. [I’m tempted to say here that in the dream David Hartwell was wearing belts of ammo and manning a mounted machine gun, but that didn’t happen in the dream. - JV] Liz is running spy missions through the front lines and coming back breathless and with information like, “They’re low in the weeds, but high on the fences. They’re down with the law, but up with the clouds.” Crazy stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but Patrick and David nod like it means something, so I nod like it means something. Then I jump out of the building. I jump and keep jumping and re-jumping. No matter how much I jump, I’m still in the building. It gets to be fun. I’m laughing as I’m jumping. Liz and David and Patrick are looking at me like I’m a moron. “I am a moron!” I say to them. “I am a moron!”

Flash #5: The entire interior of the building has been transformed into a lake and we’re all hanging on to desks. Patrick and Liz and David (and now Jim Minz appears, for a few seconds, clinging to a desk, too) keep working as if nothing weird has happened, but we’re floating in a lake, with the shore far away, and there are things in the water—like crocodiles and sharks and eels and all kinds of nasty things. But they take no notice. They just keep editing and talking amongst themselves. I’m bobbing on top of a desk and trying to write, but I can’t keep as cool as them. I keep wanting to say, “Don’t you notice we’re ON A LAKE?” But I don’t dare for some reason. Finally, David looks up at me and says, “Where there’s no fear, there’s no love.” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I say. He says, “You’re the medium. Figure it out.” Then we’re all swimming, abandon desks!, and the scene dissolves in the water. …
Sounds about right, especially the part about Liz in green cammie and an AK-47. She doesn’t own those things, but someone ought to give them to her.

March 27, 2005
Timed
Posted by Teresa at 10:28 AM * 38 comments

The Flatiron piece has run in the Sunday New York Times. It’s a nice little story, mostly accurate, though I think the movie I mentioned was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, not Spiderman.

(Pause.)

Okay, and-there’s-a-glaring-typo-in-the-story-and-they-ran-the-picture-sideways. There. Not that it matters. And hey, they put in a live link to Making Light, which was generous and unexpected.

It’s just a newspaper. It’s just a little dab of a story. I don’t know why it should make me feel buzzed and fangirly to turn up in the NYTimes.

Tomorrow: fishwrap.

March 23, 2005
Open thread 38
Posted by Teresa at 04:52 PM *

“When I walked in there, it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.”

Flatiron Times
Posted by Teresa at 12:57 PM * 19 comments

Day before yesterday I got e-mail from Jake Mooney, a reporter for the City section of the New York Times. He said he was planning to do a short piece, to run this Sunday, about people who were able to get decommissioned chunks of the Flatiron Building. He wanted to talk to me about my weblog post on that subject.

I’m not quite sure how he’d heard about it. At a guess, it was because a couple of NYCentric weblogs picked up on the story: NewYorkology, on 15 March and 18 March, and Curbed, on 16 March, 17 March, and 21 March. They did running reports on the status of the stuff in the dumpster, and the last Curbed update even had a photo of the rubble there.

Which was cool.

Anyway, Mr. Mooney wanted to photograph my big chunk of the Flatiron sitting in my garden; but as I pointed out, at this time of year my garden is a flat square patch of brown mud. We settled on showing some of the smaller chunks being used as bookends. Thus it was that yesterday a photographer for the Times, Carol Halebian, turned up to take pictures of Flatiron chunks fetchingly positioned amidst the bookshelves in Tom Doherty’s office.

She and I very briefly went up to the 21st floor, where the chunks originally came from, but had to be quick and quiet about it because that floor is now re-inhabited high-end Von Holtzbrinck corporate space. While we were up there, something happened that let me know that I’ve finally become a grownup: I told Ms. Halebian that I really couldn’t give her permission to climb out the window and take pictures from the ledge, because someone was bound to get upset.

I’m still feeling really strange about that. I’ve always been the one who wants to climb out the windows and mess around on the window ledges or roof, while other people (most often Patrick) have been the ones protesting that it’s Not A Good Idea.

One last dumpster update: it’s still there, and in spite of the tarp they’ve tied down over it, there are still some interesting bits available around the edges. What the situation will be after the story runs is anybody’s guess.

March 22, 2005
Misanthropy at the grimy end of winter
Posted by Teresa at 10:44 AM * 236 comments

I normally try to avoid cynicism, on the grounds that it’s bad mental hygiene. Think of this as my early spring cleaning.

1.

Jeff Weise, a 17-year-old student at Red Lake High School in Minnesota, armed himself with two handguns plus a shotgun and went on a rampage, killing ten people and injuring fourteen others. You could say it was a copycat crime:
Reggie Graves, a student at Red Lake High School, said he was watching a movie about Shakespeare in class Monday when he heard the gunman blast his way past the metal detector at the school’s entrance, killing a guard. Then, in a nearby classroom, he heard the gunman say something to his friend Ryan: “He asked Ryan if he believed in God,” Graves said. “And then he shot him.”
Thing is, Jeff Weise wasn’t imitating the actual Columbine shooters. He was imitating a pious urban legend (what back home we used to call a faith-promoting rumor) that sprang up in the wake of the Columbine shootings: that shooter Dylan Klebold asked Cassie Bernall whether she believed in God, and shot her when she said she did.

This story, in many variant versions, spread as fast as the internet would carry it. Cassie Bernall—a cute blonde who had a classic conversion-narrative history of turning to religion after dabbling in bush-league wickedness—was hailed as a martyr, and her story has since been repeatedly invoked to push the usual religious agendas. It’s been especially useful for WASP Chinos who want to think of themselves as being cruelly persecuted for their faith, but who are inconveniently short on evidence that this has ever happened.

Trouble is, the Cassie Bernall incident didn’t happen anything like the stories describe it, and the shooters weren’t targeting Christians. As has gradually become clear, the media coverage of Columbine was notably bad, and the Cassie Bernall story was the single most egregious example of slovenly journalism in the whole mess.

My favorite take on the Cassie Bernall legend can be found at Gadgets for God:
“Yes, I Believe” Hat

Whether 17-year-old Cassie Bernall actually did say “Yes, I believe” (or words to that effect) before she was so cruelly murdered by Dylan Klebold in April 1999 is the subject of heated debate. Whatever the case, it hasn’t stopped the merchandisers from turning the tragedy at Columbine High School to their advantage.

Now you can sport “Yes I believe” bracelets, chokers, dogtags, keyrings, and this navy bill/khaki crown hat for $17.99 — available from yesibelieve.com. How long before this overtakes WWJD products… if it hasn’t done so already?
I’m sure Jeff Weise’s behavior will be trotted out as further proof that Christians are coming in for persecution. If I’m right, that claim will be purest codswallop. What this tragic incident really teaches us is that kids who are exposed to non-reality-based right-wing Christian propaganda may subsequently commit horrid acts of violence.

There is one striking point of similarity between the Columbine and Red Lake shootings: in both cases, the students were reading Shakespeare when the firing broke out. It’ll be interesting to see whether school districts across the country propose a ban on Shakespeare, the way they tried to ban black clothing in the wake of Columbine.

2.

Terri Schiavo. Everybody knows the story. It’s very sad. She had a stroke and heart attack that cut off oxygen to her brain for too many minutes, and since then has been in a vegetative state. Lack of oxygen will do that. Recovery is impossible. Her cerebral cortex is gone, and no amount of denial is going to bring it back. Her brainstem keeps her breathing and allows her undead body to make random and reflexive movements, but Terri Schiavo herself has left the building. Whatever’s occupying her hospital bed deserves a better death.

Bush and the Republican Congress’s attempt to hijack the judicial proceedings, in defiance of basic Constitutional principles, was pure grandstanding. Thsee same guys who’re enthusiastic about the death penalty, nonchalant about military and civilian deaths in Iraq, and perfectly ready to cut funding for everything from prenatal care to basic public health and safety infrastructure, invoked an extrajudicial, extraconstitutional “culture of life” to justify their media coverage-oriented meddling in the Schiavo case.

You want to see the depth of their spiritual convictions? Here goes:
GOP memo says issue offers political rewards

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders believe their attention to the Terri Schiavo issue could pay dividends with Christian conservatives whose support they covet in the 2006 midterm elections, according to a GOP memo intended to be seen only by senators.

The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation “a great political issue” that would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is up for re-election next year.

“This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue,” said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. “This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.”
If you’re a pro-lifer, please realize that these people have no respect for you or your beliefs. To them, you’re just a button to be pushed.

Back in his Texas days, Bush happily signed legislation that made it easier for hospitals to pull the tubes on unresponsive patients, even ones whose known wishes ran contrary to it, whose families were opposed to it, and who might conceivably have had a better-than-zero chance of recovery.

What made the difference? That legislation back then was about money. This legislation now is about votes. None of it has anything to do with moral beliefs. Throwing the Schiavo case into the federal courts was a bleak and conscienceless piece of hypocrisy, undertaken at the expense of a family that has already seen far too much suffering.

3.

Consider the manly political action figures sold by Herobuilders.com. There’s considerable subtext present. Nowhere else will you see such a super-buff Rudy Giuliani or Tony Blair, or such a suggestively receptive Howard Dean. Herobuilders also offers several attractive George W. Bush models. They must be popular with the clientele. I must admit that for some reason I’m squicked by their figure of George tearing off his shirt. It’s so not my kink.

I nevertheless find all this slightly cheering. Normally, when I contemplate the relationship between (on the one hand) Republican voters, and (on the other hand) the thugs, pirates, hypocrites, Pharisees, and bunco-steerers in the Republican leadership, I fall into blank incomprehension and despair: how can they vote for those people?

But conceiving an unreciprocated and perhaps inappropriate sexual fixation on (mostly) right-wing political figures? That’s okay. I may not be able to imagine doing it myself, but I know it for the sort of thing human beings do.

It’s a start.

March 15, 2005
Cool salvage
Posted by Teresa at 10:35 AM * 93 comments

I work in the Flatiron Building. Lately, they’ve been repairing the ornate terra cotta bits around the top. Most recently they’ve been working on the—okay, I’m not sure of the exact term, but it’s a sort of a colonnade made of closely-spaced urn-shaped pillars or columns.

(In context: The ornamental bits at the top of the building, which is at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, on the south side of 23rd Street.)

(Historical note: They almost certainly came from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Works of Tottenville, on Staten Island, which made a great deal of the ornate terra cotta cladding you can still see on Beaux Arts buildings in the Northeast.)

Anyway, I recently had an errand to run up on the top floor, so I took a few minutes to nose round in the office space up there that’s being renovated. Outside the windows, workmen were pulling cracked or broken columns out of the colonnade and tossing them onto a heap. I opened the window, stuck my head out, and mustered up enough Spanish to say “Can I have one of those? I just want it for my garden.” They gave me a nice corner of a column. They’d have given me the entire bottom half of one, but I couldn’t possibly have carried it.

My architectural bit was much admired, especially since you could see the workmen’s fingermarks in the fired clay on the inside of the pillar. It is now sitting in my dining room, from whence it will shortly be moved into the garden.

Today I noticed a very large dumpster full of broken masonry sitting at the curb on the east side of the building. I went and poked around, and sure enough, there were some more nice fragments from those columns. I snagged a half-dozen, most of which have now been given to other Toroids to use as bookends or garden ornaments.

If you’re the scrounging sort, are in New York, and would fancy a historical bit of ornamental terra cotta, the dumpster’s on the east side of the building. Act now.

March 08, 2005
Cult vs. church: a proposed rule of thumb
Posted by Teresa at 12:09 PM * 443 comments

If, on appropriate occasions, the members tell, enjoy, trade, and/or devise transgressively funny jokes about their denomination, it’s a church.

If such jokes reliably meet with stifling social disapproval, it’s a cult.

March 02, 2005
AS bonbons
Posted by Teresa at 02:05 PM *

1.

On frymðe wæs Word, and þæt Word wæs mid Gode, and God wæs þæt Word. þæt wæs on fruman mid Gode. Ealle þing wæron geworhte ðurh hyne; and nan þing næs geworht butan him. þæt wæs lif þe on him geworht wæs; and þæt lif wæs manna leoht. And þæt leoht lyht on ðystrum; and þystro þæt ne genamon.
2.
Feower Axunge:

For hwi is þeos niht ungelic eallum oþrum nihtum?
On eallum oþrum nihtum we etað hlaf swa gehafene swa þeorfne.
On þisse nihte, þeorfne anan.

For hwi is þeos niht ungelic eallum oþrum nihtum?
On eallum oþrum nihtum we etað mislice wyrta.
On þisse nihte, bitre wyrta anan.

For hwi is þeos niht ungelic eallum oþrum nihtum?
On eallum oþrum nihtum ne dyppað we swa oft swa anes.
On þisse nihte, we dyppað tuwa.

For hwi is þeos niht ungelic eallum oþrum nihtum?
On eallum oþrum nihtum we etað swa sittende swa hleoniende.
On þisse nihte, ealle we hleoniað.

[Variant:

For hwi is þeos niht ungelic eallum oþrum nihtum?
On eallum oþrum nihtum we eteð on gewunelicre wisan.
On þisse nihte, we etað on ænlicre wisan.]
3.
Hwæt! ær þissum dæge seofon wintra and hundeahtig, ure ealdfaederas acennodon on þissum lande niw rice, geacnod on freodome and gegiefen to þæm geþohte, þæt ealle menn beoð gelice gesceapen. Nu feohtað we micel gewinn innan urum lande, to afandianne hwæther þæt rice oþþe ænig oðer rice swa geacnod, swa gegiefen, lange þolian mæg. Standaþ we on micelre waelstowe þære guþe. Cumene sind we to giefanne sumne dæl þære stowe to endgereste þame þe her crungon þæt þæt rice lifige. Swiðe geriht is þæt we swa don, and gemæt. Ac on widran getacnunge, we giefan ne magon—we bletsian ne magon—we halgian ne magon—þas hruse. þa felamodigan menn, cwice and deade, þa þe her wunnon, þa hie gehalgodon ofergende feor urne unspedigan onwald to giefanne and to nimanne. Lyt maeg seo woruld oncnawan ne lange gemunan þætte man her sprecað, ac næfre sceal heo forgietan þætte hie her dydon. We sculon lifgendan us swiþor to þæm ungefyldan geweorce getreowsian, þe þa menn þe her gefuhton swa indryhtenlice oð þis gefyrþrodon. We sculon us swiþor to þæm micelan gedeorfe getreowsian, þe toforan us giet stent: þæt fram þissum gerisenlicum deadum we nimen geacnode fæst-hydignesse to þæm intingan for þæm hie hiere læst full gemet fæst-hydignesse geafon; þæt we her aeþillice hycgen, þæt þissa deadra deað ne sceal unnyt wesan—þæt þis folc, under Gode, sceal niwe acennednesse freodomes habban—and þæt þes þeodscipe, for þæm folce, of þæm folce, and þurh þearfe þæs folces, ne sceal fram þære eorþan abreoþan.
Hey, it makes me happy.

More fun: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are still ongoing.

Also: SFP just chimed in on the comment thread with this:
þys is efne to secgenne

Ic æt
þa pluman
þe wæron
þære iscieste

and þe
þu eallmæst cuþice
hordodest
for morgenmete

Forgief me
hie wæron smæcclice
swa swete
and swa cealde
“I wish I could take credit for it,” SFP added, “but it’s from Hwæt! A Little Old English Anthology of American Modernist Poetry.”

Modernist poetry, Anglo-Saxon, makes sense to me. I keep meaning to write about that edition I have of Mayakovsky translated into Lallans/Braid Scots. It works too.

Help us help you
Posted by Patrick at 02:01 PM * 30 comments

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