Homesick, With Dragons

27 January 2002

Drat. What lousy timing.

I have an Unreasonable Whim. That is, I have something that is not on the agenda nor the schedule, and will not further anything on any of the "to do" lists. I want to do it, and it's perfectly reasonable in this city and our budget. I want to go up to Zachary's for pizza. Unfortunately, I feel like crud. Sigh.

Usually my Unreasonable Whims are things like, "Hey, let's order a Frankie's!" Which is great except that Frankie's only delivers in the north suburbs of the Cities, so it'd be a bit of a drive. Or else, "Hmm, I want to see if the Antiquarium has this book." Truly unreasonable and not just spoiled. My brain is perverse, is what.

Ah well. I spent much of yesterday homesick for Nebraska, and it was Robert Reed's fault. I read The Dragons of Springplace (which had no traditional dragons in it at all, by the way, and which was good). And you can hear the prairie in his writing voice, just the faintest little bit of a twang around the edges. Even when he's writing about orbitals and spaceships, you can hear the plains. Brad Denton is like that, although his settings are often more explicitly flat places in the middle of this country. I think I do it, too.

Some authors aren't very affected by geography. They write the books they write wherever they are. I think Jon Hassler is like that -- I think his books would have come out roughly the same, with a bit less snow, no matter where he'd gotten a job teaching college. He's more obviously affected by the geography, setting his books roughly autobiographically. But the deep rhythms are all smoothed out, and you could plunk him down anywhere. Octavia Butler also seems not to be so much a certain place writer as a certain type of place writer. I think Butler is a city writer, and regardless of where her books are set, that rhythm creeps through. I don't mean to imply that her books all sound like they're set in a city. That's not what I'm talking about at all.

I don't know whether this is something external or whether it's just me. I'm perfectly okay with it just being me. Steven Brust, when he was talking at our college -- now there's an interesting one, in a minute -- was saying that he couldn't do a collab with some particular author because they wrote in different time signatures. I could kind of see what he meant, but it's not a usage I'm going to adopt for myself widely. Mostly it's just his internal method of figuring things out, and that's fine with me.

(What's interesting about Brust is that I've been able to hear the lakes and the green and the snow from Minnesota in his books. Not to mention the fact that they seem to be about being Hungarian in a city of Scandinavians...but anyway, he's moved to Las Vegas now, and I'm wondering if he'll add some desert around the edges or if he'll just sound like a Minnesotan still or what. I also wonder if someone who thinks this way could take the books I've written now and the books I'll write later and say where I was living when I wrote them.)

Ah well. So I do recommend The Dragons of Springplace, although I feel like there's just this tiny little bit missing in Reed's stuff, and if it was there, he would be one of my absolute favorite writers of all time, top three sort of level. But there is that little bit missing, so instead he's just good. "Just." I also finished the Goldbarth essays, of which the last was the best, and read this month's Analog (which is to say, March's). Analog had a snarky little short-short called "Ego Boost" that I liked a lot, but my favorite story of the issue was Ken Wharton's "Flight Correction." Now, I think that's considerate, for a member of my writing group to write a story that's my favorite. Very nice of Ken. Oh, and then I started reading Busman's Honeymoon, which is overall not as good as Gaudy Night so far but has better individual lines.

We also finished watching "The Seven Samurai," which I largely wanted to watch in honor of one of the major characters in Reprogramming. Oh, and I got my Analog galleys in the mail, so now I know when "Irena's Roses" will be out: in the June issue. Which means sometime in May or April, I guess. I'm sure I'll let you all know.

Now I'm sitting here singing Barenaked Ladies' "Light Up My Room." Which is better than it was for awhile -- for awhile, I was singing the song from the end of "Beetlejuice." The guys were watching "Dr. No," and Timprov and I had discovered we had the same problem with calypso music: that is all brings to mind the ending scene of "Beetlejuice," with Winona Ryder dancing with the dead football players. I love that scene. I don't love that movie, but that scene is just fabulous. Makes the rest of the movie worth it. It's kind of like those lines Arlo talks about. And the great thing is, it's the very last scene of the movie, so no matter how late you realize the movie is on TV, you can still see the best part.

Oh, and Robert Nozick died, which is really too bad. If you haven't read Anarchy, State, and Utopia, go do it. It's interesting, even if you don't agree with all of it. Very influential book for some of us.

Poor Zak has no e-mail -- I can sympathize -- and a sick Sharon -- and can't come up to the Bay Area next weekend. That's just stinky all around. But I'm especially fond of his line about Sharon's cold: "This is a bad thing, because she gets chest colds like Mormons get groceries. Lots at a time." Usually I'd e-mail to tell him I hope his troubles get better, but the problem with that seems obvious.

Well, the kitchen sink is backed up, and the Drano has not touched the problem, so now we have a kitchen that has a backed up sink and smells of chlorine. And is cold, because we've got the windows open to avoid having to smell the chlorine. Fabulous. We'll be calling the apartment people as soon as is feasible. I don't think we can run the dishwasher while the drain is backed up, although I could be wrong on that point. Wish us luck and a speedy plumber.

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