Karelia and Beyond

28 January 2002

We had to go out for dinner last night -- had to, I know, it sounds like such a burden, but we have no water in our kitchen now, so we're using as few dishes as possible. The apartment man is supposed to be back this morning early to put in the new part, and then we're supposed to have water again. We could wash dishes in the bathroom sink, but there's no garbage disposal there, so I'd rather wait a bit. And, as I told David, other people have been known to go a whole day without washing their dishes without the sky falling in on them, so I think we can, too. It's very odd, though: if we had no water in the bathroom, it's obvious how we'd adapt, brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink and so on. It's been less obvious with the lack of water in the kitchen. We could cope, but it's much easier just to wait. It'll be good when it's our own house and we can just do it or call someone ourselves.

At any rate. We went out for dinner last night, despite my feeling under the proverbial weather (which is rainy, if you want to know), and we got to talking about radio and the internet. We've talked about this before, about how playing free songs on the radio hasn't hurt album sales and how musicians actually pay firms to make sure their songs get played. Why did it work this way? Why didn't musicians start screaming about how they were being exploited and their songs pirated and so on?

I think the answer is the timing. Recording technology was still fairly new, and the people who were having the first recordings made of them were mostly people who were quite famous through their concerts. They weren't expecting to make a living through album sales -- they primarily thought of themselves as concert musicians. By the time people thought of being reclusive musicians who couldn't make a living from concerts, radio was well-established as a promotional medium, but also as a connection medium.

This, of course, sparked a short story idea that Timprov and I are working on together, called "Leadbelly Live." Alternate history folkies. If nobody wants it, I'll send it to Janis Ian anyway; it amuses me that she's such a big SF geek. But it's going to be quite different from our previous collabs, and I think quite good. We have a few obstacles to overcome with the timing of it, but that's always the case. Makes writing stories interesting. In this case, I've decided that the key to alternate history is not having people know what actually happened, but having people know what actually didn't happen.

I finished Busman's Honeymoon yesterday, and I'm a little bit frustrated that my favorite among the Sayers books are the last two. Timprov pointed out that it's better than the long downhill slide Lawrence Block seems to be in with his Bernie Rhodenbarr books, and that's true...but Sayers is dead, so she could only have slid so far, anyway. And this way, if I had someone the first book of the series, they may not fall in love with it enough to get to the really good ones, which would be a pity.

Also read The Prince of Morning Bells, Nancy Kress' first novel. I would not recommend it. I think it's safe to say that NK has grown as a writer since then, and that it was probably a good thing for her to switch to SF. I'm also not sure how much of it would have been okay if I'd read it in 1981 (well, not okay with me, because I was three, but okay with me if I'd been old enough to enjoy it in 1981). It's a "light-hearted fantasy," and the things that seem to be creatively poking fun at other fantasies just don't look creative twenty years later. They look like every other failed fantasy attempt at light-heartedness. But perhaps at the time they were innovative, I don't know.

Started into Max Jakobson's Finland in the New Europe, which is good-good. I'll finish it this morning, I think, unless the plumbing requires a good deal of my attention. Jakobson was Finland's representative to the U.N. for a good long time, and evidently the U.S. wanted him for Secretary-General, but the Soviets vetoed him in favor of Waldheim. The things that get lost in the mists of history...anyway, it's a quite compelling book about Finland and politics, and I'm getting lots of good work done on the Not The Moose Book because of it. The resettlement of Karelia fascinates me. It'll affect the NTMB, of course, but I'm afraid I'll have to do something more direct with it. I don't know what yet, but it's just amazing, to have an entire section of the country, 436,000 people, 12% of the Finnish population, just up and move and have it work out okay. They weren't pushed out by the Soviets or their own government. They just left. And they didn't have any government centers to move into, they didn't have camps or what have you. They all stayed with other families.

Can you imagine that? In terms of the 2000 census, if we translated it to America, twelve percent of the population would be 33,770,628. That means, starting from the northeast, that the entire populations of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York would have to be evacuated to people's homes in other parts of the country, along with some of the population of New Jersey. Can you imagine finding someone for every single one of those people, rich or poor, to stay with? I mean, sure, some of you who don't live in that region and have family there can think, "Oh, well, I'd take Mom and Aunt Frieda, they could stay with me until we got things sorted out, if it came to that." But for any region, there are going to be families that are wholly contained there. There are going to be people who have never left. (So you Canadians better not get aggressive, okay? Because we'd have some major problems.)

Even 436,000 is a daunting number to think of, when we're talking about finding homes for them to stay in. That's half of Omaha. Four of Hayward. Boggle, boggle, boggle. Amazing.

I would think patriotism would be much easier after that. I mean, it requires individual effort to do something of that magnitude, definitely, lots of it. It's certainly the sum of individual actions. But it's a pretty great thing for a bunch of individuals to do. Heck, I'm feeling pretty patriotic about Finland at this point. They repaid their war reparations in full. They are the only country in Europe to even make that a priority. And they resettled the Karelians, and they figured out a way to get the farmers from Karelia farmland. It's all very, very impressive.

I'm getting to the point where I can switch into a somewhat post-WWII Finnish mindset, and that's good. I need that. In some ways, I feel like all of this is an alternate history version of me -- I can understand these decisions, these policies, this whole outlook. They aren't mine, but they make so much sense to me.

I've been able to get into a couple of different mindsets lately. I got the fundamental idea for my 1930s story, the sequel to "From the Hip Flask," so I'm ready to go on that one. I think the main character is wrong, but I think she's wrong in retrospect. With the data she has, I think she's got the right way to go. The main problem is, though, she's trying to save people who don't want to be saved. And that's always dangerous. It's a theme that's popped up in a couple of my stories lately. But the good thing is that communism is not just a red herring. The bad thing is that I keep thinking there ought to be a story or article about Finnish-American communists, and that "Red Herring" is not an entirely bad title for it....

Back to Morphism.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.