No Title Suffices

9 June 2004

Mark's grandma died this morning.

We got the phone call at 6:30. I don't have a lot of detail -- Lin asked to speak to Mark, so I passed the phone over, and Mark has gone back to sleep (I hope). But the memorial service will likely be the weekend of the 19th.

We still plan to have our party this weekend. I told Mark's grandma we'd get purple flowers to have at our party for her, and I intend to do just that.

She was an awesome grandma, and I have high standards for this sort of thing.

For some reason I'm remembering the first time she heard Mark and I tell each other we like each other. We were engaged, I think, or newly married; it was one of those early Christmases. And I looked up at him, as I am wont to do, and said, "I like you." And he grinned down at me and said, "I like you, too." Grandma smiled big and said, "That's so important. Not just that you love each other, but that you like each other. And that you say so. Too many people don't say so."

Grandma loved us, but she liked us, too. And we liked her as well as loving her. This is not guaranteed in family relationships. It is precious and wonderful when it happens, and wrenching and awful when we don't get to have it any more.

I'm not done writing about this in general. I just don't think I can say anything more about it today.

I hate giving up. I really, really, really do. But every writer has to draw a line in time and say, "After this long, I will withdraw my stories." It can vary with market conditions, with length of work, with editorial feedback (if such a thing comes along), with how badly you want to be published in that market. But pitching works literally down a black hole is bad, bad policy: when queries go unanswered, you have to have personal limits, and I have reached some of mine.

If a person can produce a baby in 9 months, a minor market can read a story of fewer than 3000 words in that time, or indicate why not when queried. I think this is not unreasonable.

I am, however, on emotional overload. Karina and I were talking about this on e-mail, how sometimes there's only so much you can handle and no more. I've been on the verge of that much constantly this week. Mark has been, too, I think. Today will not be better for obvious reasons. My mom probably is as well. We didn't get a chance to lean on each other and update each other at dinner -- she was on her way home, and that was fine, it made sense. Her day -- it could have been worse, from the sounds of it. Ours, too. Anyway, though, I think giving up on these markets for these stories was more emotionally fraught for me than it should have been. There were no tears for that in particular, but still, it was a nearer thing than it ought to have been.

Deep breaths.

I'm taking the car in this morning for its tune-up (60K miles -- I'll bring a couple of books just in case one won't do). There should be someone coming out to remove our dead trees tonight. I made a lot of phone calls yesterday.

Esther Friesner's "Johnny Beansprout" has earned the title of "worst story I've ever read in F&SF." I skip some -- I don't read anything by R. Garcia y Robertson, for example, because it has just not proven to be worth my time over the years, and Lord knows I've had enough opportunities to collect data. Other stories I don't finish. So "Johnny Beansprout" may not even be the worst story in this issue of F&SF. Nonetheless: worst I've ever finished. And I only finished it because I was looking for some glimmer of an interesting notion, something humorous, something insightful, something well-handled, some reason why the hell this story was worth money, paper, and ink. It was heavy-handed and obnoxious and engaged in stereotypes left, right, and upside-down. Bleh, bleh, ptooey.

I was reading a discussion of suggested works vs. canon vs. referential works. That particular discussion was in the context of feminist speculative literature, which is not my subgenre particularly. And one of the things that surprised me is that people were commenting on the difficulty of making a list of important/suggested works in part because the list would be too long. And people won't have read everything on the list. Again: so?

Maybe it is my list-y approach to the world. Maybe that's what it is. But I don't make lists in order to have them fulfilled. Especially -- oh, Lord help me! -- especially not book lists. I would be so miserable if I ran out of book lists. I can imagine few less happy circumstances. Being well-read in a field is not about having finished the list, it's about being able to start the list in the first place.

I'm going to choose some books and head out to the car place. So far Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons is good stuff. That's what I know right now. Later it'll be different. I guess I'll write more then.

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