In Which Our Heroine Rambles About Social Glue And Other Things

1 April 2003

This morning we have no newspaper again. Yarg. So I have added "kick newspaper butt" to my list of things to do for the day. I try to be patient with other people, because who knows what they're going through?, but when I pay to have a newspaper delivered and then no newspaper is delivered at all, that's a problem.

Last night one of my usual nightmare villains showed up in my dream, and I said, "I really don't have time for your shit right now," turned him around by the shoulders, marched him out the door, shut it behind him, and locked it. Um. Well, that was nice in a way. I wish I didn't have to be on emotional overload to do it that way, but maybe it'll carry through later.

Timprov finished Dwarf's Blood Mead last night and liked it. This is good. The difference between one fan of a book and zero fans is much larger than the difference between two and one. And knowing that somebody likes it means that it's worthwhile to fix whatever ends up being wrong or suboptimal about it.

I started rereading what I've got on the Not The Moose, to get back into working on it, and I surprised myself: I think the beginning is good. I never think my books are any good until I've finished them, revised them four different directions, and gotten confirmation from an extensive committee. But this stuff, this is really good. It's strange to know this. It's a bit of a relief, and a bit scary, too. I'm glad that the excitement about it hasn't really waned, either. I've taken breaks from this book to write two others already. I hope to get it done before a third break is necessary, but if it is, it is. I wonder if I'll write like this in general, where I take breaks from my adult work to do YAs. Hmm. That wouldn't be so bad.

I finished reading Carter Beats the Devil. Highly recommended, good stuff. Lots of fun. I'm a sucker for the '20s, but it wasn't even that much '20s stuff -- well, a significant component was, but also a significant component was earlier than that. In each section I liked a different thing best. I think that might be a good sign.

I then read the issue of Realms of Fantasy with Thomas' story in it. Every time I read Realms, I'm struck by how very dissimilar it is to Analog. This time it was the Letters To The Editor that really got me. They were so happy. So nice. Nobody writing in saying that the editorial, stories, or articles were wrong, wrong, wrong. Nobody was writing in the tone that meant that they felt they were being totally reasonable. It was just surreal.

I've started Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl now, although I haven't gotten very far. It strikes me as one of those books that just assumes the child character's power/empowerment without spending a lot of time justifying it. And it works in its own way, but I can't really write like that. I'm conscious of how little power/control most kids in our society have over their own lives, and I think the whys of that are important. I think a little wish fulfillment from other people is a good thing. But when I'm writing YAs I need to either have consciously created a society wherein people have power/control over their lives earlier for good reasons (as in Dwarf's Blood Mead), or I need to address how the characters get around the restrictions of their similar-to-ours society (as in Fortress of Thorns, The Grey Road, and The World Builders).

(Oh. This is sad. I don't know what book I wrote: The World Builders or The Worldbuilders. It seems like I, as the author, should be sure. I know what it says on the synopsis, but I'm not sure what it really should be.)

In other news, we got some stuff for the Why I Hate Aliens anthology figured out last night. I'd like to make sure all of the authors are notified of what's going on before I post stuff here, but I'm happy that things are more or less settled. (And the author are all notified now but one -- I have to mail a letter to him, as his e-mail has died on me and I can't find another for him.) There'll still be some things I need to do -- running to Kinko's to photocopy the author contracts today, for example -- but there's a difference between working through details and being up in the air. I'm happy with the side of that difference we're on now.

Oh, hey, if you want to see really old pictures of me, Kev's homepage has some. Click on "Friends" and then on "M'ris." I'm between 16 and 18 in all but the last two on that list. And I have two different kinds of horns. So.

The top kind of horns, in case you go look at the pictures, is family shorthand for, "stop that shit!" It's the punchline to an old dung beetle joke, and we don't even really remember what the joke was like, but we're afraid to ask Grandpa to tell it again, because we're afraid he won't stop. (Besides, he told it to Timprov when they were out a good while ago, and Timprov swears it's not particularly worth hearing again.) My family communicates in punchlines sometimes. It works for us. When Grandpa was sick and we were making dung beetle horns at him, it didn't work so well for the baffled nurses. But it all worked out.

I know I practically started this journal with praise of Trader Joe's, but I have to do it again today: I love that place. It's great. I got Canadian white cheddar and mini pearl tomatoes. ("Not to be confused with Minnie Pearl tomatoes!" I said. "What?" said Timprov. I tried it again with my grandmother. She laughed. In Branson, Mo., I'd be hi-larious.) I got fruit leather and cheap wine (two-buck-Chuck!) and andouille and peach sauce and juice and little chocolate hazelnut seashells and these portobello thingies that looked interesting. Of these things, only fruit leather was on the grocery list, and I have to go to the real grocery store tomorrow. But it's okay; my happiness level is much higher having been to Trader Joe's, and Mark, too, is satisfied. "I like to open the cabinets and see fruit leather." Me, too.

We're totally a demographic, though. I drove my small-model Saturn four-door over there from the library. I was wearing REI boots and custom-made jeans. They could so easily advertise to me and be right. Like with Lowe's, for example -- I would love to have a home to improve. And where does Lowe's advertise? On Trading Spaces, MLB, and the NHL -- half the reasons the TV is ever on in this house. (The other half: news, The Daily Show, and The Simpsons. But they've been rerunning the same shows many times in a row with The Simpsons, so heck with that, we turn it off again. I can't wait for Monk to come back on. Otherwise TV sucks. We don't watch all of the examples of any of the above that are on TV, but we have a very hard time finding other things that are worth watching. Especially now that Mark and Timprov have memorized the entire History Channel.)

So, MLB, yes, hooray for the beginning of baseball, now the comforting noises are back on whenever I want them. Not the same as hockey, which has the comforting accents. Anyway, the beginning of the baseball season means the beginning of baseball announcer mockery for another year. Ah, spectator sports. If only they would refrain from being stupid, I would refrain from mocking them. Alas.

I've been thinking a lot about community and what keeps society going. I tend to focus a lot on the glue of society as politeness and contract-keeping -- things like showing up when you say you're going to, doing what you say you're going to do, not pitching fits when the people in front of you in line actually want to transact their business to their satisfaction rather than flinging money in the cashier's face and sprinting for the door to allow you speedy access to transacting your own business. Getting back to people quickly when timely news would benefit them or when they would really enjoy hearing from you. Returning the carts to the cart corrals! Aaaagh! If you are able-bodied enough to push your cart out to your car, you are able-bodied enough to push it back to the cart dealie! If you are not able-bodied enough to do both parts of this trip, ask a salesbeing for help! Aaaaagh!

I'm sorry. It's just that carts randomly left in parking spaces have come to represent the breakdown of civil society for me. The nice thing about that kind of symbolism is that then when I return a few extra carts myself, I feel like I am pushing back the tide of darkness. And there's nothing like a little dark-tide-pushing to brighten my day.

Anyway. I know that the other half of what keeps society together is patience and understanding with each other -- if someone is ill, or grieving, or a new immigrant, or very young or very old, or just having a bad day for whatever reason, not expecting them to necessarily be able to do things exactly as they said they would, or exactly as we'd like. Or knowing that they might not understand some of the unspoken rules, or might just not have the energy to live by them at that moment. That's the other half that keeps us glued together, and I try to have that kind of forgiveness (except for those cart-leaving jerks -- they can rot for all I care), but I forget that other people do, too. I forget that sometimes if I'm rattled and tired and don't immediately punch the okay button on the credit card machine, the old lady behind me might smile sympathetically and not mind the extra five second wait any more than I would. I forget that it goes both ways. I'd like to blame that on California (because, hey, isn't it all about blaming things on California?), but I think it's probably more that I see saving the (people in the) world as my job, and I don't really blame other people when they don't do it. It's a more specific case of that, is my guess.

It's also hard to predict how people see themselves in their community when they're random strangers at the grocery store. I tend to think of people in terms of webs of various kinds of kinship, where people can be more or less firmly attached, more or less closely attached, etc. As if they were literally tied together with different stuff, like in a cheap fantasy novel. It's a matter of who do you feel responsible for, who do you take care of, who do you claim, who is "yours?" Varies a lot with circumstance and with personality, but it doesn't have to have anything to do with liking people. I'm not sure you can do more than a piece of one of these webs in three dimensions or less. Anyway, some people seem to have an easier time feeling close kinship than others, and I never know which I've run into, in the grocery store.

It's pretty hard for me to understand a lot of the people out here who seem more distant or more isolated. It's not the ones who have major disagreements with their families. That much I can understand -- my own family has a few people from whom we are quite isolated, and I can't say I'm particularly sorry about that. It's the ones who don't have any particular disagreement but don't have close relationships with family or with old friends anyway. Because they don't need or want them, I guess...I try to understand that this is the case, when it is. I try not to treat people as if they see things the way I do. But understanding how it works, what it feels like to be them, that's something else entirely. I have to say I'm baffled. But I'm probably fairly far on one end of the spectrum here. I have a large group of family and friends, with lots of people in the "matters to me" category and probably a good bit more than average in the "matters a lot to me" category. I tend to think of it as most people not having the chance to have a crowd of college friends or a herd of cousins. But a lot of people do have at least one of those things, or had, and just don't particularly care. That's the part that's hard for me to get. And I think it's also what makes it hard for me to explain to some people why it's so important for me to live in the Midwest. The words "drive distance" keep coming up. It's all about kin.

Ah well. Much to do today, and time seems to have acquired this alarming habit of passing, so I'm going to stop rambling and get stuff done.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.