wrong number try again

book

I’m really exceptionally skilled at accumulating those “do what you love / if you are passionate about X, do it!” speeches.* The problem is I am never passionate about X; just good about towing its line to the point where people for whom X is everything think it is for me, too.

And it’s never some soul-searching moment either, because I’m not on some grand quest to find something I care about: I already know what I love doing! I just don’t do it for money because it’s not lucrative, and it’s far easier to be Good Enough at other things that pay.  Until, of course, you get to the part  where people give you what are meant to be inspiring speeches about the field — speeches which are destined never to move me as much as the speaker intended because these fields I wander into are staging areas. And I meander from staging area to staging area, because I never care enough about the grand production to take up a central a role there. And also because writers as a group can sometimes be real dicks, and people in other fields are more pleasant to be around. Mostly.

All of which is to say I suppose I should do some typing this weekend.

swanson

 

*Chris, this wasn’t your speech. This was the speech that led to me hitting you up for your advice, which was sensible and helpful. Thanks!

**Also, this isn’t about the new job; it’s about how people assume I felt about the old job.

chapter 2 up

Chapter 2 is now up.

Somewhat relatedly, I got to see a friend a rarely do over the weekend and was thrown completely for a loop. Usually in a conversation I can arrange a list of answers that I’ve already honed in previous conversations* into set pieces: this is my work drama, this is how my mother is doing, this is how home ownership is coming along, etc. etc. And it’s true that I got to trot those out. But she also kept tripping me up by asking about things I’d forgotten I’d let it be known mattered to me. Had I read this author, had I heard about that book, and was I still writing?

I don’t anticipate these questions because in the past decade it has dawned on me that the price you pay for sharing such information amongst peers tends to be too high. As a result, when people forget that I do such things, I let it go. My in-laws remember my academic career, such as it was, rather than the awards I won for this or that story. My immediate friends remember the degree I just finished wading through, and the doors it would ideally have opened. (One day…) But I don’t usually field questions about my writing, and am so startled and sheepish and touched when asked that I stumble through the rest of the conversation, no set pieces to hand, trying madly to filter out what I do and don’t want to say about project A or B or C. But because this friend dated back the full decade, to when everyone, in either the arrogance or naiveté (probably both) of youth freely announced such pursuits without (too much) fear of repercussion, in the form of condescension or too-keen interest or otherwise, she knew. And, moreover, she remembered. And I was absurdly unprepared for it, and sat there mumbling to the cobbles about editing and deadlines and contests, all while blushing harder than my cherry tomatoes in their pots out back.

Which is ridiculous. I’m thirty years old. I have always done this thing. But to have that be remembered and respected, by someone I don’t see every day or even every  year — and to be asked, and to be met with delight when I replied in the surprised affirmative that yes, I still did such work — pleases me. So much more than I anticipated feeling on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

*How I used to chafe, as a kid, hearing my mother do this! I’d hear the same words come out of her mouth again and again, to stranger after stranger, and resent the prefabricated nature of it; how she had something ready for a whole host of situations and it just came to hand easily, rehearsed, perfected. It was years and years before I realized that such responses held off-stage and at the ready grease the many less-important daily interactions along, grind us past their necessary ordinariness, so that we can get to those that matter.

welp

Today is the last day to submit one’s intent to enter. I guess I’m doing IntroComp.

I know exactly what I’m doing and why. I just didn’t know there would be a space to get feedback on it.

(em)brace for impact

 

bars

I don’t usually bother to recruit Horsemaster Dennet before you leave Haven — nor do I hang around the stables there much — so I never overheard the flirtation that occurs over time between the no-name noble from Anderfells and the wry scout. It’s endearing. I mean in no way to devalue the non-sexualized camaraderie whose praises I sing so often, but I do think a willingness to see affection everywhere (because it is everywhere) is something of value here, one that quickly gets morphed in the sneering quips of detractors as being “all about the sex.” No. But you aren’t more heroic for locking your heart up and waiting until after a disaster to deal with it. In fact, you’re probably going to fuck up more. That applies as much to the legions of underlings as it does to the main stars of a tale. This is something fanfic and slashfic in particular gets right, albeit inadvertently. They do it for the hawtness, or for the feels, but seeking companionship in the face of dire odds is a recurring theme because it happens. Erasing this makes both for boring, one-dimensional characters (whole armies of them!) and for a hokey aura of cardboard heroism.

You can overdo it, of course. A leader has to lead, and can’t be boning all the time. But this fantasy that you can divide yourself into only needing data, communiques, tactical feedback and the occasional, too-short snatch of sleep…it’s silly at best, damaging at worst. Didn’t we spend most of the 90s deconstructing the idea of the chest-beating hulk without feelings? Whom do we serve by resurrecting that idea of a hollow hero, and giving those ideas narratives in which to move as though they were whole? If you really still need that construct pointed out as a fallacy, look at all these real-life scandals involving powerful people sleeping with those beneath or beside them in responsibility. You wind such people tight as springs, by what you ask of them, or what the world asks of them. Don’t delude yourself into thinking they can carry that alone and come out functioning on the other side.

I don’t like delving much into the whys of fandom because it’s either a ludicrous oddity, to those of an academical bent, or “teeheehee! teh sexxorz!” to others. But this is, I think, something we get right. Whether or not it is socially acceptable (or even, in real-world organizations, legal) for such intermingling to occur, it does. Providing innumerable little glimpses of it — like those two down by the stables in Haven — isn’t a fixation on bedsheets and what occurs between them. It’s acknowledging what people do. How they exist in the world. Part of that existence, for most of us, means hoping desperately that other people acknowledge our existence, too. Somehow. Someday before the end. And the end, in stories, frequently looms closer than usual.

a place to stand

From Sonnets from the Portuguese, and reprinted by The Atlantic here for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s birthday. Referencing, in Rosa Smith’s phrasing, “a kind of private afterlife” between the author and her then-newly-eloped-with husband:

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvëd point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented?  Think!  In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence.  Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovëd,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.