Visitations

Posted on July 21, 2010 by

On Monday morning I was closing up the house when I noticed an especially stunning dragonfly on my grapevine:

dragonfly

Most of my day had been set aside for fun with Kelly–fun of the strolling about taking pictures variety, no less!–so this was an especially welcome visitor. Sometimes dragonflies are quite twitchy, and won’t let you get close. This one sat quite still and let me snap it for about twenty minutes, from all angles and just inches away. It was still there when we left the house.

The rest of the day was spent in self-indulgence. Coffee and a panini first; then we went to Maplewood Flats and ambled around for awhile, admiring the everything. We were particularly taken with some immature robins who were having a go at the berries in a big tree overlooking the beach.

Immature Robin

From there we went to Lynn Canyon, puttered across the suspension bridge, and joined a seething mass of humanity on the trail. We didn’t stay long: crowds and day camp groups and many many screaming toddlers didn’t make for a relaxing soundscape. It was neat to go from the salt marsh ecosystem to BC cedar forest, real Emily Carr terrain, in fifteen minutes flat. But the jostling and screeching were aversive; solitude was what we both wanted.

So we fled to Au Petit Chavignol, where we were the only people besides the wait staff. We had a little plate of cheese (including goat gouda with nettles!) and charcuterie, an heirloom tomato salad, some white wine (Joie Farm, A Noble Blend) and a decadent little brown sugar and butter cake with cooked cherries. I managed to shoot it before it got devoured; usually it would come with whipped cream too, but I had them leave that off.

I have to tell you that if they’d brought twice as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. If they’d brought ten times as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. Fifty, even. It was that good.

brown sugar cake

At that point it was time to go home and loaf within easy reach of our book and DVD collection.

Texting hexes: when magic meets gadgetry

Posted on July 20, 2010 by

Rather than posting here today, I’d like to direct you all to an article I wrote for Tor.com, on the intersections between magic and technology in urban fantasy and ecofantasy. It is called “Text me that hex, please? Kthxbai!”

The post is another tie-in to the Urban Fantasy spotlight going on at Tor.com this month. It gave me a chance to talk a little about the magical rules underlying Indigo Springs and to look at what some other authors are doing in a few new books, including M.K. Hobson’s incandescent The Native Star, whose book trailer is here:
Native Star Book Trailer

The Urban Fantasy spotlight, as I’ve mentioned, will also be hosting a novelette by me, “The Cage,” within the next week or so.

Photopost: water droplets

Posted on July 19, 2010 by

I feel unadulterated envy for Barb’s accomplishments in the realm of water droplet photography. She has taken images that are beyond stunning. My current fave is a field of your basic white daisy… in the foreground is one blossom covered in raindrops, and each drop has a prismatic, upside-down reflection of the flowers behind it. You’ll have to take my word for it: I’d link, but she doesn’t index.

Here’s my latest pale imitation, from the deck garden:

Droplets

Cameras and photography have been a big topic of conversation among my relations this week; I’m going on a cruise to Alaska with all my Nevada-based loved ones, and it sounds at this point like we may have 1.5 cameras per capita. We seem to share a drive to document natural things: trees and rocks and water, as the Arrogant Worms put it. In this case, I’m hoping for seals and whales and ice floes.

Talkback… or is it soccer?

Posted on July 18, 2010 by

Jay Lake ran with my earlier post about internet content that addresses the concerns–both artistic and commercial–of mid-career writers. My note, in turn, started with a germ from Jessica Reisman. What we’re really discussing is how writers talk to each other in these public forums, and what we say to beginners.

You can see what Jay and various respondents said here. Among other things, he points out that there are simply a lot more aspiring writers to talk to.

Me, making the pass..

And Jessica Reisman, kicking it all off.

On a completely unrelated note, if you ever want the Casino security peeps to get really really interested in you, pause in their awning with your great big zoom and photograph what you find there.
DSCN3568

Story Intros: The Slow Invasion

Posted on July 17, 2010 by

This is, essentially, a post about where I get my ideas.

In the months when I was gearing up to attend Clarion West in 1995, I spent most of my writing time on short mysteries, because I was hoarding my SF ideas. As a result, I got to Seattle with a healthy little clutch of index cards jammed with scribblings. One had notes on an image I’d had, of teenaged human girls caught in the midst of a fashion fad: they were wearing the four-armed coats made for members of a race of aliens, half a million of whom had come to live on Earth as refugees. I imagined one of those aliens, also female, watching them through a window, and trying to make sense of the behavior.

I wrote the story at Clarion. In various incarnations it was called “Voice of Reason,” and “Sotto Voce.” It was long and imperfect and dear to my heart; I think it was the first time it really occurred to me that even a nice fictional character might lie, might promise to do one thing and then go in an entirely different direction. It also had some thorny, autobiographical stuff. I’d never attempted that before either.

I never got “Sotto Voce” into anything approaching submission readiness–having gone to Clarion to experiment, I came home with a number of unviable mutants–but a passing reference in that story to a second alien race, the Nandieve, spawned “The Dark Hour.” Its main character is a young human pilot, Oriole. Like those girls with their four-armed winter coats, he’s embraced otherness; he sees the Nandi as a wiser, more sophisticated and more powerful culture than the one he was born into. When his ship gets hijacked, he ends up on the Nandi homeworld, which affords him a closer look at their best and worst qualities. Basically a rose-colored glasses go smush type of thing.

The story was initially published in Tesseracts 8, which was edited by John Clute and Candas Jane Dorsey. It came out in 2006 and I’d have sworn it was the first of the stories set in this universe to see print. (The Internet Speculative Fiction DB says otherwise.) It was definitely one of the earliest of the batch in terms of when I actually wrote them. Here’s a snip:

Days after she rescued Brother, a black ball of feathers flailing in wet leaves, Momma was killed by a white riot cop. Her son divorced his species, changing his name to Oriole and taking the crow as his only family. An orphanage run by Momma’s church took them in, and he lived there in silence for two years. He didn’t say a word to another human, black or white, until Contact, the day that emissaries of seven alien races came to Earth, transmitting messages of friendship from their fragile, exquisite spaceships.

The nuns found him outside that night, face tilted to the stars, mumbling alien words. His voice was hoarse from lack of use–like Brother, he croaked.

“Yah Kurar. Sky’s calling,” he said, as Sister Beverly carried him to bed.


I took to calling this series “The Slow Invasion” because in this universe, Earth’s economy gets bound up, to humankind’s detriment, in the trade of bigger and more advanced cultures. Eventually, we’re no longer self-sufficient. There were four of them published, and a few false starts–“Sotto Voce,” of course, and at least one fragment I workshopped at Turkey City but never finished. Each was written as a stand-alone, and they aren’t as tightly interlaced as the squid stories. They’re unified by that idea of a well-established intergalactic community, with its treaties and alliances and a well-established economy, and how Earth might fare if we enter it as a latecomer.

Ruby, in the Storm,” started with an image not unlike the one that led to “Sotto Voce.” This time, it was a human watching an alien, again through a window. The frame this time was a recurring visual from my childhood: a heavy, windless Alberta snowfall, a blizzard of irregular, pea-sized clusters of snowflakes, falling in impenetrable curtains. In these storms, the flakes stream down so slowly it seems possible they might hover, or even reverse direction. Air just below freezing, sound deadened by the sheer density of the gently falling precipitation… the world is hidden in a glow of amber from the street lights as the snow piles and piles and piles.

The inspiration for “A Slow Day at the Gallery,” meanwhile, came from a CBC Radio story I heard, about a B.C. First Nations tribe that was having to jump through hoops to get a museum in Europe to repatriate a stolen totem pole.

I wrote “The Spear Carrier” just after I’d joined a choir. I was in the process of learning the names of all sorts of exciting new people who’d just come into my life. Something about that experience got me to thinking about coming-of-age rites and naming and reinvention and, well, nametags. I’d discovered that I remember names better if I see them written down or, better yet, if I write them down myself. That led to my creating another offworld race, one with peculiar dueling laws and a complex naming ritual that ends with the celebrant getting a piece of ornate name-related jewelry that is their legal ID and their badge of adulthood.

I’ve been mostly wrapped up with novels in recent years, and a good deal of my short fiction energy lately has elsewhere. The squid stories fed off the Slow Invasion energy: I couldn’t quite imagine the Nandi and the Yeti and the rest getting involved in that particular civil war. (I sometimes think of the squid stories as the Fast invasion.) But I like these stories, and I’ve always had the idea that I’ll return to this universe again.