Sunday, May 14, 2017

More Gender Noncomformity

My youth is a long way away, and I don't remember it entirely clearly. But I remember that I never wanted to be a housewife, a mother or anything that was allowed to women in those days: a secretary, a teacher or a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, a space cadet and someone who changed the world for the better. I didn't give into social pressure, because my mother and her sisters were backing me, and because I was so clueless -- so much in my own world -- that I didn't register social pressure. Yes, other kids were sometimes mean to me, but I didn't know why or what I could do about it. So I did nothing and kept being myself. I think I was probably an odd duck, but I managed to protect myself from the 1950s. I became a writer, but not a space cadet, though I write about space faring. I wanted to change the world in radical ways: to make it just and peaceful and kind. I didn't manage that. But I have written about societies that are juster and more peaceful and kinder than ours.

Gender Nonconformity

From the Wikipedia on gender nonconformity: "For women, adult gender non-conformity is often associated with lesbianism due to the limited identities women are faced with at adulthood. Notions of heterosexual womanhood often require a rejection of physically demanding activities, social submission to a male figure (husband or boyfriend), an interest in reproduction and homemaking, and an interest in making oneself look more attractive for men with appropriate clothing, make-up, hair styles and body shape. A rejection of any of these factors may lead to a woman being called a lesbian regardless of her actual sexual orientation..."
What is this crap? Never in my life have I met any of these criteria for a normal het woman. I thought these criteria went out in the 1960s.
Make yourself look attractive for men? I dress for myself and other women. Men don't notice. Well. some gay men do.

Social submission? Are you nuts? Homemaking? If you mean decor, yes, I do that. I learned it from my father. If you mean house cleaning, I do it, but I'm not interested. I'm kind of lazy, so I do avoid physically demanding activities, except weight lifting, kettle bells and TRX.

I know women who run races, who work demanding jobs, who do kettle bells and TRX. (Men have tried our TRX class, but they quit, because it's too hard.) Who dress to please themselves and possibly other women. Who may or may not be interested in reproduction. I would call all of these women normal. I figure the description of 'normal women' in the Wikipedia entry appies to members of weird Xian sects and to the sad young women who hang out in sports bars with their boy friends.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fall 2

I saw the orthopedic doc. A nice guy.

My broken bone is a crack. It should heal itself. I should not wear the sling for more than 7-10 days. I can use the left hand and arm now. The sling is just for comfort and to alert other people, so they won't bump into me. Once the sling is off, I need to start stretching the injured arm to bring back full range of motion. I should stay away from heavy lifting for six weeks.

Friday, May 12, 2017


I had a nasty fall last week, which resulted in a broken bone in my left arm and a massive black eye, now beginning to turn other colors. We went to an urgent care unit and then to a local hospital, since the urgent care unit thought I needed a CT scan, since I had hit my head. (I also wrecked a lovely and expensive pair of glasses.) Anyway, I got scanned and xrayed and am now in a sling. I have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor this afternoon.

This happened when I was looking forward to attending to a wedding and going to the Wisconsin Science Fiction Convention. Also, I have writing to finish and an apartment to clean, and Patrick and I are due to move into a new apartment in our building this summer. Summer is pretty close.

My mood swings up and down. I was cheery in the ER. Today I feel okay. Yesterday, I decided I was old and fragile and heaven knew what complications there might be.

I never broken a bone before. I am really angry about it. I tripped on an uneven place in the sidewalk. What kind of klutz does that? I blame it on Trump. I was probably brooding over his behavior instead of watching where I was going.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mike Levy

Ruth Berman and I went to the memorial service for Mike Levy. It was in Menomonie, Wisconsin, a small college town about an hour and half from the Twin Cities. It was the kind of service I like: the minister spoke, but not a lot. Mostly, Mike's friends and relatives told their memories. I got a chance of speak with Mike's widow, Sandy Lindow, and his son Scott, also Kelly McCullough and Laura McCullough, good friends to Mike and Sandy. Everyone looked wiped out. I told Kelly he and Laura needed to get a cat. (They have lost two fairly recently.) He said that was the plan for next week.

I will repeat a story Mike's son Scott told. When Mike was in grad school, he was walking home one icy Minnesota-winter day, and he heard a kitten crying. He looked around and found the kitten on a heating grate. It had climbed on the grate to get warm. The hot air coming out the grate must have cooled temporarily, and the moisture on the grate had frozen, trapping the kitten. Its feet were actually frozen to the grate. Mike carefully chipped the kitten free and took it home. He named it Sarah Bernhardt and had Sarah for 20 years. Scott said it was the meanest, most miserable cat he had ever met.

After the service, refreshments were served in the church basement: Wisconsin cheese with crackers, fruit and little pastries. The coffee was classic church basement coffee: hot and weak.

Then Ruth and I headed back to the Twin Cities. We were both tired. I was exhausted.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Minicon Report

I went to Minicon late yesterday morning and stayed till 3:30 in the afternoon. Was on one panel -- about creating flawed heroes. Maybe because I was tired, I couldn't get engaged with the topic. Bought a pair of opal earrings from Elise Matthesen in the dealers' room. Got a ride home with Ruth Berman, took a nap, got up briefly and then went to bed for the night.

I did more thinking about the flaws in my heroes, trying to figure out if the panel could have been made better. Daisy's flaw in my story "Daisy" is she's an octopus. She can't drive a stick shift. She doesn't understand humans. She doesn't have a moral system. (Octopuses are solitary predators.) She needs to get to the ocean.

Loft, in the story I'm currently finishing for wizard anthology, has a flaw of being an utter jerk. But I'm basing my story on an Icelandic folktale, and he's a jerk in the folktale. So I didn't give him a flaw. He came with one. The problem in the story is to make him less of a jerk.

I said on the panel that I don't add flaws to my characters. The whole story -- the character, the setting, the problem -- seem to take shape together. How they take shape depends on what sets off the story. "Daisy" began with joking around on facebook. This led to the name Art Pancakes, which sounded like a good name for a gangster. I don't remember how the idea of a criminal bookkeeper octopus evolved, but it did -- and on facebook.

"Loft" began with an Icelandic folktale.

"Yu the Engineer," which is notes at the moment, comes from Chinese history. What is Yu's flaw? He is damn near flawless, though he's going to have a problem when he gets home from taming the Yellow River floods and has to confront a family he hasn't seen for 13 years. How pissed is his wife going to be? As with "Loft," I am beginning with an existing story. Then ideas leaf off it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Michael Levy

Mike Levy has died. People in the SFF academic community will know him, also people attending local cons, where Mike was on wonderful panels on recent SFF. I have known Mike and his wife Sandy Lindow for decades. I can't express how great a loss this is. A bright, kind, thoughtful guy, a teacher and scholar and fan, human-hearted and civilized. One of my favorite people.

Here is a poem, not written about Mike, but it fits, sort of. Though I am not the slightest bit comfortable about losing Mike.

(In the Manner of Tu Fu)

We stop at a tavern outside the capital:
one last evening of wine
and composing poetry.
You will leave before daybreak,
taking the long dark road alone.

In the distance mountains loom:
deep gorges and high passes.
Clouds enfold the peaks.
Monkeys scream on the sheer cliffs.
The country ahead of you
is the stuff of legends.

In my mind I see
your tiny figure
diminishing and diminishing,
until you are invisible
in the distance,
while I lie warm
and comfortable under my quilt,
planning to rise late
and compose another poem.
Many of the classical Chinese poets were government bureaucrats, often sent away to be administrators in distant provinces. Classical Chinese poetry is full of leavetakings.

The Law of Jante

From The Guardian:
The Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose wrote about it more than 80 years ago, setting down the regulating mechanisms that operate on Scandinavians from below, in what he called the Law of Jante. According to Sandemose, the 10 commandments that regulate our social behavior are:

1. You mustn’t think you’re special.
2. You mustn’t think you’re as good as we are.
3. You mustn’t think you’re smarter than us.
4. You mustn’t imagine you’re any better than us.
5. You mustn’t think you know more than we do.
6. You mustn’t think you’re more important than us.
7. You mustn’t think you’re good at anything.
8. You mustn’t laugh at us.
9. You mustn’t think anyone cares about you.
10. You mustn’t think you can teach us anything.
I think these ten commandments are a bit harsh. But a lot of them sound familiar to me as a Minnesotan.

MInnesotans like everyone to be on the same level, which can be very good and not so good.

Patrick says he heard the same kind of thing in Detroit: 'Don't get above your raising.' My friend John Rezmerski, who ended up as a college professor in Minnesota, said his mother wanted him to get a teaching degree and teach high school in the Pennsylvania paper mill town where he grew up. It's a common working class attitude. Members of the middle class compete against one another and getting ahead of your neighbors is fine. The working class tend to value solidarity.

I don't know this fits with Minnesota's Nordic heritage. But Minnesota has had a strong union movement and a strong co-op movement. The local political party that is affiliated with the National Democrats is the Democratic Farmer Labor Party. We understand solidarity -- part of the time, at least. The country and small towns have a long tradition of helping your neighbors out. But economic and social changes have gutted rural Minnesota. Instead of many small farms we have a handful of big farms, and the small town main streets are often empty.

Post Office

So I went to the post office to mail off my tax payments. I was there over an hour, standing in line. There was a chattery lady in a wheelchair, who never stopped talking. Several restless children. People who had problems when they finally got to the counter, which had only one clerk. For example, the young person with 35 letters that had to go certified mail. Do you know how long it takes to process 35 pieces of certified mail? I do now. The gentleman who had a complaint about another branch office and wanted to see someone in authority at this branch right now -- and was upset enough so he didn't hear the clerk telling him she was the only person in the office. She kept saying, "We only sell stamps." The woman who appeared to be actively hallucinating. She seemed to be on a phone, which I couldn't see, talking to star fleet.

I have no trouble with ambient noise in a coffee shop. I rarely notice other people's conversations. But I couldn't shut out any of the noise on this line. Epecially the lady who was saying, "Danger, danger" to star fleet.

This is the downtown office. I went after lunch hour, hoping for no line. I expected to see people in business attire, not people like the lady entirely in white, carrying a couple of white flowers. She got in a lively conversation with the member of star fleet.

I stopped on the way home and got a brownie the size of a house, ate it, came home and took a nap.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


This post is in response to a Fran Lebowitz interview in the NY Times. Ms Lebowitz said, "Books are better than life."

I replied:
I want to argue with the line "books are better than life." No. Books require a plot (usually) and meaning (often). SFF books usually require action and excitement. I like reading about action and excitement (a lot of the time) and debtor's prisons and wretched humans beings such as Mrs. Norris in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. But do I want to encounter all this in my life? No, except in books. Most of the people in Jane Austen's novels would be boring or enraging or both, if met in real life. Being inside a Dickens' novel would be a nightmare. London in the 19th century? Ghastly poverty? Amazing pollution? Inedible food?

What life has going for it is drinking coffee in the morning and reading facebook, talking to Patrick, seeing friends, making dinner, seeing a work of (so called) art such as Captain America: Civil War and discussing why it is so lousy. Life can be painful, because you can't close it like a book and say "that's enough of that, I can find something better on the shelf." In that sense, books are better, I guess.

Though I enjoy the minutia of life a lot. I couldn't write an entire book about activities of daily life, because it has no plot or meaning. It would have characters, but they would be doing nothing much, living ordinary lives. What makes books appealing is -- they are not life. They are different. The two can't be compared.

You can have books in life. (Always good.) But not life -- real life -- in books. I think I have that right. I think I will pull out a laptop and write.
Dust bunnies. There are rarely dust bunnies in books. Piles of filth, yes. Gigantic spider webs. Gigantic spiders. Dinners are rarely spoiled, unless the author wants them so. In books, the author has complete control. The reader has none. You cannot save Little Nell.

P.S. A friend of mine points out that it's possible to save LIttle Nell with fan fiction. True enough, and maybe one of the reasons for fan fic. It enables the reader to exert control.

New Post

I have not been on this blog for a month. Nothing much has happened. We had a mild -- too mild -- winter with almost no snow. I've gotten a little writing done. Did I mention before that I am a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award? If not, then I am. The same book -- my collection of hwarhath stories -- made the Honor List for the James Tiptree Jr. Award.

No other news that I can think of. I am about to brew tea in a lovely handmade pot I got from a friend who is a potter and then settle down to revise a story.

P.S. A friend points out that I have a new story in the March Issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It is titled "Daisy" and is about an octopus who does double entry bookkeeping.