Harlan Ellison

Okay, I just finished Angry Candy. I read “Chained to the Fast Lane in the Red Queen’s Race” and “The Function of Dream Sleep” during my lunch break and I’m all weepy-faced and sniffly in my cube.

Damn, but that man can write.

And I was so absorbed I stopped eating my lunch and now it’s cold and vaguely glutinous. But it was worth it.

I was thinking of switching to some William Gibson after Angry Candy but instead, I think I need to find more Ellison to read. Damn. “Dream Sleep” really got to me. I still have that hollow feeling you get with tears coming. Damn. I wish I could write like that.


Waiting on the database analysts to upgrade our test environment. This project has resembled a fiasco since moment one. But, while I’m in the limbo ether of waiting, my mind sort of spiked off into a ramble-a-thon.

I’ve been on a Harlan Ellison kick recently. I read his Deathbird Stories anthology and am mostly through his Angry Candy anthology. Authors who excel and revel in the short story form are rare these days. The short is an under-appreciated and under-utilized format. I think most genre writers view it as more of a training ground than as meritous in itself.

Did I mention that I’ve met Harlan Ellison? The man’s amazing. Rather intimidating, but you can see the heart beating on his sleeve. There’s a picture of me with him at Dragon*Con floating around on a hard drive somewhere. Gotta get that.

Anyway, Deathbird seems to be much angrier than Angry Candy, ironically. The fire which is a hallmark of Ellison’s writing is . . . banked in Candy. It’s more despairing than angry. I think his works are best served simmering.

And on a tangent–I mentioned this was a ramble, didn’t I?–I’m seeing a trend in authors where their childhoods really shape what they write. Like with Ellison, he had a vicious childhood as a Jewish child at a time when anti-Semitism was still pretty prevalent in America. And, as anyone who’s met or seen Ellison knows, he’s never been one to back down from a fight. And he carries a lot of angry memories from that time, apparently. You can see it in the stories he writes–in the children’s faces, either innocent evil or oppression. While Ray Bradbury seems like he had a more idyllic childhood and he writes of long, beatific summers and the mystery and wonder of youth.

I kind of wonder that my childhood doesn’t shape my writing more. I mean, it was horrible. And it’s not like I’ve blanked it from my memory or anything. I’ve still got some pretty vivid memories of my mother railing abuses at me at the top of her lungs in public, and in front of my little school children non-chums who then proceeded to mock me with it. Plenty of emotional abuse, pain, and repressed fury, a ripe landscape to transfer into emotion-filled tales. But it doesn’t seem to figure into my writing much. Wonder why? And I wonder if I should try to explore that more, give my writing that edge of despair.

Or maybe it’s because it doesn’t really bother me anymore. My childhood was horrible, but it happened and I’m over it. It sort of feels . . . I dunno, feels odd somehow to consider intentionally trying to revisit it.

Aw Hell. I just need to write something. I’m in the middle of three stories now. Dammit, I need to finish one of them.

Enough rambling. It’s lunchtime.

Early morning insomnia and “Attack of the Clones”

Argh. I hate insomnia. I am way too awake for how early it is and how little sleep I’ve had. Dammit.

But, on an up note, Matthew and I went to see Attack of the Clones last night. Yes, theater full of children, but they were much better behaved en masse than the children from Hell we had sitting behind us at Spider-Man. The single adult male sitting in the seat beside me though, well, he was kind of weird. He kept talking to the screen. Loudly. Better than being kicked in the back, I guess.

However, despite my misgivings and my expectations to the contrary (and many reviews I’ve stumbled upon even with my best efforts not to), I liked AotC. Okay, the writing blew goats. And, err, so did the acting. The number of cosmic coincidences necessary for the plot to carry itself along is best glossed over. The Anakin/Amidala romance was completely contrived and unbelievable. And it’s pretty damn obvious where Luke got his whininess. But I liked Ewan McGregor. And despite the fact that the man can’t write or apparently direct, Lucas makes cool special FX. The planetscapes, the battles, the alien critters! Much that was shiny for me to oooh at gives AotC my snort of approval.

[Itty bitty teeny weeny spoiler alert–but only if you’ve been going around with your head stuck in a box about Episode II]
I’m also amused that the evil count must be a ferret. After all, with a name like “Dooku”, he’s gotta be at least part ferret. (For those of you not familiar with ferretkind, when they’re excited or happy the sound these usually silent animals make is “dook dook”.) I also loved the duel between Dooku and Yoda. 70-year-old man and CGI muppet duking it out with lightsabers. Woohoo! But if you think about it, Frank Oz has been around muppets since the early 60’s so it should’ve been old hat for him.
[/spoiler alert]

So yah. The movie had way many flaws–most of them right in the middle of the film when you start to notice that your butt’s been sitting on an uncomfortable theater non-cushion for an hour–but it makes up for it by sheer shiny wowness.

Fun fun.

Othello, vegetarian shepherd’s pie and thou beneath a bough . . . .

Matthew and I went to see Othello at the Shakespeare Tavern last night. We’ve seen a lot of Shakespeare–regularly attended the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for as long as we’ve been together, hit shows in Chicago, San Fran, etc.–but we have yet to see a company perform Shakespeare as well as the folks here. Their R&J was the absolute best version we’ve ever seen–and we must have seen dozens of R&Js–and their Merry Wives was amazing. I laughed so hard, I thought I’d split something. But, having said that, Othello was not their strongest performance. Actually, I’d even say it was the weakest Shakespeare play (they did a few productions not written by ole Bill which I just don’t clump into the same category) this season. Ah well. I suspect it’s a shortcoming of the play or perhaps they didn’t put as much effort into it as their other performances. Othello isn’t one of our favorites either. I did see hints of their trademark deep character/plot interpretation in Iago. They managed to insert drops and splashes of implication that Iago’s actions were spurred by his repressed sexual attraction to Othello as well as some secret interest in Desdemona. But it wasn’t enough to carry the production.

I’m pleased to say that even a not-so-great performance at the Tavern is still enjoyable, though. And I love their food! We had dragon noodles for an appetizer and shared their vegetarian shepherd’s pie and sun-dried tomato with brie sandwich for our main course. Yummy.

Next month, Comedy of Errors. Getting season tickets to the Tavern was one of the best entertainment investments we’ve made. Definitely gonna renew them next year.

Spider-Man and the children from hell

Went to Spider-Man yesterday. Well, it was pretty much what I expected–colorful, adequately acted, predictable, and with questionable writing/plotting. But I mean really, is it only me (and Matthew) or does the rest of the world really subscribe to comic book ethics?

I enjoyed it more than Matthew, but it was still pretty vapid, vacuous, and frivolous. Light, escapist, fun. Yep.

The theater was packed with young ‘uns, though. I can usually tolerate children (although let me state for the record: ZPG! ZPG!) but there was this set of children from hell sitting right behind us. First, the older child creature talks and giggles loudly throughout the whole movie “Is Spider-Man flying?” “Daddy, Spider-Man’s flying!” but okay, I can mostly gate him out. But then the other child creature won’t sit still, so the female caregiver picks him up and holds him in her lap. Fine. Good idea. Restrain the little beast. Except she’s sitting behind me and with that child thing on her lap, it’s within kicking range of the back of my chair. I had to put up with [thump][thump] reverberating up my spine throughout the whole damn movie. That woman really needed to remove her offspring from the theater. Grr.

Children: Good for experiments. Attach the electrodes.

Superglued my writer’s hat to my head . . . .

I’ve been putting it off, telling myself that I didn’t want to do it until I could sign up for Active membership, and then I see on the Rumor Mill that the current issue of the SFWA Bulletin has an interview with GVG, Ellen Datlow, and Gardner Dozois about what they’re looking for when they go through their slush piles. Like a taser to the head, it becomes crstalline-creature clear to me that I should have subscribed to the Bulletin already. SFWA Members–both Associate and Active–get the Bulletin as part of their membership so it makes sense for me to go ahead and toss them my stupid application, write them my stupid check, and have done with it.

So Associate membership it is. Sigh.

Maybe I’ll make enough pro level sales this year to qualify for Active membership.

But hey, membership dues are tax deductible. Whee.

On a less boring note in the life-of-Eugie, I’m going to go see Spiderman this afternoon. Nice, escapist fun. Maybe I’ll splurge on a packet of Twizzlers.

With my writer’s hat firmly planted . . . .

I even have my glasses on. Whenever I wear my glasses, I feel all frumpy and librariany.

Yesterday, I got two whole rejections slips in the mail. One from Absolute Magnitude and one from Dreams of Decadence. Obviously the DNA publications Lapine/Kessler duo had a slush reading last weekend. But, despite the crushing rejection (actually, not-so-crushing, in truth, I’m getting a thick skin about dejection slips) I’m jazzed. Both notes had encouraging handwritten blurbs on them and the one from Ms. Kessler–editor of D of D herself and not some first-reader–said she was keeping another of my submissions for consideration. Happy dance!

How sad is it that a strong “maybe” can get me so riled up? Aw heck, I’ll take what perks I can out.

And on a less firm “maybe”, I was cruising the Rumor Mill and saw that the editor who I’ve got two manuscripts with, one for each anthology he’s currently editing, sent rejection snail-mail out early last month but sent email notes out to author’s he’s short listed. And I realized, ding, that when I sent these stories out, I had my mediaone.net email address still, before that whole AT&T debacle, and if he’d sent a note to me, it would have gotten bounced. I’m probably leap-frogging the gun to assume no news is good news, but not getting a dejection slip makes me hopeful. So I sent him a query and an FYI about my email address changing.

I appear to be firmly mired in writer’s block, but at least I’m staying on top of the marketing side of things.

Must. Sell. Something. (Else.)

Weirded by nostalgia

Okay, so I was just surfing around, checking out various and sundry blog sites as I’ve recently become acquainted with this new form of lovely addiction, and I run across a webjournal of a person I knew in high school. Now this person and I were friends of the hang out, and occasionally make out, persuasion. We had a lot of mutual friends and spent many evenings en masse listening to music or otherwise doing those things that parents fear their teenaged offspring are engaged in, despite having done the same things themselves without an iota of harm coming to them. (Except for my mother, who grew up in some alien culture with some really weird-assed cultural expectations and apparently didn’t do squat. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant.)

Anyway, back to this ex-friend. He was, and apparently still is, a highly intelligent individual, but I remember he was also socially clueless with a veritable cocktail of neurosis that tinged every interaction with him with a patina of awkwardness and strained silences. Once, he made it known to me that he was quite taken with me and was interested in progressing our relationship to a closer level. Now this declaration wasn’t all that surprising since it was delivered, if memory serves me right, on the tail of a prolonged kissing session on a grassy hillock (while another pair of friends were engaged in similar impetuous displays of hormone-induced libido beside us). However it made me contemplate him as more than just someone to have casual lip contact with and I realized that part of me shrank away, twitching under a coffee table, at the thought of it. There was too much that was alien about him to ever make me completely at ease, and that’s no way to conduct a relationship. So I made some comment to put off my answer and hoped he’d get the hint. He didn’t always (remember that social cluelessness from above?) but this time, it seemed he did. We continued to hang out, but as time passed and I saw less of him, I didn’t really make an effort to keep in contact. But he was a markedly intelligent individual (and I value intelligence more than any other character trait) with a creative bent that I always admired.

And now I’ve stumbled across his blog. And it seems like he’s turned into a caricature of who he was in high school. His entries scream out witty intelligence. His ironic satires make me envious of the smooth turn of his phrases, wrought with allegories that are insightful and keen. Yet at the same time he’s devolved further into his nest of neurosis, living alone with his cats in an un-air conditioned apartment swirled up in a dark morass of paranoia, anxiety, and isolation, working at a minor-ducats job he obviously despises and that is way beneath his abilities.

So. Okay. My childhood was, by all measures, a bad one. My mother was insane, not someone who should be allowed near children, and my father was a shit who left her and me when I was three. I can’t blame him for leaving her. I would have too if I could have. But he was a shit to me as well during the sporadic visitation periods he “gifted” me with and his sole interest in me was to elicit promise after promise that I would take care of him when he got old. My father didn’t have issues. Uh huh.

But high school was different. I became who I am during those years, largely due to the influence of the company I kept who, though being for the most part assholes who suffered from low self-esteem and thought the cure for that was trammeling my self-esteem into the mud, introduced me to different ways of thinking, thereby setting into motion the realization that everything that parents, school, and society had fed to me as truth was up for debate. Despite the trashing my ego was taking, I discovered I could think on my own, thank you very much. And that stuck with me. (And eventually I bandaged my ego up, stuck it in a sling, met the most wonderful man in the world, married him, and lo and behold, my ego recovered.)

But okay, so it’s left me with some really weird-ass feelings about high school and my hometown. This person who’s blog I’ve discoverd was one of the rare few who never tried to build himself up by cutting out other people’s legs from under them. And he’s got some qualities that I find laudable and rare in people. I considered, for a moment, contacting him, sending him an email just to say “hi, how’s it going?” But I’m in touch with my inner reality enough to know that I won’t. It wasn’t a conscious process at the time, but some part of me made a decision many years ago to lose touch with this person. I’ll respect that.

But now it’s left me feeling weirdly nostalgic. The past is a strange and murky creature. I love mine and hate it. That’ll show it.