Aug 13 2017

Meanwhile, at Worldcon, where I am not…


Apparently they did the Hugo Awards ceremony last night.  Who knew?   I would have watched it via the internet, if I’d realized they were doing it so early in the convention weekend.   Well, I could still look at the video… but when you know who won, it kind of takes the drama out of it…

You don’t need me to tell you who won, right?  It’s posted everywhere!  Like, at Tor.Com.

Well, okay, here’s the short version:

Best Novel : The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Best Novella : Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)

Best Novelette : “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

Best Short Story : “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Best Related Work : Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story : Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form : Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form : The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes,” written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

Best Editor – Short Form :Ellen Datlow

Best Editor – Long Form :Liz Gorinsky

Best Professional Artist :Julie Dillon

Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine: “Lady Business,” edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan

Best Fancast : Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer : Abigail Nussbaum

Best Fan Artist : Elizabeth Leggett

Best Series : The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer : Ada Palmer

For more details, really is my favorite site for keep up to date on SF/F biz doings.

Now, must hustle off — I’m jammed up with many tasks, some of which I’ll tell you about soon…





Aug 2 2017

Last Readercon post: The Klatsch


Ages ago, at a dim and distant Readercon, Kathei Logue (music booking agent, SF fan, Readercon volunteer) came up with the idea of the Kaffeeklatsch as a program item: sign up to hang out with an author.  One author, 12 slots for fans, one hour.  Coffee usually provided.

I haven’t seen or heard from Kathei in a long time, but her idea lives on, and other conventions have picked it up, too.  So, thanks, Kathei.

I always have fun at the kaffeeklatsches, whether I have just a couple of attendees, or a whole tableful.   I think it’s because readers, when I meet them, turn out to be so cool, so interesting.

I’ve talked to poets, writers, artists, book designers,  a guy who made swords and armor.  Musicians, any number of programmers and other people in Information Technology.  Librarians!  (I love librarians.   Do you know that librarians are the real-life Steerswomen of our age?  True fact. )  Economists. Lawyers.  Scientists! (This year we had a protein crystallographer, and a real-life NCIS agent/forensic scientist who wrote a book about her time as a CSI in Kansas.)

And I seemed to have been in a particularly chatty mood this time, as well.   As ego-boosts go, it’s hard to beat a table full of really smart people paying close attention to every word you say!

At one point, we were talking about my reading, and someone asked for some idea of the locations mentioned, and I pulled a map out of my bag.  Ah, they all went, and gathered in. What a lovely sound.

Of course, they were not expecting me to unfold the map and keep on unfolding it until it basically covered half the table.   Heh.

And it had color-coded  shadings, and cryptic notations like “Wheat Guys,” “Woods Guys,” “Tin Guys.”  Yep, here’s Lake Aizi, where Amy’s from, and here, here, there and there, that’s where Artos is going to be traveling…

Smartphones came out, and pics were taken.  Alas, I didn’t take one myself…

You know, that’s very silly of me… I really wish, in retrospect, that I had taken a photo of every Kaffeeklatsch I’ve taken part in.   I’m going to do that, going forward (but I will always ask people if they mind being included, because I know that some people just don’t want to be in photos that might get shared online.  Their choice).

Anyway, thanks to all who attended.    (Yes, even that one dude who I later learned had not read anything I had ever written.  I think he possibly sneaked in just to get some coffee.  Still, nice guy.)

Jul 28 2017

Readercon: my reading.


I had started writing a post analyzing that Sturgeon quote, and was rather enjoying myself, but suddenly found myself in a time crunch with three different tasks that need my immediate attention.   I had to set it aside; I’ll get back to it next week.

So, instead, I’ll tell you about my reading at Readercon

Yes, they were able to assign me time for a reading!  However, Book Five is currently still in a state of chaos, and the only non-chaotic parts parts are either major spoilers, or stuff I’ve already read at readings, far too many times.  So instead, I read a couple of chapters from a side-project of mine (not the fabled Seekret Project).

I’ve long had an idea that it might be fun to write a YA (Young Adult) book that would take place in the Steerswomen’s universe.  So, every now and then I cool my fevered brain by doing some work on that.

To my mind, the main differences between YA and Adult fiction are: 1. Age of the protagonist; 2. size of the vocabulary; 3. degree to which the sentences are convoluted, clause-filled, and of esoteric construction.  I’ve attempted to keep to those parameters, but not very assiduously; I’ll fix it all in the rewrites.   Mainly, I just wanted to start getting things down on paper.

And that’s what I read from at my reading.

The working title is:  TRUTH, ALWAYS.


It made no sense, no sense at all.   Amy stood staring at the boy; she couldn’t even guess what expression was on her face.

He really was going to hit her.  “You don’t even know me,”  She managed to say.
“So?”  He stepped forward again, his fist still cocked;  she stepped back again.  “Stand still,” he said in a tone of complaint, as if this were something they had both agreed to, as if she were trying to cheat him.

He stepped forward again.  She stepped back.

She wasn’t even frightened, although she thought she perhaps ought to be.   And then she realized that she really was frightened — but not by the fist, nor the twisted expression of hate on the boy’s face.  It was that it simply made no sense.   That was frightening, in a way that was hard to understand… somehow weirder than the autumn ghost-tales, and scarier than feeling the lake ice move, just a bit, silently, beneath your feet when it was midnight, and the stars were high, and you were still a mile away from shore.

Because, although you could die from drowing under the ice, at least the ice made sense.  Even ghosts had their own sort of logic.  Without that logic, ghosts couldn’t happen at all, she guessed.

But this strange boy, to whom she had spoken perhaps only five sentences, wanted to do her harm, for no reason.

That was the frightening thing; that there was a time and a place where a thing would happen for no reason.   And the thought of that made everything else crumble.

No, she told herself.  No, things made sense, they had to make sense.  People did things for reasons.

Meanwhile, the boy had kept stepping forward, and she had kept backing away; and now her back was right against the rail, and the blue, cold Aizi was beyond that.  She could back no further.

She felt for a moment that she could do absolutely nothing — because, how could arms and legs and breath ever work at all, if the world made no sense?

Then she remembered what her eldest sister Lilly had said: that bullies were really cowards and would back down if you stood up to them.    So she took a step forward.

It didn’t work.  He didn’t back down.  That fist that he was holding up moved, no hesitation at all.

His aim wasn’t good.   He hit her arm, but not square on – just at the edge, and his fist slid past and thumped up against the railing.  He yelped and snatched his hand back.  “Look what you did!”  There was blood on his knuckles.

“What I did?”  She stepped to one side, wondering why her arm didn’t hurt; and then it did, but it wasn’t much.  Hardly as bad as a skinned knee.  For a boy so eager to fight, he seemed not very good at it.

Then he made a wild noise and came at her, flailing.

But before he reached her, he fell backward, suddenly, jerked back and sent sprawling and sliding across the deck.   His face was all astonishment.   A moment later, the tip of a cane was planted on the center of his chest, and at the other end of the cane was a hand, and the hand belonged to Simon.

He stood gazing down at the boy, not with anger, but with something like curiosity.   The boy tried to get up, but Simon seemed very strong for an old man, and there was no result at all.   “Ow,” the boy said — not a real cry of pain, but just the word, spoken.

Simon tilted his head.  “What’s your name, boy?”

“Ow.  Let me go!”

“Hm.”  Simon thought for a moment, then lifted his cane just a bit.  The boy scrambled back like a crawfish, then got to his hands and knees and escaped, pounding around a cabin housing and away somewhere.   Two of the crew, a young man and a woman so old she looked like she was made of dried fish, parted as the boy dashed between them.  They exchanged a glance, then looked at Simon.   They went back to their work.

Simon turned to her, and displayed his grin, which contained only six teeth, each solitary but in perfect condition.  “I don’t think you’re hurt, are you, Amy?”

“No… I’m all right…”

“What did you say to him? That he got so angry?”

“I don’t know!” She couldn’t see the boy any longer; he had vanished, lost among the other people wandering the deck, or perhaps run below into one of the cabins.  “He asked me where I was going, and why.  And I told him, and he called me a liar. And then he came at me!”

“Hm.  Well, if you see him again, and I’m nearby, just grab my stick and give him a good solid whack.  Don’t wait for him to come at you; take the initiative!  I’ve found in life that action is better than dithering, and a wrong decision is usually better than none.”

Amy instantly thought of half a dozen situations where that would not be true at all.  But to be polite, she said: “Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.”

And he and his cane would be nearby, she knew, at least at night.  He was going to be sleeping in the common-cabin with her.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Cassia should have been here.  That was the plan: Amy and Cassia traveling together.  They had agreed, it was settled, and they should both be here.

If Cassia were here, she’d know what to do about the boy; or if she didn’t know, she’d go ahead and do something anyway, something graceful and smart.  That boy wouldn’t bother them if they were two together.  And people never gave Cassia trouble, anyway — she could always talk them out of it.  By the end of the conversation, they’d be on her side, and they’d even stand up to anyone else who tried to bother Cassia and Amy.  That was how it worked.    Everything worked out best when Cassia was around.

But she wasn’t here.  She had missed the boat.

Amy had asked the captain, said she knew that Cassia was on her way, was almost there, was going to show up at any moment.  And the captain did wait, for a while.

But Cassia never arrived.

So the ship set sail, leaving the mountains and Beanberry behind, moving out onto the great blue Aizi.  Beanberry disappeared behind the ship, replaced by more and more blue, the water now rougher than Amy had ever seen except during a storm, all odd random chop, small waves jumping crazily.  The mountains behind the town seemed no further away at first, only growing bluer and dimmer. Then suddenly, between one moment and the next, they were far, and looked unreal, like a painted backdrop in a traveling theater.

It would take three days to cross the lake and reach Terminus, where there was a caravan the captain meant to meet.  And another day after that to sail from Terminus to the headwaters of the Wulf.

Then Amy would have to walk.  The river wasn’t navigable immediately south of the Aizi, so the maps said.  Later, at Tintown, where the Kerrio River joined the Wulf, there would be boats, and then barges, and she could ride.

She had hundreds of miles to go.

And alone.  She was surrounded by strangers.



Simon gave something like a bow.  Amy couldn’t tell if he really knew how to make a courtly bow, or if he was making it up to tease her.  “Your choice, mistress,” he said, and waved at the hammocks.

Amy looked.  They were hung one above the other, with just one wooden rung on the hull strut for a foothold to climb up to the higher one.  Two by two in three sets, all down one side of the hold, right against the inside of the hull. The hammocks were on the right side, and on the left was the cargo: crates and boxes and barrels all lashed together in the center of the ship.  And on the other side of that, Amy knew, another set of hammocks against the other side of the hull.

Simon was much taller than she was, and he seemed more at home in a boat than she felt.  He was probably expert at clambering up.  But the idea of some strange man just hanging above her, all night long – Amy hated the idea.  “I guess I’ll go up.”  She had no idea how to do it.

“I thank you.  And my bones thank you.  And so does my bladder, which is exactly as old as my bones are but has more to say in the depths of the night.  I’d hate to plant my foot on top of you when I climbed down at some personally urgent moment.”

This was more than she wanted to know, but she managed to say: “You’re welcome.”

She waited to see if anyone else was going to climb into their own hammocks, so she could watch how it was done.  There were cabins, on the next deck above, each with bunk beds and a door that closed – but they were far too expensive.  Hammocks were all Amy could afford.

But it would have been all right, because Cassia would have had the other hammock.  They would have laughed about it. Everything strange would have been just another part of the adventure, the two of them together.

Instead, here was Simon, and she ought to have been grateful, really.  She actually was, when she remembered to be.

When Cassia didn’t arrive, the captain wouldn’t refund the money for her passage.  It was too late — the ship had left the docks.  Amy had paid for two people, but it wasn’t his fault that Cassia missed the boat.

In the lower hammock, Simon was already wrapped up in blankets and breathing deep.  It was he who had saved the day.  He had been planning to sleep on deck, wrapped in a blanket; the charge for deck passage was very small.  But when he heard that Amy had an extra hammock, he offered to pay her.  Not full fare, only half of what it really cost.  But it was better than nothing.

Amy watched the other people climbing into the upper hammocks, and decided that it wasn’t as hard as it looked.  It was all about balance and the way hanging things behaved — it was obvious where you had to put your weight, when she thought about it.

Then she put her left foot (not her right) in the foothold, grabbed the upright with her right hand, pulled herself up, switched hands, tilted back, and ended up on her back, in the hammok, looking at the bulkhead above her.  She smiled to herself, with that warm feeling she always got when she solved something.

It was old wood, just inches away, and she wondered: How old?  How many years had this ship been plying its way across the great lake, back and forth?  It was beautiful and brave, really, when you think about it.

She could ask someone, she could ask the captain.  Maybe there was a wonderful story about how the was ship passed down, generation after generation, in the captain’s family; or maybe he won it in a game of dice, and never thought to be a captain until he suddenly owned a ship!  That made her laugh, to imagine that story: how he might have been very bad at running a ship at first, but then became good at it across the years.

It was lovely, all of a sudden, to be hanging in this tiny space, wood all above her and to her right, and the open passageway to her left.  And even old Simon underneath her — who was he, really?  Wasn’t he sort of a puzzle, in his own way?  He was very nice to her, as odd as he was, with his very few teeth.

She forgot all about Cassia; until she realized that she had forgot all about Cassia, which was the same as remembering Cassia.

For a moment, she imagined that it was Cassia below her, breathing in sleep.

And that changed everything; everyone around would already be their friends, because that’s just how Cassia was.

And if that had been true, Amy right now would be glad and excited about the adventure they were undertaking.  And she did feel that way: glad and excited, exactly as if her imaginings were real.

And then she thought, what an odd thing that was.  How you can feel an emotion for something that isn’t even real.   It came to her that without Cassia, she’d be sad and lonely; it was the imaginary version of herself thinking that, while the non-imaginary her knew in fact that was what was really happening…

So, she set aside all those imaginings.  No Cassia, and none of the things that Cassia brought with her.

But Amy found that she wasn’t sad.  She wasn’t even lonely.

She was just… here.

There was enough light from a lamp down the passageway for her to see the beautiful wood above her.  She reached up, and touched it; it felt old and rich.  Then she put out her hand to the right, and laid her fingers and palm against the hull.

It felt like something alive was on the other side: the water itself, moving.   Or the ship moving, which amounted to the same thing, really.  The whole of the lake, beside which she had lived all her life, for fourteen years, somehow alive.

And all one thing.  She had not thought of that before.  You could see the lake on a map, and she often had looked at it.  But the part of the lake that she knew was just the part by Beanberry.  Half the sky, in a way.  Half the sky was sky above the lake, to the south-east.  The other half of the sky was the mountains.  They didn’t come all the way to the lakeside, but they stood to the northwest, owning the air like kings.

There were people living in the mountains, but you never saw them, so they might as well be imaginary; and there were people on the other side of the lake, but you couldn’t see the far shore.  Everything in the whole world was either back of the mountains, or on the far side of Aizi.

But here: here it was.  The moving water.  Under her hand. Just on the other side of the wood.

She pushed her hand against it a bit harder; but all that did was make her hammock sway away from the hull.  She let it sway back again, and used her touch on the hull to stop the swinging.

She was as stable as she was going to be.

She felt like things were slipping away from her on the one hand, but moving toward her on the other.  She wasn’t at all sure what she meant by that, but that’s how it felt.

Could she fall asleep in this strange place?  Whenever she had trouble falling asleep, she could always manage it by letting her thoughts run free, and imagining some sort of adventure.

One of her favorite things to imagine as she fell asleep, was that she was a steerswoman.

But that was exactly what was happening: she was going south, to become a steerswoman.

But was it a real adventure if there was no one to share it with?  Is it really an adventure if you’re all alone?

Eventually, she managed to fall asleep by imagining clouds moving through the sky, forming and breaking up again, becoming more and more hazy, until they faded into sleep.


The door  to the street opened, and a steerswoman entered.

This had been happening all day; had, in fact, been going on for a couple of months.  No one thought it surprising any more.  There were at this moment eleven other steerswomen in the tea-shop at tables in pairs.  The newcomer made twelve.

This particular steerswoman stood a moment on the threshold, then laughed out loud.  Heads turned, and then hands lifted in greeting.  One of the seated women rose and tried to wave her over, but the newcomer caught sight of something that interested her.  She declined the invitation with a tilt of her head.  She made her way across the room, swinging along on a pair of crutches, toward a table where one woman sat alone, knitting.

When the newcomer had crossed half the distance, the knitter paused, closed her eyes, and cocked her head.  She smiled.  And when the newcomer arrived, the woman at the table put down her work in her lap, and said: “Zenna.”

“Impossible for me to sneak up on you.  Even with Steerswomen’s boots.  Well — boot.”   Zenna pulled out a chair opposite the other woman, then changed her mind and sat down directly beside her.  They embraced.

“How are you?”

“I’m well,” Zenna said; then in a fond gesture pushed the other woman’s hair back from her face.  She stopped short, and made a sad sound.

The other woman made a wry face.  “Yes it’s very bad, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid so.  Oh, Berry, I’m sorry…”

“Never mind.  At least I’m spared the sight of my own reflection.”   Berry’s face was in fact very beautiful, with a delicate nose, clean brows, a fresh complexion.  Her mouth was wide, perhaps too wide; but it often happens with true beauty that a single unusual feature improves the whole.  It draws the gaze, makes one notice, makes one think, and spares its owner the blandness of perfection.

Unfortunately, in the midst of all this were Berry’s eyes.

They were dark brown, but in the left eye the color of the iris seemed to have bled wildly into the white on one side.  The pupil seemed to have forgotten its proper shape, and was oblong instead of round, a very disturbing sight.  Berry’s right pupil was a tiny, frozen black spot, difficult to find in the murky brown iris.

Zenna’s face was a wince of sympathy.  “Can you see at all anymore?”

Berry studied her.  “You’re wearing a blue skirt and a very bright yellow blouse.  And either you’re wearing your hair longer these days, or you’ve got a black kerchief on.”

“One advantage of not being a traveling steerswoman any longer — it’s so much easier to keep long hair.  You’re still wearing yours short.”

“Josef likes it.”

“Where is he?”

“Somewhere about.  But whatever he’s up to, I’m certain it involves animals.”

Zenna arranged her crutches on the floor beneath the table, settled herself more solidly, then looked about. “How does one get tea in this place?”

“One generally goes to the kitchen door and complains; although they’ve taken to keeping an eye out for my needs…  Let’s see if waving works.”

“No good. I don’t see a server to wave to.”

Two tables over, one of the other steerswomen noticed, and stood.  “I’ll fetch, Berry,” she volunteered.  She was a small woman in her fifties, dark-skinned, blue-eyed, gray-haired.  “What do you need?”

“Keridwen, thank you.   Tea for Zenna and me, if you please.”  Keridwen bustled off.  “I’m glad you came,” Berry continued to Zenna.  “You’ll tell me all about Alemeth, won’t you?  Don’t leave anything out.”

“Of course.. and I’m glad to see you, too,” and Zenna shifted uncomfortably, an action lost on Berry.  “Although…”

“You’re surprised I’m here?”


“So am I.   I was very surprised when the Prime’s message turned out to include me.  But I’m glad.  The journey alone was worth it.  A new environment — smell those flowers!  And the mist by the falls, and there’s so much light here!   The station where we were living is tucked in a forest; walking around there, I might as well have kept my eyes closed.  Still, I do wonder how much use I’ll be…”

“Don’t be silly.  You’re an intelligent, educated woman, who has more patience than all the steerswomen in this room combined.  And we’re going to need patience.”

A smile.  “Thank you.  But this little voice in my head keeps saying, ‘You don’t belong here.'”

Someone said: “The little voice is absolutely right.”  The man had approached from behind Zenna.  She turned, with an angry expression ready on her face, which vanished when she recognized him, and then became simple astonishment.

“Berry shouldn’t be here,” the man said.  “And I definitely shouldn’t be here.”  He carried a cozy-covered teapot and not two cups, but three.  He set the china on the table, added a small plate of honey-buns.   “Neither of us should be here, but here we are.”  He sat.  “I don’t know what the Prime was thinking.  We have important things to do, and dangerous ones at that.  Did I complain when she sent me off into unknown lands, sneaking about and like no proper Steerswoman should, searching for a secret wizard’s keep?  Not I.  Best person for the job, apparently, so I dug in and did it.  But then, all of a sudden, it’s ‘Drop everything and go to Logan Falls.'”  He paused, considered Zenna’s expression disparagingly.  “Don’t gape, girl.  It’s rude.”

Zenna closed her mouth, which had been hanging.  She said, in a voice of disbelief: “Arian?

“Of course.   Whom did you expect?  King Malcolm?  The man from the Moon?”   He picked up a honey-bun and bit it.

Zenna recovered, and studied him.  “Hard work seems to suit you,” she commented.

“Hmph.  I’ve worked hard my entire career.  I merely hadn’t been using my body to do it, for the last decade ore so.”

Arian was of average height, of middle age.  His forehead was high with a receeding hairline.  His crisp hair had been black once, but was well on the way to salt-and-pepper.  His beard, which he wore close-trimmed, was completely white.  Arian was lean, and strong, and his skin was sun-dark, weather-rough, but healthy.

“Your color has faded in one direction and darkened in another.  And how is it that you manage to look both older and younger at the same time?”

“The ‘older’ is my vast accumulation of knowledge and wisdom, a never-ending process.  My sagacity increases year by year; I astonish even myself!  The ‘younger’ is exercise and mental challenge.”

The door opened with a bang, followed by a small commotion, some apologies for the unintended noise, and the clearly-heard and somewhat plaintive question: “Isn’t anyone going to do anything about all those girls outside?”

“Ah,” Arian said, helping himself to another honey-bun.  “And, did I mention, Berry?  Ingrud is already in town.”

“Zenna!”  The woman who had entered now made her way across the room, moving like a small hurricane, causing persons in the path to quickly shift their chairs.  “Oh, look at you, I’m so happy!”   Arrived, she held out her arms, waiting for Zenna to rise and embrace her, then seemed to remember something, and her faced fell.  “Oh!”  She leaned down instead, wrapped her arms around the other.  “Oh, I heard, I’m so sorry –“

“No, it’s all right –“

“But, but, your leg!”

Zenna extracted herself, held Ingrud’s hands, and spoke to her definitely.  “I love living in Alemeth.  There’s so much good work to do at the Annex, and the people are wonderful. I feel quite settled and happy.”

“But –“

“And I’m used to one leg by now.  It’s been nearly five years.”

“Oh…” Ingrud said again, and cast about, found a chair, pulled it in, and sat.  “If you say so…”  But she embraced her friend again, then suddenly pulled back and rose and reached past her.  “And Berry!  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to neglect you.”  Another hug, a bit awkward, as Ingrud left one hand on Zenna’s shoulder, as if reluctant to let her go.

“It’s all right.  We’re all going to be here for a long time.  There’ll be plenty of opportunity to catch up.”

“Catch up,” Ingrud said, pushing her cloud of wild hair back from her face.  “I’ve been catching up since I got here.  Incredible stuff; I’ve been completely out of contact since –” and she turned back to Zenna — “since the last time I saw you.  And since then —  all that’s happened!”

Arian said: “You may have had no contact with us, but we had plenty with you.”  Ingrud turned to him.  “Your logbooks arrived at the Archives regularly, while I was there,” he continued.  “I don’t think we lost a one in transit.”  He paused; Ingrid said nothing.  “Very good work, by the way.”  Still nothing.  “Oh, go ahead, get it over with.”


“Excellent.  Good reasoning on your part, Ingrud –“

“Whatever has happened to your paunch?”

“My longtime companion, yes.”  He slapped his stomach. “It decided it no longer liked the environment, and vacated the premises.”

Ingrud blinked.  “Well.  You look wonderful.”  Her tilted green eyes grew speculative.  “In fact, if you were twenty years younger –“

“Please.  Ten would do it, I think.”

“Well, I’ve always been attracted to older men.  They’re not idiots.  Usually.”   She recovered her chair.  “And look at this, here we are.  I didn’t think any from our class would be asked to come, I was so surprised!  Who else of our group is coming?”

“I have no idea,” Berry said.

“Well, who’s missing?”

Zenna said: “Janus.”

The table became silent.  Then Ingrud nodded at some internal thought, sighed, shook her head as if at another thought, seeming half-disbelieving; then nodded again, sadly.

“Make up your mind,” Arian said.

“I did, back when I saw him.  Before he settled in Alemeth, I’m assuming, that was.  He was just… so wrong.  Aside from refusing to answer my questions.   Everything about him was off, strange, and just wrong.   Even the music he played.”

All were silent for a few moments, lost in separate thoughts.  Then, with  visible effort, Berry roused herself and changed the subject.   “Speaking of music, has Mona survived the road?”

Ingrud brightened.  “Well… I had to glue some cloth tape over her low D, the valve was stuck open.  Other than that, she’s in fine voice.  I hope I can find someone to repair her.  We’re learning sea-chanteys.  There seem to be a lot of new ones.”

“Isn’t that rather a contradiction?   Aren’t all sea-chanteys old?”

Several spoke at once.   “That couldn’t be so.”

“Not at all.”

“Even the oldest must have been new at some point.”

“There’s one about a mermaid who loved a dolphin,” Ingrud said, “and convinced him to marry her.  But, and here’s the interesting part, the dolphin agreed only if she would also marry all of his brothers, too.  And that’s what they did.  There’s a verse for each brother on the wedding night.”

“Well,” Zenna said, “as long as she actually agreed.  And did they have children?”

“The song doesn’t go that far.  But I suspect that the offspring will show up in songs or tales sooner or later. It’s too lovely a concept, just dripping with poetry and tragedy!”

“All necessary components for a good song,” Berry said.

“Do you know what I’m finding interesting?”  Zenna said, looking around.  She subtly indicated the room in general.  The others caught her gesture. They did not ask, but as one, adopted a remarkable manner, where it was obvious that they were taking in the entire room and its contents, without glancing about wildly, but seeming to open up and let everything in, and evaluate and analyze what they saw.

The exception was Berry, who first reacted only to the fact that the table had gone silent, and then adopted a version of the same pose, but with head slightly tilted, listening.  She smiled.  “And to what are we attending?”

“The fact,” Arian said quietly, “that we are being closely watched.”

“I wonder what they want?” Ingrud said, as softly.

“Who?” Berry asked; then answered herself: “The other steerswomen.”

“It’s really very odd,” Zenna said.  “They’re so obviously ignoring us that it’s obvious that we’re the center of their attention.”

The door opened, and a steerswoman entered.

A flick of pause around the table, and then:




“What?” This from Berry. The newcomer took three more steps.  “Oh, that’s Edith.”

The steerswoman arrived at the table.  “Ladies.” She nodded around.  “Arian.”  He acknowledged her greeting.  She pulled a chair from a table nearby and sat.  “Apparently, I’m supposed to sit here.  Do we know why?”

Ingrud threw up her hands.  “This is ridiculous.   They’re all steerswomen.  If we ask them, they have to answer!”

“They’re treating us,” Arian said, thoughtfully, “almost as if we’re students.”

A pause.  “So,” Ingrud said, “if we did ask them, they might say something like, ‘We could answer, but this is something we’d like you to reason out for yourself?  And, do you still want us to answer?'”

“It’s rather insulting, actually,” Edith said, then slouched more comfortably in her chair, extending long legs to one side.  She was a remarkably tall woman, sun-bleached and sun-browned.  She sounded not at all insulted.

Ingrud made show of gritting her teeth in exasperation.  “I hate suspense.”

Edith shrugged.  She glanced once at Arian, sidelong, glanced away again.

He said, “Aren’t you going to remark on how changed I am?  It seems quite the topic today.”

“You look exactly as you did when you were my teacher, but twenty-five years older.  Apparently, your appearance since then and before now was just a passing phase of indolence.  You look like yourself.”

“Hm.  You were always a practical girl.”

The door opened.  “None of the girls out there know what they’re doing,” the woman who entered announced to the room at large.  “And I think they’re afraid to enter.  They know that all the steerswomen are in here.  If it rains, I do believe they’ll just stand there and get wet.”

“Excellent,” Arian replied.  “Then we can eliminate them all as being too simpleminded to qualify.  With luck, no one will qualify at all, and we can give up the enterprise entirely and all go back to our regular tasks.”

“We need them,” the woman said, and with no hesitation crossed the room to join the five.  Arrived at the table, she paused.  She was full-bodied, bright-eyed, iron-gray, somewhat older than Arian.  “They’re the next generation, or some of them are.”

“With Shayna here, we need a bigger table,” Ingrud said, and looked around for a better one.

“Or, there are too many sitting at this one,” Shayna said, off-hand.

Edith looked up at her sidelong.  “Oho.”

Shayna raised her brows.  “Yes, what?”

“She knows a thing or two,” Edith said.  Then she rose and offered her chair to the older woman.  Shayna sat.  “Tell me lady,” Edith said, “who should not be sitting at this table?”

The others stopped short, looked at Edith, then turned their regard on Shayna.   She returned their gaze.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.  There’s no reason anyone shouldn’t sit anywhere they choose.”

Edith said, from above Shayna’s head: “It was suggested that I sit with Ingrud and Arian. NOthing was said to you?”

“No. No one made any suggestions.”

Ingrud said, “Why don’t we just ask?”

“Ask what?” Shayna said.

“Why everyone is watching us so closely, while trying to look as if they’re not doing it at all,”  Ingrud said with feeling.  “A steerswoman can’t lie, but we’re free to dissemble.  Except, we’re very bad at it.  Well, most of us are.  Everyone is carefully not saying something important.”

“And meanwhile,” Berry said, setting aside her knitting, “does anyone have any idea when matters are going to begin?  At the very least, let’s invite all those girls in if it really is going to rain.  And it certainly feels as if it’s going to.”

“We can’t just sit about uselessly until the Prime arrives,” Zenna said.

“And does anyone know when that will be?”  This from Ingrud.  “Is she still too ill to travel?”

Edith said, “She seemed to be stronger when I saw her two weeks ago.”

In the middle of this, Arian suddenly sat straighter.  “That’s it.”

Ingrud threw up her hands.  “What?  Really, someone does have to speak!”

Arian looked at Shayna, but it was to the other women that he spoke.  “The rest of you didn’t see it — it was before your time.  But I was a student then, and Shayna here one of my teachers.”  He turned to the others.  “Usually, it’s the Prime who decides when things start at the Academy, and she’s in charge.  But when I was a student, it didn’t happen that way.  Because the Prime was absent.  And not because she was ill.”

Ingrud stood up.  “I’ve had it!”  She addressed the room at large.  “Someone please tell me what is going on.”

Across the room, a slim woman with wildly-curling gray hair and a very kind smile spoke up immediately.  “You’ll need to be more specific.  Your question is far too broad to answer.”  A few other women present laughed a bit; others laughed also, apparently at the laughter of the first ones.

Edith raised her voice to be heard by all.  “Tell me, lady,” she said, using the formal phrase, “– and I’ll take the answer from any steerswoman in the room… by what process does someone become Prime of the Steerswomen?”

Ingrud, still standing, said, “What?”

On the far side if the room, one of the other steerswomen spoke up.  “Generally, the person who is currently serving as Prime has a number of candidates in mind.”

Another steerswoman, Keridwen, spoke while continuing to pour tea for her table-mates.  “But she takes it no further than that.”

“But,” and Ingrud looked about the room, at the other steerswomen, and at those sitting at her own table, “but, how does it finally come down to just one?”

Arian said, thoughtfully, “The next Prime is given the opportunity to, let’s say…. rise out of chaos.”

Edith said: “And this looks like chaos to me.   A crowd of girls out in the yard, not knowing what to do or where to go; a flock of steerswomen enjoying their tea inside; no visible plan, no apparent organization –“

Ingrud sat down, puzzled.  “We have to invent the Academy?  Ourselves?  Right now? No, hold –” And she became visibly stunned.  “Me?  I’m one?  And — and, us?” She looked  at the faces around the table.

Berry had her head tilted down, her brows knit in thought.

Edith, still standing behind Shayna, nodded fractionally, chewing her lip.

Shayna drew a long breath, released it, folded her hands before her, and one by one, regarded the others calmly, waiting.

Arian sat very still, his eyes focused on some far internal distance, breathing quietly, as if tracking some prey he might startle.

Shayna said: “We need to sort those girls out.  We should gather them, and send off any spectators.  Someone should address them, and identify the ones who have already acquired accomodations –“

Arian said, without altering his expression in the least: “Shayna, do shut up.”

She drew herself up. “I beg your pardon?” she said stiffly.

He broke from his internal study, and turned to her, now very present and keenly focused.  “Obviously you already knew about this, and you’ve given it some thought. You’re prepared.  But this is news to the rest of us, so please be considerate enough to allow us a few moments to assimilate the information.”

“But something does need to be done, and soon.  While we’re sorting ourselves out, a crowd of girls are all at loose ends, and possibly frightened, far from home –“

Berry set down her knitting  and stood.   She addressed the room at large.  “Have all the adjunct teachers been contacted?”

A dark-haired woman seated by the window spoke up.  “Yes.”

“Helena, thank you,” Berry said, turning toward the voice.  “And have they all arrived?”


“Which are present, please, and which are missing?”

“We have a herbalist, a beastmaster, and a hunter on hand.  We’re drawing on the locals for a carpenter, bricklayer, blacksmith, seamstress, cobbler, leathermaker, and cook, so of course they’re already here.  Still on their way are the healer, bookbinder, and swordmaster.”

“Thank you,” Berry said, and sat.  She spread her hands, and spoke to those at her table.  “That was by way of a test.  Although apparently we are in charge, we can’t possibly be expected to personally do every task that needs doing.  Some things are already in place, some organizational neccesities already addressed.  We should discover what those are.”

“And meanwhile, the students are milling about at loose ends in the yard,” Edith commented.

“As I said,” Shayna said.

“I’ll need a chair,” Edith said absently, and looked about.  All other chairs were occupied.

Zenna rose, her chair scraping loudly.  “Take mine.”  She fumbled, gathering her crutches from beneath the table, suddenly clumsy.

“Zenna, don’t be silly, sit down –“

“I shouldn’t be here.”

“I’m sure that the Prime had good reason –“

No!”  The others stopped short, turned to her.  “You were told to come to this table — but I wasn’t. I’m not — I’m not one of you, I’m not a candidate at all.”

Ingrud put a hand on her arm.  “Zenna –“

Zenna shook it off.  “And, and, I shouldn’t be here at all — not here in Logan Falls, not at the Academy.  Or what will become the Academy.  All of you — ” and here she raised her voice a bit, speaking to the room. “You were all asked to come here.  Not every steerswoman is here — some of us are still out in the world, at our work.  But every steerswoman who is here now: by words or letter or message, you were asked to come to work at the Academy. Am I right?”  Nods all around.  Zenna looked down.  “But I wasn’t.   I was not ordered, asked, or invited.  Nothing was said to me about coming to the Academy.” She made a helpless gesture.  “I just came.  Because I wanted to.”  She fumbled with her crutches, managed to position them.  “So, I’ll leave you to this.”

The others glanced at each other, disturbed but resigned to it.

Except for Berry.  “Zenna, please stay.”

“I’ll stay for a while,” and she began moving, “but with them.” At a nearby table, another steerswoman rose to offer her seat.

“No, Zenna. Stay here, with us,” Berry said.  “Please.”

The young woman stood stopped in the middle of the room, said bitterly:  “Why?

“Because I need eyes.”

Zenna turned, looked back.

The others were staring at Berry.   Arian said, hesitantly, “But, Josef…”

“My husband reads books for me, and tells me where my teacup is, and stops me stepping into dog droppings.  And describes how beautiful the sunset looks.  But for this, I think I need a steerswoman’s eyes.  And I don’t have them.”   She reached out one hand.  “Zenna?”

Ingrud leaned back in her chair, said quietly: “Oh, perfect, perfect.”

Shayna’s face lit up, spontaneously, brilliantly.  “That’s lovely.”

“Hm,” Arian said.  “Well, there you go.”

Edith watched, waiting, head slightly tilted.

Zenna, at last, drew a breath and came back.  “Thank you.”  She took Berry’s hand, and sat, then arranged herself again, and looked about.  “And now Edith doesn’t have a chair again.”  She laughed a bit.

In fact, Edith looked, for the first time, uncertain.  She hesitated.

Arian said, “Skies above, girl, just tell someone to give you their chair.”

“Go ahead,” Ingrud urged her.  “We’re in charge. Apparently.”

Berry said to Zenna: “Tell me the look on her face.”

“She really doesn’t want to.  But she thinks she ought to.”

“She doesn’t want to give people orders, I think,” Berry said.

Ingrud threw up her hands.  “She gave us orders constantly!  When she was our teacher.  At the last Academy.”

“You were her students,” Arian noted.  “But these steerswomen were her teachers when she was a student herself, some of them.”

“I’m actually present,” Edith commented to the table.  “I’m actually able to hear you, you know.”  She made a noise of frustration.  “And I’m certain that there are more chairs available somewhere in this house.” She strode off, toward the serving entrance.

Shayna called to her: “Bring two chairs.”

Arian smiled.  “You sly creature.  There’s another, isn’t there?  Who else is coming?”

The door opened, and a steerswoman came in.


Well.  There you go.

For reference, here’s a map.  You may click to embiggen.

Back to those other tasks, some of which I may discuss in detail fairly soon…

Jul 26 2017

More on Readercon


My other Readercon panel was: Good Influences, wherein we discussed the authors who helped us develop our craft.

I wanted to get past the standard mention of Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov as quickly as possible.  For persons who, like me, are approximately one million years old, their influence is inevitable — and said so often that it hardly needs to be said any more.  We’ve covered that by now.

Stated briefly: Heinlein taught me how to keep the page turning; Clarke showed me the delight of hard science in stories; Asimov brought out the galaxy-spanning concepts.  These are not things to sneeze at.  But I wanted Heinlein out of the way quickly, because discussion of his treatment of women has been done to death, and do we really have to go through it again?  Let’s move on now, class.

There’s a difference between works that inspire and lead by example, and works that really got so deep into your artistic bones that they’ve become a part of your DNA.   For example, I love Jack Vance, but I encountered him in my twenties, when my sense of myself as a writer was already set.   And I don’t think I found out about Neil Gaiman until I was nearly forty.  Ditto for Jonathan Carroll.  So, the guys (mostly guys) who taught me, who captured me and trained me up, were of a much older vintage.

Also, remember: no Internet when I was young.  In fact, no huge bookstores, either, not where I lived.  The books available were either in the smaller local libraries; or the Big Library in the Big City (that would be Hartford, a major trip); or on the wire racks at Arthur’s Drug Store in Rockville Connecticut.  Which, I must say, acually had a great and ever-changing selection!   This was in the days before nationally-centralized distribution.   The distributor was a guy with a truck, and he learned what sold in his area, and gave us more of it.

One of the other panelists (I think it was Ilana Myer), mentioned having completely forgotten how huge an influence T.H. White’s The Once and Future King was, which she read when she was quite young.  She said that when she reread it as an adult, she recognized, with great joy, the source of her own voice and sensibility as an author.

I recounted a similar experience.  I had sometimes, on and off in the past, wondered: who taught me to love great prose?   Because it surely was not Heinlein/Clark/Asimov. And I didn’t get anything like a well-rounded literary education from grade school and high school.  But I must have known it was possible, and it probably was demonstrated to me quite early, for me to want it so badly and try so hard to reach for it…

Then one day I was reorganizing my library, opened one book, and came across this:

The idiot lived in a black and gray world, punctuated by the white lightning of hunger and the flickering of fear.  His clothes were old and many-windowed.  Here peeped a shinbone, sharp as a cold chisel, and there in the torn coat were ribs like the fingers of a fist.  He was tall and flat.  His eyes were calm and his face was dead.

And I remembered: Theodore Sturgeon.  I had been totally omitting him in my standard list of influences, all these years… But in fact,  I read everything I could find by him, over and over, very early on —  long before I was old enough to actually comprehend the more adult subjects he was addressing.  It was that prose.  And that paragraph in particular — I actually pulled it out and read it to the audience.

There’s so much good writing, right there, just in those four sentences.   If it wasn’t 1:52AM, I’d go through it, and detail why and how it hit me.

But it is really close to 2AM now.

So…. more tomorrow?





Jul 24 2017

Back from Readercon. And from post-Readercon.


And I had a lovely time — except for the usual problem of having more people I want to hang with than time to hang with them. There are some people with whom I was able to have an actual conversation; and some with whom I was merely able to greet and exchange a few words; and more who I waved at from across the hall.

I’m naturally introverted — which doesn’t mean that I don’t socialize, merely that I get burnt out more rapidly than your average extrovert. I have to retreat to a neutral corner to recharge at random intervals.

I enjoyed the the panels I was on, and was not too intimdated by the fact that a Guest of Honor was on each of those panels.

I had never met Nnedi Okorafor or Naomi Novik before, and was very interested to hear their Guest of Honor interviews (this seems to be a trend: interviewing the GoHs onstage instead of requiring them to make some sort of speech). I found Nnedi to be a wonderfully graceful, poised and intelligent woman. And Naomi seems to be made of pure, bubbling enthusiasm.   They are quite different from each other — almost opposite — and it was nice to be able to put faces and voices to the words they write.

In the panel on the commonalities between science and magic, I did have to step up and defend science a couple of times.   As one sometimes needs to.    Get a big enough crowd, and there will always be someone who wants to express “Science Bad; Magic Good,” in some fashion.   But science generally wins in those moments because (ahem), science actually exists.  And works.

Magic is a wonderfully expressive and useful and beautiful literary trope, and can be used endlessly to explore all the corners of human nature.   I don’t need to tell you that it can inspire brilliant, ageless works of art; you’ve read those books.

And  you can also use science in literature, in exactly the same way, to the same end.   But if you raise your hand and put forth the idea that science diminishes us, and magic augments us — then you don’t know what science is, nor what it does.

It’s science that augments us — gives us greater understanding of the world around us, helps us live longer, survive disease and injury, and extends the reach of our hands and the scope of our minds.   Whereas magic … is imaginary.

I’m not a hard-SF snob.   I love magic in stories, books, film.   (As long as they’re well-written, that is!)   But my heart belongs to SF.

Hm.  Getting late.   I’ll say more tomorrow.



Jul 8 2017

Unintentional radio silence, due to general thrashing and scrambling. Plus: Readercon!


No, I haven’t forgotten my blog readers.  Well, okay, I have, but only temporarily.

What I’ve mainly been doing is thrashing about on many fronts (including, be assured, Books 5 and 6), and trying very hard to Get Things Done.   I’ve basically locked my self away from most social contact for a bit.  And since my sister is currently cat-sitting  for our pals in New Hampshire, I don’t even have to maintain a minimum marginal level of civility!   Yep.  Don’t have to talk to a soul.

The upside of this, of course, is that when the time comes to hang out with people I will be really ready to do so.   I’ll chat and schmooze, and wave at people from across the room, meet entirely new folks, have all sorts of fascinating conversations, and be glad doing it!

And when will this be?  Well, next week. At Readercon, of course.

Readercon (in case you don’t know) takes place in Quincy Massachusetts, just south of Boston.   It’s the one convention focused mainly on the written word — so… don’t come dressed as your favorite anime character.   There are plenty of other conventions for that.

This year’s guests of honor are Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik.  Now, as it happens, I had never read a word of Naomi’s work before.   And there’s plenty of it.  And I’ve heard nothing but good about it.  I just, somehow, never got around to it.   So, I thought I’d try to correct that.

I must say, I’m having so much fun reading In His Majesty’s Service.  This is actually an omnibus, gathering together the first three books in Novik’s Temeraine series: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder Warwith an additional short story, “In Autumn, a White Dragon Looks Over the Wide River.”

It’s possible that I was kept from approaching these books before because, in general, I’m not wild about Military SF/F, and not wild about alternate history.  But that’s in general.  There will always be writers who make me love what I don’t expect to love.  (Like, say … novels of manners.  Generally don’t like ’em.  But you know what I love?  Elle Kushner’s Swordspoint.  And Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw.)

I’m about two-thirds through His Majesty’s Dragon, and I’m utterly charmed.  Alas, I won’t be able to read everything Novik has written before I meet her at Readercon.   But I’m glad to find something that’s this much fun.

Oh, and here’s my Readercon Schedule:

Friday July 14

3:00 PM    5    Good Influences.   Scott Edelman, Greer Gilman, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Rosemary Kirstein, Ilana Myer, E.J. Stevens. In contrast to the bad influences panel from past Readercons, these panelists will discuss authors who were positive influences on their writing during their formative years. Who showed them what good worldbuilding is, what strong narration looks like, and how to deepen a plot with social commentary? Panelists will share, discuss, and praise their problematic and unmitigatedly awesome mentors.

6:00 PM    B    Reading: Rosemary Kirstein.   Rosemary Kirstein. Rosemary Kirstein reads a section of a YA novel set in the universe of the Steerswoman series. (…Yeah, you read that right.  I’m not reading from Book 5, because at the moment it sort of looks as if someone set off a hand grenade in the middle of it.  Which, basically, is exactly what I did.  For very good reasons, trust me.  But I won’t know what will remain and what will be discarded until I reassemble it into some semblance of a narrative — except for one stabilized section, which I’ve used for several readings already.   So, rather than introduce you to Artos, the Duke of Wulfshaven and the Lower Wulf Valley yet again, I’m pulling out some work I’ve done on a Young Adult novel that runs parallel to the events in Book 5.  I rather like it. )

7:00 PM    5    The Commonalities of Magic and Science.   Erik Amundsen, David Bowles, Rosemary Kirstein, Naomi Novik (leader), Nnedi Okorafor. Specialized and secret fields of knowledge create barriers to understanding and can become mechanisms of cultural control. They can also be foundations for resistance. They can support or destroy communities and instill gratitude or resentment. All these things could be said of both magic and science, and the wielders thereof. The tradition of pitting magic and science against each other goes back to Tolkien’s anxieties about industrialization, but today’s speculative works have moved beyond it to recognize that the two can coexist and are often used similarly as metaphors. We’ll examine Guest of Honor Naomi Novik’s mix of historical technology and dragons, Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor’s mix of futuristic technology and sorcery, and other successful amalgamations and integrations.

Saturday July 15

11:00 AM    AT    Autographs.  Rosemary Kirstein, Susan Matthews.

1:00 PM    CL    Kaffeeklatsch.  Rosemary Kirstein, Sarah Pinsker (Do you know about kaffeeklatches?  I think they were invented at Readercon, if memory serves me.   It’s a small gathering of an author and a bunch of readers, where we basically just hang out for a bit, over coffee or tea, and talk about whatever you like.  Space is limited, so if you’re interested, you have to sign up for it. )

And that’s just what I’m doing.  There are a lot more panels, with plenty of writers you love.   And — get this — the Thursday night programming is open to the public.  For free.  So, if you’ve never been to a convention, here’s a chance to try one out for one night, with no monetary commitment.

Oh, look, here’s a link to the entire Readercon Program Guide, listing every panel and panelist.  That should be useful.

Hm.  Must go now; more later.




Jun 18 2017

Radio silence due to crappy internet connection. Also: Signed up for Readercon.


Well, that was annoying.

I’ve been using an Xfinity hotspot for my internet connection at my office, largely because it was a) there, b) fairly cheap for a monthly pass, c) did not require me to buy an expensive package including TV just in order to get internet, and d) did not require me to sign a multi-year contract.

But alas, I’ve been having all sorts of trouble with it lately, with the connection being slow, dropping out more or lest constantly, and the signal strength being apparently miniscule at best.

Sparing you the blow-by-blow, after much back-and-forth and experimentation,  I’ve discovered that there’s nothing wrong with the hotspot at all — the problem is all in my desktop.  And my laptop has no problem with the connectons.

And interestingly, my crappy little laptop is actually exactly as powerful as my bottom-of-the-line desktop.  So….. obvious solution, wouldn’t you say?

Speed test. Little guy wins.

I spent far too much time dealing with this!  I have things to do !

Like signing up for panels at Readercon.   The convention takes place July 13 through 16 at the Quincy Marriot, in Quincy Massachusetts (just south of Boston).   If you’ve never been, you should consider coming — and the Thursday panels and events are actually all free.   You can test the waters before laying down any actual cash money.

Anyway: I made my selections for panels that I want to be on; let’s see if I get them.   When I know my final schedule, I’ll post it here.

In other news: A quick trip to visit pals in New Hampshire last weekend included a vist to Canobie Park, which I found utterly charming and fascinatingly retro.

As well as a collection of odd rides, the park has a musical stage.  While we were there, some rather mediocre big-band music was featured —  but when I wandered to the back of the hall, I discovered an absolute trove of musical history, with posters of shows from the Jazz Era all the way through rock and roll, to the present.

With life-size statues of some of the acts who played there.

Jerry Lee Lewis at the actual piano that the actual Jerry Lee actually played when he was at Canobie Park.


If, like me, you are one million years old, you know who these two are.

Ack.  Must go and catch up on all the stuff that I was unable to do because of messing around with computers instead of on computers.


Jun 6 2017

Promoted from the comment stream, because I am a nerd and there’s a strong chance you might be, too.


In the comments for the previous post, “eub” said:

If I may geek on the tone doubling effect, was it a fairly consistent musical interval, or did the interval get smaller for higher pitches? Like a shift of X semitones, or of X Hertz? There is an uncommon drug effect that apparently sounds like a frequency shift (not a pitch shift), so harmonic sounds become inharmonic and strange.


As a certified nerd, I’m always ready to geek out!

The second tone was a half-step different from the real tone, and tracked in parallel motion: when the real note went up, the fake one did, too, and the size of the difference didn’t get smaller or larger. I right away (well, after calming down a bit) wondered whether it was related to the harmonic overtone sequence, with some peculiar acoustic physics going on inside my inner ear… but in order to find an overtone half a scale-step away from the fundamental, you actually have to climb way the heck up the overtone sequence to the tippity-top. And then it’s not really a half-step away anymore, is it? It would be a half-step plus a bunch of octaves. But this was not a high tone, it was literally right next to the original note on the scale. Which makes me think it was some sort of neurological artifact, and not reflecting any actual physics.

However, there was another phenomenon that was definitely related to physics.

I was tuning my guitar, using an electronic tuner, as I often do (this one a phone app; I love the 21st century). But I was having some trouble because, apparently, the tuner just wasn’t working. But only on the low E string. Worked fine on the high E, the B, the G, the D, the A — But low E wasn’t working at all; because as I could see, the needle indicating “in tune” was perfectly centered. But the note I was hearing was absolutely obviously not E.

What a strange way for an app to go wrong, I thought. Oh, well, just use the good old-fashioned method, put yer finger on the 5th fret of the E string, match it to the open A.

But they already matched.

But this is not possible. If the A on the fifth fret of the E string matches the A of the open A string, then the E string is correctly tuned.

But the open E did NOT sound like an E. It sounded, when I checked, like a B…

An acoustic guitar string is rich in all sorts of complex overtones. So, of course the B would be in there; it’s the second one you’ll find in the overtone sequence ( A perfect fifth.

Which is when I realized that I’d lost the ability to hear the low E note itself, and was only hearing the overtones above it. The lowest and loudest of which was the B.

That is, I had become (temporarily) deaf to that frequency.

A actually went to an online tone-generator ( and had it generate tones. The low E (around 165hz  correction: Guitar low E is E2 at 82hz), really was gone. Being only a sine wave, with no overtones, gone was gone: no sound. But as I moved the slider up, the sound faded back in.

This was actually a particularly scary moment. There was a small range of frequencies, including that low E, which no longer existed for me.

TEMPORARILY. This I kept telling myself, and so it turned out to be. I hear that low E fine now.

But at that time: I hit that E string and heard a B. Over and over and over.

For a musician, this is a level of weirdness equal to, say, stepping out of your front door and finding that your front steps don’t actually exist, but instead are a clever trompe l’oile image painted on the pavement; or that somehow you are now in Mexico City, when you weren’t before. The world just does not work that way.

Anyway, as I said: all is well now. Can’t say that enough.


Damn, now I’ve got myself all fidgety.

Oh, look, another fuzzy animal picture from my walk, here to cheer me up!

Yo. Public park, here, pal. You are specifically forbidden to eat me.

Jun 5 2017

Radio silence due to crappy events. Spoiler alert: I am fine.


When last we left our intrepid heroine, she was chilling on the couch, while recovering from unpleasant pain meds after a surprise kidney stone attack.

Aha, but there’s more to the story!

I seem to be the poster girl for bottom-of-the-warning-sheet side-effects.  I don’t waste time; I just go straight for the least common manifestation, and manifest up a storm.   For, example, oh… Muscle relaxants?  How about them?  Way down at the bottom of the list of rarely-seen side effects: agitation.  This being, you should note, the actual opposite of what a relaxant should do.   And then there’s Propofol, a common anesthetic for colonoscopies, which has the lovely rarely-seen side effect of causing agonizing horrible pain.  Yeah, that one was fun.

Anyway, to continue:

In order to mitigate the misery of the miserable headaches I always get after Dilaudid,  the ER doc gave me a prescription for 500mg of Naproxen.   The over-the-counter version of this is Alleve, which I’ve taken in the past for backaches and such now and again.  But never in this high a dose.

Let’s look at the bottom of the list of possible side-effects for that one, shall we?  Let’s see:

  • Continuing ringing or buzzing or other unexplained noise in the ears
  • hearing loss

These are listed as a minor side effects.

But what if you’re, say, already hearing impaired?  As I am?

Yeah.  I basically spent a week running through a dress rehearsal for my personal nightmare.   Of course, I didn’t know it was a dress rehearsal at the time.  For all I knew at the time, it could have been the real thing.

So, let’s repeat that spoiler alert: I am fine.   Side effects all gone now.

I’ve been deaf in one ear for most of my life, and it’s annoying and inconvenient, but not that great a problem.  But it does cause me to freak out about any changes in my remaining ear.  So, when my hearing went all bizarre on me, muffled and popping, and buzzing and weird, I saw a doc, of course.  I saw my Primary Doctor the day after I noticed the problem, and we got me in with a otolaryngologist.   But by the time I saw him (three days later), the symptoms had diminished a lot; and when we did the hearing tests, I came out pretty darn good, actually.

He’s not entirely convinced that the Neproxen was to blame — but for me, it’s pretty clear.  The timing was too perfect, including the fact that the problem seems to have been temporary, and has now completely cleared up.  Still, I’ll be getting an MRI of the whole shebang, just on the outside chance that something in there is going wonky.

But boy, that was so weird.   And scary.

And there was this one manifestation, which showed up a few days into the whole thing, where I started hearing every sound as two sounds.  That is, two different notes, one lower than the other.  Any sound that had a tone to it — fan, car engine, human voice — was doubled.  I noticed that particular one when, late at night in my office, I decided to play some guitar and sing, to prove to myself defiantly that I wasn’t actually going deaf — and discovered that I was singing harmony with myself.  So weird.

Oh, and it was bad harmony.  Like, a half-step off. And I couldn’t actually tell which note was the real note, either.

I didn’t know that it was even possible for one ear to hear one sound as two different notes.  But an intensive Internet search of legitimate medical research and report sites showed me that, yep, that can happen.  That particular side-effect hung on longer than the others, and I was treated to a meeting of the Genrettes in which Laurie and Delia discussed my manuscript, sounding like four people discussing my manuscript.   And the crowd at the cafe sounded twice the size it was.

But even that has cleared up now, thank goodness.

So… MRI to come, and we’ll see.  I’m pretty sure it’s all fine now.

But I will be avoiding all NSAIDs for the rest of my life!   Because they all (Naproxen, ibuprofen, even aspirin) have the potential to (very rarely) cause hearing problems — which are usually temporary, but in really really really rare occasions can be permanent.    Hello Tylenol, my New Best Friend.

In other news, I went for a particularly nice walk and saw a bunny, a blue heron, several turtles, and OMG baby skunks.  I’ll post about that next time, right?  I have pictures.


Too young to be out on their own!



May 20 2017

Slight change of plan


Original plan for yesterday: Head over to my office; answer emails, & catch up on news; review my recent work on Book 5;  autograph, package and mail out two books for the winners of the Con or Bust auction; take a walk; do new work on Book 5; play some guitar; read; work on the book some more; more guitar or some handicrafts; go home.

Revised plan: Wake up from a dream that someone was stabbing me in the back; realize it’s a kidney stone attack; attempt to tough it out with ibuprofen and lots of water; give up after 12 hours, and have my sister drive me to the ER; wait around for many more hours; get some heavy duty pain meds; see the ER doc; get a cat scan; get prescription for more meds; go home.

Original plan for today: similar to original plan for yesterday

Revised plan for today: sleep off massive hangover from yesterday’s meds; eat chicken soup; watch TV; more sleep.

I must again thank my wonderful sister, who gave up a night’s work to shuttle me around, and sit by me in the ER, and pick up my prescription in the morning, and make me soup.  Things would have been utterly dreadful without her.

We did get to watch part of Home Alone Two and Independence Day on the ER room’s TV.   None of which was particularly entertaining to me — until I got Dilaudid, after which everything was entertaining, including the cat scan.

This was very inconvenient, and not according to plan!  The Genrettes meeting had been postponed to the 28th and I was hoping to crank out some more wordage for them to consider.  Instead, we’ll probably have to make do with what I sent them for the originally planned meeting.

Thus, I grumble.

Ah, well.   Time for more meds.   And some TV.  And soup.

PS: did you know that they changed the design of the stars in Campbell’s chicken & stars soup?  True fact.