Back from Europe, as the World Shudders…


In loving memory of the years spent on other worlds…

Back from Southern Italy. We did day trips to ancient cities and had a live-in cook, a wonderful friend of the family named Peter, and cut loose from all responsibility I rediscovered the ability to read short stories for pleasure. I turned off the over-active Workshop Module that picks at every word and shuts off the narrative dream.

So I got to most of the stories I’d missed in my published magazine issues (Asimov’s and F&SF) for the last few years and send off some nice notes to the authors in my tables of contents. I have more notes to write. I love writing them. I love writing to an author and talking about why their story is awesome for me.

What I haven’t done is force myself to read stuff when I wasn’t feeling it. And something about being in short story writing mode seriously impairs my ability to look at short fiction as fun

But a week with almost no internet, with almost no writing, hitting me unexpectedly, changed some setting in my mind (We assumed we’d have connectivity because MJs brother who was getting married is a big CISCO guy and we thought he’d have a hovering robot node floating above the Trulis or something.)

We’ll see how hard it is to start writing again today. Hopefully not horrible. Because I’d like to do this, a few times a year, I think, stop writing enough, and hacking out the net, so that reading becomes natural again.

I’ve wanted to be sixteen again, lying in bed reading entire books, lost in other worlds, for decades. I get there so infrequently, and only for a few hours. I wanna lose whole days again to the dream.

Like when I was seventeen and I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels lying in a hammock on vacation in the temperate mountains of North Carolina, book after book, the warrior king of that mighty falling planet. The rope hammock like some crash couch from an SF book, perfectly supporting me, the breezes blowing, my brandmother interupting me periodically with wonderful food; grits and sausage and eggs and deep fried jalapeno cornbread and red beans and rice, with smoked ham and Tabasco. My parents and grandparents playing bridge and drinking scotch and roaring with pleasure and outrage at every hand. the breeze through the tall trees.

Barsoom spread out at my feet, those dead sea bottoms filled with rust and ochre lichen. Every book, I’d make a new warrior friend, and start a new revolution, and lead another oppressed martian race to freedom, under the glorious banner of Helium, and yes, I was politically young enough not to be too bothered by any of this. ERBs books are all about race. From the POV of a white southerner. The people from whom I am descended.

Some books can only be read at some times in your life.

Now it is time to be in this time, this moment, to completely and totally absorb this zeitgeist and find it within me, to write for this moment and whatever moments ahead that the world might allow, but never mind the future, there’s only now; SF is like cheese, not marble or canvas; some kinds are good for a few years. Most is best served very fresh.

There is no dishonor in being a cheesemaker; if your cheese is delicious.

As for the world, who knows what comes next. Whether my career will be interrupted by events; whether I will be forced by events to take some stand which interrupts fiction, which changes me back into a half-assed activist and columnist; I can only write fiction under the american center, as represented by the likes of Clinton and Obama; when the far vampire-right takes power I just scream bloody murder 24/7.

I don’t enjoy it. Dear God I hope I can keep writing fiction.

Fascism may interrupt that.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

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