I'm not quite ready for autumn. I haven't changed over my wardrobe; I suppose that happens this week and weekend. Last night I changed my blanket from summer- to winter-weight. I don't have quite the right shoes for this weather; the boots that I've worn for three years now have got holes in them--perhaps not the quality I thought they were when I bought them.
And Rosh Hashannah is bearing down upon us with me, once again, not having tickets for services anywhere because I don't belong to a synagogue and because it's the busiest time of year for me at work. (Most synagogues don't know what to do with me anyway; they're set up for families, not for independent Women of a Certain Age.) I failed to get tickets for services at UW's Hillel, which I've done before. I live within walking distance of the local Chabad House (the only congregation in town that doesn't require a donation for High Holiday tickets), but I wasn't brought up Orthodox. And though their outreach is friendly and welcoming, I'm a little intimidated by the prospect of what will surely be a less-than-egalitarian approach to services. I'm not the sitting-in-the-back-row type. And so I'm once again a little bereft at this time of year.
And, as mentioned above, it's the busiest time of year at work, which means I've got tons of work to do, oftentimes overseen by a million managers, all of whom want to have check-in meetings to ensure the work is getting done. Which means talking to my actual manager about the irony of negotiating the work needing to be done versus attending meetings to report on said work. I can meet or I can execute; I can't do both effectively simultaneously. This year, it seems like it's worse than it's ever been. I keep putting off or declining meetings, and the managers who run said meetings want just five minutes, which often ends up turning into an hour anyway. And then I have to explain myself and my work to everyone. Especially irritating are the compliance managers, who insist that they don't have to be familiar with our website (on which I work) but then insist that I give them a tour to ensure I'm doing the work. It's maddening.
So, yeah. The turn of the calendar comes and the darker, cooler, wetter days, the busier days, come along with it. I miss living somewhere with a more gradual segue into autumn and winter. But every now and then we get a glimpse of the beauty that autumn can offer and I'm pleased.
First thing that came to my mind was get in my car and travel the country, the most massive road trip ever. There are so many places I want to see that I never have, and I have friends all over the country so it wouldn't be a solitary trip. Of course, I'd want to travel overseas as well; I'm not nearly done with international travel. But I have neglected seeing the US and the number of places I still want to go is huge: the Grand Canyon (which I'll actually be seeing in the spring), Red Rocks, Big Sur, Devil's Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Big 5 in Utah, Crater Lake, the Newseum in DC, Nantucket, Fenway Park, Ellis Island (yeah, typical New Yorker), Kennedy Space Center, the Everglades and on and on and on. . . .
2. What are two things you would do to improve the country if you were in complete charge?
Single payer medical insurance. Democratic president.
3. What three TV shows do you like watching?
Very different question than what are your favorite shows; interesting way to put it. I like watching Project Runway though I haven't in a while, Game of Thrones though I'm a season behind, and Downton Abbey.
4. What are your four favorite ethnic dishes?
Lasagna, chicken tikka masala, phad see eiw.
5. What are five words you love to use?
Hilarious, bananas, booby (as in blue-footed).
Tabletop’s Eldritch Horror Pt. 1 was released this week.
Speaking of horror, I think I mentioned that I had this idea for a 1970s-style ridiculous, bloody, Grindhouse horror film. I thought it was just a silly story exercise, but the more I thought I about it and the more I did the story work for practice, the more I wanted to do the story work to make it into a real thing. So I’ve been working on that. It isn’t on cards just yet, but it’s on the whiteboard and it has its own file of ideas and beats and characters and stuff. I don’t know if it’ll get made, but at the very least I’ll have a script to publish.
I’ve been using that idea as an excuse to watch a ton of actual 1970s ridiculous, bloody, Grindhouse horror films. I’ve thrown some classic exploitation films into the mix, and learned a lot about how those movies were made. Some of them are terribad, but most of them have a sincerity that is utterly charming and worthy of emulation in my own screenplay.
I’ve been leveling up my understanding of story and character construction with this book called The Anatomy of Story. It’s densely packed with information and examples, and it’s slow reading for me because I keep going back to review, and I’m making a ton of notes in my notebook, but I’m pulling in tons of XP with each chapter. If you’re interested in writing and want to understand how to build your story, I highly recommend it.
The Deuce is as amazing as I hoped it would be. I am hoping so hard that the series lives up to the pilot (which is a thing I never say, because pilots are generally not that great, since they have to introduce a ton of characters and information.) Franco has always turned me off (it’s not him, it’s me), but I fucking LOVE him in this show.
Blood Drive was not renewed by the network formerly known as Sci-Fi, which makes me a little sad, because Colin Cunningham and Christina Ochoa are brilliant in it (Christina should have had top billing and Colin should win awards), and I would watch them as those characters forever. But! It always felt like it should be a miniseries, and the last four episodes weren’t nearly as compelling as the first eight. I felt like they had to bail on the premise — each episode pays homage to a classic exploitation trope — to set it up for multiple seasons. There was so much great stuff in it, though, and I sincerely love that SyFy gave the project the greenlight. It was a risky project, to say the least, and it’s so cool to see a network that was profoundly risk-averse when I worked for them take the chance.
I read a bunch of short stories from Charlie Jane Anders when I was on vacation last week, and I loved them all. So I went to the bookstore yesterday to pick up All the Birds in the Sky, and while I was there, I browsed the tabletop game section. My finger is ten miles from the pulse of tabletop gaming right now, but I took pictures of some games there that looked promising to me:
Have any of you played any of them? I’m just looking for fun games to add to my collection, not necessarily games that are candidates for Tabletop, as Tabletop’s future is uncertain.
Also, not that it matters, but getting Twitter off my phone and mostly out of my life has been a really great choice. It turns out that not being kicked in the face by infuriating bullshit dozens of times a day is a pretty neat idea.
So that’s a bunch of stuff I want you to know. What do you want me to know? I’m enjoying these posts, because it reminds me of the early days of my blog, when you who read it and I who wrote it would interact more than we seem to these days.
It was an incredible honor and privilege to contribute a story to this anthology. We were given the opportunity to write a story about a minor character in the Star Wars universe, and I chose the guy who watches ships fly away from the rebel base.
My editor pointed out that one of the guys (who I call Rebel Base Bucket Guy, because that amuses me) is already named, so my Rebel Base Bucket Guy is a different guy. I have to point this out, because the Star Wars Nerds are going to force choke me if they think I renamed their canonical Rebel Base Bucket Guy.
First I dreamed I was at Kit Kerr's place (aberwyn) and she was cleaning out her bookshelves, getting rid of extras and books she'd never read. While she was doing that, she was talking about her latest book, and how she was going to self-publish, and would I edit it--because I was the only one who could. There was something in there about buying a book I didn't really need. But I committed to doing the editing, knowing that it meant I wouldn't be doing my own writing if I did so.
Then I dreamed that I'd written a play for a school performance--a terrible play, just really bad, and I knew it. In the dream, five major science fiction writers were attending (I remember specifically Joe Haldeman, Greg Bear, and Bob Silverberg--the two others were vaguely familiar faces, but my dream self did not put names to them; one of them may have been Harlan). I made a point to tell them it was bad, to not have high expectations. I was a member of the cast, by the way. Right before the play began, I retreated to the restroom a) to use it and b) to refresh my memory on my lines. A couple of the writers called after me, making fun of me for writing a play. (I know all of these writers but I know Greg well enough to know that this is emphatically not something he would do. Ever.) Of all people, Haldeman followed me into the bathroom to ask me why I kept telling them the play was bad, and why I was giving myself a hard time for writing a play instead of fiction. I made him go away because I had business to do (i.e., relieve myself). When I was done, I went out to watch the warm-up number before the play began--a bunch of the boys in the cast doing a performance of "Gee Officer Krupke!" from West Side Story. Then it was curtain time. I took my place . . . and realized I didn't know my lines. I wasn't off book--and the curtain was about to go up.
See, these dreams? Are all about getting in my own way, feeling inadequate and unprepared. I've been giving myself a hard time about not writing fiction but working on the board game design instead--as if taking a different creative approach is a bad thing. I actually had a conversation with a friend who's a well-known name in the RPG design sphere in which I told him I felt intimidated by talking about the board game in front of him because of who he is (and talking about it in general because some of my friends are Grand Old Men (tm) in the RPG business). And tonight I have therapy but I haven't done my homework for this week.
It's a good thing I'm a cognitive dreamer with an analytical mind, otherwise I'd be kind of a mess. I mean, I am kind of a mess; I have spent my adult life surrounded by the most extraordinary creators, whether they're writers or designers and I still have self-image issues, even though I know that they wouldn't be spending time with me if I didn't myself have something to offer as a creator and generally interesting person. Some part of me always figured that at some point, one gets over this sort of thing, that as a grown-up I would conquer this sort of madness. Having not done so by this point, I'm guessing one never does after all. One just sort of learns how to deal with it. I'm learning. May I say, however, that it's a pain in the ass? It's a pain in the ass.
I remember chunks of my stay. I remember some of the people who came to visit. Even now, people tell me they came to see me and had whole conversations with me, and I don't remember them actually being there. I remember the people who were there day in and day out. I remember being unable to sleep a couple of nights, and watching a TV channel that was nothing more than static netcams of beautiful places. I remember physical challenges that I would never have imagined having to deal with. For example, I had to learn to write all over again; I had trouble even holding a pen after a week. I had trouble managing some of the most private functions. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before, terrifying in so many ways.
I haven't taken a big trip since last summer--the trip to Ireland where, we believe, I picked up whatever it was that tried to kill me. I have been putting together my photojournal of the trip in fits and starts. It's been a very piecemeal, sort of catch-as-catch-can kind of affair, and I think it's partly because I associate it with my illness and so am having trouble casting back for trip memories to finish the project. And now, my brother has begun to plan our family trip to Arizona for next spring. Of course, I'm not concerned about the possibility of getting sick like that again, and I will not let any prospect of travel be associated with the possibility of another devastating illness. There's too much of the world left to see to be worried about that sort of thing.
I will say this, though. If I ever feel like I'm not loved or valued, I have only to look through the cards I received during and after my hospital stay, to remember the nine flower arrangements I received, to remember the friends who came and stayed, to remember that my brother flew out to tend to me. I am not alone in this world, even though sometimes I feel that way. I hate that it took such an illness to remind me of that so thoroughly. But sometimes a kick in the head (or the gut, in this case) is what's needed. And a pile of cards I can turn to again and again and again.