September 03, 2003
Silly promises

Had a blast at TorCon, this year's World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, and I'm just now starting to recuperate. While there, I stupidly promised a fellow Web Rat that I'd resume posting to my website *every day* once I got my internet access back. Yeah, right.

Speaking of internet access: I'm going to be completely bereft of any internet access during the first two weeks of October. Ack! No e-mail. No web. No nothing, and no hope of rectifying that, as I'll be without so much as a phone line during that time. I may end up doing something crazy... like writing some fiction.

I had some limited access to the internet while I was at TorCon, but doing the con was why I went there, not checking my e-mail, so my e-mail presence was spotty at best. Here are the highs and lows for me at this year's con:

  • got to spend time reconnecting with friends and fellow writers who I often only get to see at this time of year
  • made some new friends, too!
  • got to spend some time in Toronto, a favorite place for me (in small doses)
  • Hugo awards and the Ace party afterward were excellent
  • tried a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant that was most tasty
  • the highlight of any WorldCon: realizing on Saturday that you should be at home writing instead of "doing the con"

The weirdest part was attending without Paulette. Over the past few years, we've developed a system for doing the con: who finds out what, who introduces who to whom, etc. This year, it was just li'l ol' me, and the con had a completely different flavor as a result.

I'll post more soon. Gotta get my licks in while I still have access to this here Internet thang.

Posted by at 11:35 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (1)
 September 04, 2003
Those Darn Sniffles

I think I'm allergic to Buffalo.

I flew out to Buffalo en route to Toronto for this year's WorldCon (the annual convention for SF pros and fans) and within a couple of days, I got the sniffles. I haven't visited this region terribly frequently since moving to the left coast -- maybe once a year, or so -- but it's becoming increasingly obvious that every time I make my way near the Great Lakes, my allergies kick up after a couple of days. I'm not sure, but I seem to recall having the same symptoms during visits to Boston, as well.

For those of you who don't know, I ostensibly "grew up" in Buffalo and lived roughly half of my post-college life in Boston.

When I first noticed this sniffle thing going on, I simply wrote it off as a mild allergy to my parents' dog (an aging golden retriever that moved in long after I moved out). Having no pets of my own, I have no other indications of allergies to pets.

But this time, I arrived in Buffalo very late Wednesday night and drove up to Toronto Thursday morning. Two days later, when the sniffles arrived, I couldn't blame it on the dog. Not really. So maybe it's something in the air that Toronto and Buffalo share. Maybe I just make it out to this part of the world during hay fever season. West of the Rockies has different foliage from the Northeast, so it stands to reason that I wouldn't experience hay fever there.

Except I don't always visit the rust belt at the same time of the year. Why would I have hay fever in December (as per a visit a couple of years ago)? Nah. It's not the dog, and it's not hay fever.

So what is it? Clearly, I'm allergic to Buffalo and, quite possibly, all of the Northeast. But only an allergist (or maybe a shrink) could know for sure.

Posted by at 07:35 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (2)
 September 05, 2003

Advisory: The following contains insensitive material. Reader discretion is advised.

Mortality is on my mind today. I'm in Buffalo today, so of course mortality is on my mind. Even overlooking the usual (Buffalo is, after all, pretty dead already), there's reason to be thinking about death.

I'm business-sitting for my folks, who need a manager who is as mean as nasty as they are to keep things running while they fly around to meet with vendors and such. I've been working to the point that I'm not getting any fiction writing done, which is certainly not helping the new novel-in-progress (more on that soon), and is definitely not a happy thing for me.

But there's a hurricane and a tropical storm going on that are affecting the weather in places where my folks are supposed to be travelling. If something bad were to happen during their travels (heaven forbid), who would have check-signing authority for their company? You can see why this would concern me. It could completely interrupt the smooth operation of their business, which is what I'm here to take care of.

Then there's the dog. As it so happens, business-sitting in this case includes dog-sitting (Paulette has an axiom about working at a company that allows pets to roam the halls: "Don't."), and the dog is getting on a bit in years. I had a truly terrible thought tonight: what if the dog should bark her last bark on my watch?

I understand that losing a pet can be a devastating thing. I've seen many friends of mine suffer greatly after their animal companions have shrugged off this mortal coil. Not ever having had any pets of my own, I have been spared this trauma. I nonetheless appreciate it for what it is: loss of a loved one.

Still, death is inevitable (or so my doctor tells me), and it is my sad duty to report that the dog currently entrusted to my care (and which, as I mentioned in yesterday's essay, might be contributing to my allergies) is entering the twilight of her days. It finally occurred to me to ask: if she gets sick, who do I call? If she gets more than sick... what do I do?

Morbid as that sounds, it's a very practical question. Calling an ambulance for a person in trouble is obvious. And you pet owners out there probably already know what you would do if something were to threaten the life of your cat or dog. But I haven't had any experience in these kind of matters, and I want to do the right thing.

Well, okay, obviously I will have to find the vet's number, which is no doubt posted on the fridge or something like that. But, if I may venture into the realm of the insensitive-yet-pertinent: what if, well, the dog is beyond the vet's help?

Is there a service that you call to handle such things? Should I check to see if there's a shovel around the house? (There *is* a big back yard....)

I finally broached the subject while talking with my folks. They said they planned to have the dog cremated (*after* it has passed on to the great beyond, of course) and the ashes placed at a location with particular sentimental value. Well, that made me feel better. At least I knew there was a plan, and that I wouldn't have to dig any holes or anything like that if the thinkable should happen while I'm on duty.

Wow. From sniffles yesterday to death today. I wonder what joyful subject I'll choose to ponder tomorrow. Hmmmm.

Na zdrovya!

Posted by at 10:08 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (1)
 September 13, 2003
Crazy Science Fiction Premise

When I was writing the novel formerly known as The Do Over, I frequently recalled an idea that a friend of mine had asserted, that modern day America is a science fiction premise.

The friend in question was a grad school colleague, and he was referring specifically to the idea that any political scientist in 1959 who would have speculated upon the political ramifications of sending manned space flights to the moon would be laughed out of the Academe. Such fanciful notions were relegated to pulp science fiction because they could never be considered as a possibility in the real world. But once Kennedy gave his speech enjoining the nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely within the decade, the science fiction premise became, well, real.

While I was working on my novel about a man who travels to his own past -- his teen years in the mid 1980's -- I had fun exploring some of the anachronisms created by his memory of history and the reality of 1980's America. In one scene, he tries to confide in an old, dear friend about his plight, but his descriptions of the future do little to convince her. They have one such conversation while attending a hockey game, and the protagonist is asked by his friend if their team (the story takes place in Buffalo, so we're talking about the Sabres) will ever again be contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Imagine explaining to someone in the mid-1980's that your hometown hockey team will eventually make it to the playoff finals because they will have an amazing Czech goal tender named Dominic Hasek, who had also led the Czech team to take the Gold Medal that same year in the 1998 Olympic Games, but that Hasek and the Sabres ultimately lose the Cup to the Dallas Stars.

Your 1980's friend might point out that: a professional hockey player wouldn't be eligible to play in the Olympics, because only amateurs can play in the Olympics. Come to think of it, how could a Czech have enough time to win the Olympics, defect to the United States, go pro, join the NHL and then go to the playoffs? Oh, and why would anyone ever put a hockey team in Texas, given the recent collapse of professional hockey in Atlanta (remember, we're talking about the Atlanta Flames in the 1980's, not the Thrashers that play there now).

The whole idea is a science fiction premise.

But wait, you say. The player doesn't have to defect from Czechoslovakia to the US because there is no Czechoslovakia by the time all this happens (only fifteen years in the future), and the US by then will have had a long standing tradition of allowing players from former Iron Curtain countries to play in the US without having to change their citizenship. You explain that the Olympics will allow professional athletes to compete by then.

Your friend in the 1980's interrupts. The Olympics can't be held in 1998. Olympics are held during election years (as in, US Presidential elections). That would mean 1996 or 2000.

So you explain that the Olympics are now staggered, with winter games and summer games alternating every two years. And then you try to explain that the Dallas Stars came down from Minnesota, but before you can get into that, your friend realizes what you said about the Iron Curtain falling and that there's no longer a Czechoslovakia, and she asks you if there's going to be a war.

Well, yes, you say, but not between the US and Russia. The Cold War ends without bloodshed, you explain, and the Soviet Union just disappears.

And this is all just to explain about the Czech goalie who leads your team to the Stanley Cup finals in about fifteen years in the future. This story is the kind that any self-respecting science fiction writer would have a hard time coming up with: that in order to explain why one hockey team makes it to the playoff finals against an other team that doesn't yet exist, you would involve the radical redefinition of the Olympics, the bizarrely non-violent fall of the Iron Curtain and the peaceful end of the Cold War, the ensuing changes to US immigration law, and the inexplicable rise of hockey as a popular sport in hot-climate cities. And that all of that would happen within fifteen years.

Well, I just heard about something yesterday that sets a new standard for science fiction premises. It's a fundamental change to a cherished institution that would certainly have defied prediction by any prognosticator even as recently as a couple of years ago. You think the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union came out of nowhere? Try this on for size:

The libraries in King County, Washington (ie, Seattle, Redmond, et al) now feature coffee bars in the book section.

Yes. You can buy a coffee and drink it *IN THE LIBRARY*.

What's next for the libraries? Live jazz bands on Thursdays? Open mic poetry?

Although, in retrospect, I can see how this kind of change to our local libraries makes sense in the context of our evolving society, I'd have had a hard time predicting it could happen. The idea of Crystal Pepsi becoming popular was more likely than libraries opening cafes in the book section.

It's a crazy, crazy world in which we live, no?

Posted by at 06:19 PM in the following Department(s): Novel-in-Progress , Writing | Comments (0)
 September 27, 2003
Gone Writin'

Sorry I haven't written much lately. It's because I'm going off to write.

As many of you know, a couple of years ago I attended a six-week intensive writing workshop called Clarion West. I am now going to attend a two-week even-more-intensive writing workshop. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there was a bit of homework associated with preparing for this workshop, and I've spent the bulk of the last two weeks just getting ready to go.

Unlike my days at Clarion West, I won't be keeping a live journal of the workshop as it happens (although I may or may not keep a journal that I can post later) because I won't be accessing the Internet during the workshop. No e-mail, no web, no nothin'. This will be a bit of a test for me, insofar as it's hard for me to go so much as a couple *days* without Internet access. We'll see how it goes.

The things I do for my art.

There will be much to talk about upon my return to the Internet, so be sure to check back soon.

Posted by at 08:35 AM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (0)

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