December 21, 2007

Merry Measure: Coda

(I swear I was going to post this today even before I read Sarah Daisy's comment on the previous entry's LJ crosspost.)


"I don't want any present, master," Albert sighed. "Except maybe to wake up and find it's all back to normal. Look, you know it always goes wrong when you start changing things..."


"What, you mean the pigs and cattle have all been slaughtered and with any luck everyone's got enough food for the winter?"


"Some wretched devil's had his head chopped off in a wood somewhere 'cos he found a bean in his dinner and now the summer's going to come back?"


"Oh, you mean they've chased down some poor beast and shot arrows up into their apple trees and now the shadows are going to go away?"


"Ah, then you're talking about the one where they light a bloody big bonfire to give the sun a hint and tell it to stop lurking under the horizon and do a proper day's work?"

Death paused, while the hogs hurtled over a range of hills.


"Well, they're all the real meanings that I know."


"It's all about the sun, master. White snow and red blood and the sun. Always has been."


Albert spat over the side of the sleigh. "Hah! 'Wouldn't It Be Nice If Everyone Was Nice,' eh?"


- Terry Pratchett, Hogfather (obviously)

Also, Jeff Fecke at Shakesville makes a number of related and worthwhile points.

And with that, a very happy Solstice, everyone!

December 20, 2007

Flying and Changing and Living Without Death

Several times over the past year or so I've been reminded of the wondrousness of little light's incredible blog, Taking Steps, and yet neglected to add it to the blogroll. I've fixed that now.

If you want to know why you should be reading it, look here, and here, and here, and here.

December 19, 2007

"Older than Memphis and Mankind"

The HPL Historical Society's holiday albums, collected together as An Unbearably Scary Solstice, look delightful, but the playlist seems to have one glaring omission, which I have endeavored to correct here. (To be fair, I'm sure it's not the first time such a thing has been attempted, but thus I contribute to the living folk tradition.)

Ahem -

On the 13th day of Mythos, Cthulhu gave to me:
13 polyps whistling
12 mi-go buzzing
11 daemons flauting
10 ghouls a-meeping
9 cultists chanting
8 nightgaunts tickling
7 byakhees flapping
6 deep ones baying
4 crawling worms
3 rat hordes
2 Great Old Ones
And a volume of necromancy.

Make the world a little better, and teach it to a child today.

December 15, 2007

Merry Measure

As I write this it is now (for the next couple hours, anyway) ten days until Christmas, and a week until Solstice. I've just about reconciled, though, that those two words mean pretty much the same thing to me.

I am not and never have been a Christian, except maybe in the vague fluffy Unitarian sense of "what Jesus said was so nice, who cares if he was God or not" (and, when I'm in the right mood, the even vaguer and fluffier Alan Moore sense of "the idea of a god is a god," of course); as you can well imagine, the neocon War On Christmas paranoia reads to me like dispatches from Bizarro-World, because from where I sit, Christmas qua Christmas is freakin' everywhere, a cultural default. I've always sort of been of two minds about it, I suppose, because while the assumption that I'm buying into the same theology has made me uncomfortable for most of my life, I harbor a deep and shameless and uncompromising love of Christmas itself. I adore the lights, the decorations, the gifts, the overeating, and, unlike almost everyone else I know, I like to see it all get started just about as soon as October is through. Holly and evergreen and strings of light obviously speak to something profoundly resonant in me, which I suspect is nothing more complicated than the same thing that inspired folks in the northern hemisphere to first want to light fires and quaff wassail in the long nights of the year aeons past: it's cold and it's dark and if we don't do something fun we may give up and die of despair.

So I've come to understand that what I'm really celebrating at Christmas is the Yuletide, "older than Bethlehem and Babylon" (as Granpa HPL put it in a much creepier context), and calling it Christmas is a matter of cultural convenience and shorthand. I used to feel weirder about that, when I was first working out my identity as a pagan and aspiring magician and making like the important thing for me was observing the Solstice, but keeping Christmas at a distance never quite took. (Nowadays, I'm still inclined to want some sort of quasi-religious ritual on the Solstice proper, but it's in addition to, not instead of, the presents and revelry of the 25th, and I'm more and more of a mind that it's all part of one big Yule festival anyway.) I am in my heart a syncretist, which I suppose I must irritate alike both the religiously orthodox and the critics of cultural appropriation, what with my pentacle and my Ganesh puja and my heretical DIY patchwork pantheism; but I'm convinced there's a lot of good in the squishy lumper magpie approach to culture, collecting the shiny bits of diverse things together and discarding the parts that don't fit. So it is that I've come to understand that I've been observing the Good Parts Version of Christmas, and all the sanctimonious moralizing in the world about the "reason for the season" isn't going to make my experience of it any less authentic, even if what I mean by "Christmas" is something very different than what They do.

And what's in a name, anyway? Christos means "annointed one"; whether Son of Man or Sun Unconquered, the Mass we enact at the close of December is a crowning - a new day, a new beginning, the Kingdom of the world remade in a better and brighter light. Let Heaven and Nature sing! You don't need a Messiah in order to take comfort and joy in the hope that this time around will be better than the last, or just to be glad that it's only going to get sunnier from here for a while. (Although, while we're at it, you also don't need to believe in miracles in order to honor a great teacher who spent his life trying to convince people that charity and mercy and forgiveness are better than the alternatives, should you want a reason to keep the Christ in Christmas that's less vague and fluffy than mine.)

All of which is to say: Merry Christmas, everyone, whether you keep it for yourselves by that name or not; I trust that a bit of Midwinter cheer and Peace on Earth are things we can all get behind, even all you hard-line Scrooges out there. (And a very happy whatever-else-it-is you may observe around now as well, needless to say.) And here's a Yule cup raised to you as well, for the sake of good company in a dark hour and a warm hearth on a cold night. Gaudete, all; winter is coming, but there's light and green lingering yet, and soon the night will begin to fall back. If that's not reason enough for the season no matter what you call it, I don't know what is.

Return of the Fandom Stranger

Q: O great and wise Oracle, I see that there's an interesting new organization that's advocating for the legitimacy of fan-produced derivative art and seems to have some intriguing ideas. Do you think maybe there could be a discussion of it on the Internets that doesn't almost instantly spiral off into some lackwit wondering why anyone would want to write someone else's characters, and how ethically bankrupt it would be to do so, ever?

A: Don't be silly. Of course not.

December 13, 2007

I Would've Come Sooner, But Death Was Too Strong

What can I say? I seem to have gone through my regularly-scheduled massively antisocial can't-be-bothered-with-human-contact wintery funk a whole season early this year. Let's all hope like hell that's done with.

I do in fact have some things I want to blog about now, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait just a little longer while I get my act together and quit waiting until the end of the night to do this stuff. You may think of this in the meantime as an Open Thread, if you like.

And while you're waiting, I offer you reason #6,314 why I wish I had a scanner, and you do too: beacuse then you'd be able to see the "Season's Greetings from the Daleks" holiday card some weirdo sent me this week. As it is, you'll just have to use your I-don't-doubt-vivid imaginations.

October 04, 2007

Your Dinosaur Tattoo is Ready, Sir

Spotted in this week's Musician listings in the local Craigslist:

Lead guitarist looking for an Alternative Rock band. [...] Must start out doing covers. if the band can actualy stay together long enough before drugs, alcohol, or someone's wife breaks the band up.. then perhaps some originals.

Also, he's looking for someone who can come by and touch up the paint on the NO GRLZ ALLOWD sign on the door of his clubhouse.

But casual and pervasive misogyny is a thing of the past! We don't have anything like that going on in these enlightened times. Nothing to see here. Please move along.

September 26, 2007

One Last Fire

Dear Mid-Atlantic Climate:

Plz to be getting on with Autumn now thxbai.

That is all.

September 18, 2007

The Breaking of the World

Another in a year of lost lights: Jim Rigney, who wrote under the name Robert Jordan, died on Sunday.

He was, by all accounts, a fine human being as well as an accomplished writer: kind, funny, generous, and even in his declining health larger-than-life. The late John M. Ford thought the world of him and his work, and drew the map at the front of the Wheel of Time books; now they are both gone into the Mystery, alas, and the world is poorer.

He was also one of those names who polarized fandom, with his work often seeming to generate praise and vitriol in equal measure, and the reflexive slagging of his books got to be unfortunately popular in a lot of circles. And certainly it's possible to go on at length about his flaws and excesses (I myself drifted away from the series a few volumes back, when the event-to-page-count ratio seemed to be steadily decreasing), but I think, as Elizabeth Bear once said of another popular author, that it doesn't matter what he did wrong in light of how many things he did right. If nothing else, the criticism of his work as generic and derivative was undeserved; he did an awful lot to drag epic fantasy out of the Tolkienian mold, engineering a world that was neither medieval nor strictly western European in its inspiration, rich and evocative and wonderfully strange. (And on top of all that, he also wrote Conan just about as well as anyone since Howard himself.)

He inspired me to write one pretty good song, which I think was the first I put a barre chord in on purpose, and made an enormous impression on the way I think about epic fantasy and its possibilities. Despite not having kept up with the books themselves, I've continued to admire their imagination and ambition (and I've never stopped wanting a heron mark sword, either). I'm very sad to learn that he didn't get to see his grand tale through to the end (though there are rumors that he disclosed the secrets of the final volume to his wife and a few close friends, so it's just possible the rest of us will, after all), but I hope he knew how deeply his creation touched the people who loved it, and how much joy it gave his readers to have his world take up space in our heads.

Some remembrances of note (among many others) here, here, here, and here.

August 28, 2007

I Aten't Dead (extended club mix)

Busy summer. Lots of Stuff happening. Energy for blogging at low ebb. Here, have one o' them Open Threads.

Will return with updates soon.

June 26, 2007

The Moth in God's Eye

Here's something happy for all you wyrdfolk fans: a short and very sweet interview with Timothy Renner of Stone Breath and Crow Tongue, wherein he talks about music and family and the uneasy balance of work and life. It's awfully nice to discover that some of the folks I admire, who make the creation seem so effortless, talk about struggling with their art, especially since "like blood from stone" is a pretty accurate description of what the music's been like for me lately.

On that note, I've begun the outlining process for the rewrite of The Vasty Deep, my 2003 NaNo project whose abortive first draft had some good bits in it but was, I think, fatally broken in ways I can't bring myself to fuss with. I'm hoping this time around the cool shit will be cooler, the pulp will be pulpier, and the dumb parts will be less egregiously dumb. Plus this version will be in first person present, which makes the wordings of the story more better with the reading. Not much to show for it yet, but it's a start, a start.

June 21, 2007

Spring the Wode New

The Summer Solstice is upon us, moving the hemisphere from semi-official to official summertime and drawing out the daylight to its breaking point. We've had a weird mix of weather here, alternately springlike and unbearably hot; Heaven only knows what the actual summer's going to look like.

For me, the last few weeks have also been marked by several waves of decidedly un-seasonal depression of the frustrated-with-my-useless-life variety, which may be the most fun of all of them. This is one reason for my latest echoing silence around here and in correspondence, not that anyone would have had any fun reading the sort of thing I was likely to write during that time. It's better now, though it continues to come and go. Nonetheless, I think this year, and this last unpleasant relapse in particular, have sent up a red flag for me that something needs to give. I suppose what I'd really like is some new brain chemistry so that being in my nice house with my sweet doggie and kitty and the wife who still seems to like me despite several compelling reasons not to didn't bum me the hell out, but, failing that, I think a couple of things need to happen.

One, I am obviously not equipped to handle the Condition with the tools I have. This probably means it's time for some kind of therapy or other, though exactly what I'm not sure. I had several years of mostly mediocre talk therapy that probably did some good if only by accident, but I think if I'm going to go back to that sort of thing I want it to be as helpful as possible. I'm not sure what's feasibly available to me right now, and there's a phone call or two I haven't yet been brave enough to make, but it's obvious that avoiding it is fast becoming a non-option. (I remain cautious and skeptical about pharmacological solutions, though they're not out of the question; my biggest fear is that the side effects of whatever I take are going to mess with my creative abilities, because, well, see next point. If this is something I can cope with by getting more exercise and better cognitive tools, I'd rather not complicate it with happy pills that run the risk of putting me further into creative limbo than I already am.)

Two, as one of the triggers (or at least the manifestation) of this seems to be anger and frustration about all the writing/music/what-have-you that I'm not doing or not finishing, I obviously need to refocus on some things I've left fallow too long. For one thing, I've pretty much made the decision that I'm holding off on NaNoWriMo until and unless I finish a novel, because it's frankly too tempting to save it all up for November and then let myself burn out on that project and never get back to it. I've done it five times now and proved to myself I can; I think I need new goalposts now. (Also, I'd like to write a bunch of new music, as I'm going through one of those phases where I'd like to play out more but loathe most of my old material, but there are some blocks I need to work through before I get there, one of which is probably to quit beating myself up because I'm not Colin Meloy/B'eirth/Michael Cashmore.)

Third - well, this is the tough one. It's hard for me to even write it, because it's more vulnerability than I'm usually comfortable with even here, and because it feels so... selfish. But it's become clear to me that much of my problem is tied up with good old loneliness and need for attention. This is probably one of the reasons I'm prone to spending a lot of time on the Internets, even if it's a pale and second-rate stand-in for the kind of socialization I wish I was having. I suppose it should be no real surprise to learn that my angst is, at its heart, the angst of a six-year-old: I have all these wonderful toys, but no one to play with. I doubt there's any real solution to this, since going out and trying to meet interesting people in the usual ways leaves me more frustrated and sad afterwards than I started, as I'm hoping for a miracle every time. I probably need to more or less suck it up and make peace with solitude, lest I descend into the kind of puppy-eyed desperation I surely gave off during my single days, and no one will want to hang out with me at all.

Jeebus, I sure didn't intend this post to be quite so self-indulgent. Um, happy Solstice! Next time I'll try and write about something other than all Me. And about damn time, too.

(Image curtsy I Can Has Cheezburger, natch.)

May 23, 2007

Pick a Window!

In the spirit of honoring the anniversary of the Second Defenestration of Prague, I've finally tossed a bunch of outdated links and got the new comments up and running. Will see about importing the old comments into the new format soon, but meanwhile, we'll actually be able to have conversations around here again. Huzzah.

Have also plunged into the forum-moderation business lately, as I recently helped to found the Charm City Science Fiction & Fantasy board over on Google Groups. It's a sort of offshoot of the writing workshop I joined a couple of months ago, but I don't see much point in restricting membership to either writers or locals, so those of you whose reading habits skew at all like mine (um, is there anyone in the readership here who isn't some variety of skiffy nerd?) should go o'er and join in.

I owe some of you emails. I am aware of this, and have not forgotten you. All will be well.

May 02, 2007

My Fond Excuses

I know I've been neglecting this place of late. I've actually been pondering whether I want to do the necessary cleanup around here (including updating a whole bunch of links in the blogroll, installing HaloScan, and seeing if any of my archived comments can be imported) rather than packing it all up and moving to new digs; on some reflection, this feels too much like wanting to burn down the house because I don't feel like doing the dishes. So I'll be on the maintenance soon, like a responsible blogland citizen, whatever that is.

Compounding my neglect is failing to point out around here that I've been doing most of my online ruminating over on the LJ for the last month or so, where I've been doing my level best to follow Tony's advice and update regularly even if I'm not writing a masterpiece; those of you who know me may have some insight into what a challenge this poses. I know it's not everyone's favorite blogging tool (I'm getting fonder of it because, not to put too fine a point on it, Shiny! Icons!), but at least the comments don't disappear in a strong wind. Feel free to come hang around there until I get this place in order.

March 19, 2007

Dialogue, Duologue, Diatribe

Memes again! This one's what might be described as "self-tagging." If any of my faithful readership want to carry on with it, here's how it works:
Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions may be a little more intimate!
You WILL update your journal/bloggy thing/whatever with the answers to the questions.
You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Me, I've volunteered to be interviewed by the sharp and eloquent Belledame, who it was my pleasure to actually hang out with in person during Spyder's birthday celebration a few weekends back. (Yes, she is also wicked cool in the flesh.) Anyway, here follow the results:

1) Who's your favorite Gaiman character?

Starting right in with the easy ones, I see.

There's a lot to choose from here, but I have to say the one I was always happiest to see come around in the pages of Sandman was Hob Gadling. Hob is, for my money, a really fine example of Gaiman magic - he's frequently arrogant, self-absorbed, opportunistic, and full of his own sense of entitlement, and at the same time he's genuinely charming and witty and even (eventually) compassionate, and very human in spite of all the weird things he sees over the centuries. (I love how, even after hundreds of years and all his changes of fortune, his self-image is still of a scruffy 14th-century freeman commoner.) He's almost always a grounding force in the Sandman storylines, and that's not an obvious trick to pull off with a character who's immortal. Plus he gets a lot of the best lines, especially at the Ren Faire in "Sunday Mourning" ("You should spray 'em with shit as they come through the gates").

And I have to say that his storyline was ballsy in a lot of ways. He gets wiser and sadder, yes; but he doesn't learn any kind of stupid lesson that the value of life is that it ends. He learns that, despite everything, given a chance, the more of life he gets the more he wants more of it. There's something very honest and true about that, and using fantasy to say honest and true things is pretty much what I read Neil Gaiman for.

2) If you could play any musical instrument that you can't already play, what would it be?

I'd love to play lute and/or harp, the two emblematic instruments of the musical heritage I identify most strongly with. Actually, what I'd really like is to have the patience and dexterity necessary to learn those techniques, because I'm really crap at arpeggios and fingerpicking, to the extent that I sometimes wonder if there isn't some kind of actual learning disability at work.

On the more reasonable end of my capabilities, I'd really like to learn the hurdy-gurdy.

3) Favorite epoch for clothing?

Again with the easy questions. Damn.

Well, forced to narrow it down to a reasonable timeframe, considering that I'm fond of pretty much everything from cowls and liripipes on one end of the timeline to cavalier coats on the other, I'd have to say the 16th century. (Raise your hand, everyone who's surprised. Yeah, that's what I thought.) Say what you will about ruffs and pumpkin pants - and as far as over-the-top frippery goes, I'll take those in a heartbeat over a lot of other sartorial excesses - there's just something about a well-fashioned doublet that's pure style and cool. Plus, rapiers. And codpieces.

4) Name an actor or public figure you think is the hawtness.

I'm hardly unique in this, I'm sure, even in the switch-hitting dork set, so it will shock exactly no one to learn that Aly Hannigan and Alan Cumming have occupied honored places on my Freebie List for some small time now. I mean, hello.

5) What makes you happy?

The seasons changing. Moonlight. Starlight. Having a house full of people I love. New books. Traveling. Coming home. City lights. Trees. My puppy and my kitten. Staying up late. Getting up early. Sleeping in. Good food and drink. Smart pop culture, and having conversations about it. Music. Finding other people who are in my tribe. Knowing someone loves something I've created. Going to the movies. Having quiet time to read. Being friends for ten years and counting with the person I'm married to. Making things up.

March 07, 2007

Articulate Announcements

No, I don't know where the hell the comments went. It may be that BackBlog truly did dissolve into air, into thin air.

I've been meaning to switch to HaloScan anyway; I managed to save an archive of the comments here up to the end of last year, so some of that may yet be restored. Should've updated recently! Oh, well.

In the meantime, I suppose you can always come around and harass me on the LJ.

March 02, 2007

Blameless and Amazon

Elizabeth Bear (whose books you should read, and on whose livejournal I've found myself of late engaging in the Wednesday night Criminal Minds fansquee, because I am the King of the Chubby Nerds) has written a self-described feminist screed on the Subterranean Press website that pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about this gender-and-society stuff:
Dear Patriarchy:

I don’t care what you think.

I’m not here to convert you. I’m not here to enlighten you. I’m not here to try to earn your respect. I don’t need it.

I am not scared of you.
It is, as the kids these days say, made out of awesome. RTWT, right now.

(And it occurs to me that this is more or less exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say, "I'm a feminist. Not the nuts kind.")

February 23, 2007

Golden Apple

No one who has known me for long will be surprised to know that Spyder is one of my very favoritest people ever. I half-seriously call her the sister I didn't know I had, mostly because there isn't a word for a person who is neither a relative nor a lover, but for whom "friend" is woefully insufficient.

Anyway, she turns 23* today. I'm heading up Noo Yawkwards in a few hours to celebrate in person; the rest of you should head over to her place and give her a big virtual hug and Many Happy Returns for the sake of her imminent Illumination.


*If you have to ask why this is significant, I'm afraid I'm not cleared to tell you. Fnord.

February 22, 2007

Shuffling Towards Golgotha

So it's been the better part of a month since I turned 33; I am now the same age as Christ was when he was tortured to death, and also Frodo when he inherited the One Ring. This is not really what you'd call a couple of good precedents.

But many thanks, anyway, to all of you who sent your good wishes last month. It was nice to see some folks around these parts who haven't joined in for a while. Consider this encouragement to keep it up.

Still beating my head aginst the winter blahs a bit, but this year has been pretty mild for all that, and it's starting to let up. I realize it's not terribly Goffic of me to be glad to see Spring, but there you have it. Perky, yanno.

And yes, New!Blogger waylaid me at login a couple of weeks ago and proceeded to eat my archive links. Stupid technology. We'll see how it plays out. Maybe it actually is as shiny as it says it is.

Going to go eat now.

January 22, 2007


Okay, okay, uncle.

Seriously, I'm fine, just going through my regularly scheduled post-holiday winter withdrawal. Normal blogging (by which, of course, I mean "bursts of loquaciousness punctuated by mysterious silences") will resume shortly.

I turn 33 in three days, causing me to wonder if maybe this will be the year I finally feel like an adult and not like a clever teenager getting away with being taken seriously. I have my doubts, though.

Updates to follow.