Month: October 2004


It’s that time of year again. Not the holidays. No, it’s that time of year that every amateur writer anticipates and dreads:

National Novel Writing Month.

I’m not going to write a new novel this year. I’m still working on the one I started January 03. But I am going to try to finish the third draft (way behind schedule) by December 1.

Good luck all!

P.S. Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, has a book out about doing NaNoWriMo called, No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

Flip test: passed!

“There was nobody there. Which meant, of course, that somebody was there.” — Suzanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. (Paraphrase)

That’s the random quote that made me buy this book.

This isn’t a book whose writing makes me jealous. No! Even better. It’s a book whose writing probably makes those writers of whom I am jealous, jealous. I’ve read about 25 pages so far, and I keep thinking, “Neil Gaiman must be courteously eating his heart out.” –He did one of the jacket blubs; I know he’s read it.


Vyser si voko!*

How to swear in 165 languages — the Swearosaurus.

*Literally, “Shit out your eye!” in Czech.


Two days before we were going to start seriously looking for a laptop, a deal we couldn’t pass up occurred at Best Buy. I really don’t know enough to be impressed (other than as a second-hand affair), but I can assure you that people who know enough to be impressed were a) impressed or b) jealous.

Lee says the vpr Matrix was designed by the same people that do Porche, or something. It’s keen. I’ve been chortling all night — did you know you can blog from the couch?!?

Story stuff.

I’m still working, just not making as much progress as I thought I would.

I figured out something this morning, if you can call digging up more problems figuring something out. Anyway, the beginning of my story is confusing. You start out with more characters than the brain can keep track of, and it’s not clear who the main character is. This, I knew.

Most fantasy stories are about a hero/heroine who saves the day. This isn’t, really. There’s a hero. He saves the day. But one of the themes of the story is that he makes mistakes, doesn’t understand what’s going on, has to double back, has to make guesses. Another theme is that the hero isn’t alone. Other people’s stories matter, their actions matter; they’re a community in a way that most fantasy stories aren’t. They aren’t subplots or tools; they aren’t things that happen so the hero can save the day.

If the story is about confusion and community, how else should the story start? It would be misleading to start the story with the hero and maybe a couple of other people off on their own, doing things, then catching up with the rest of the community in order to do more things. Call up any given fantasy epic. There you go.

So how do I pull it off? There is a hero, and he does save the day, after all. Also, it would be nice if people actually enjoyed reading the thing, you know.


Ray’s birthday was on Sunday. We took her to Ocean Adventures in Denver, which had many fish. And other stuff, like otters and tigers. Ray and I went over almost the whole thing twice; Lee petered out after the first time through.

Birthday presents. The computer Lee’s setting up for Ray isn’t ready yet, but there were extenuating circumstances, for one thing motherboard betrayal. I got her a Candyland game (pieces lost already) and a Powerpuff Girls comforter — which became HER blanket as soon as she’d opened it. Grandma Kenyon (and Dale) made a surprise visit (see below) and brought her a soft pony that pretends to drink from a bottle, and Brenna brought her a Care Bear (complete with video — sigh). The folks called to make sure she knew they were sending her stuff, too. Does she have too much stuff? Most of the time she goes out of her way to share, so probably not.

I liked the spread-out aspect of it; there wasn’t a day when everyone mugged her for pictures and dumped a lot of stuff on her. Overwhelming, eh? So she had time to play with everything and appreciat everything. By the time her actual birthday came around, she was telling everyone else to have a happy birthday, too. Plus she got to have two cakes, which is saying something when you’re three.


Brenna’s over for an early mini-birthday party. For some reason, they both run into Ray’s room, and then Brenna comes out.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of the monsters in your room. Shut the door.”

Ray shuts the door.

Brenna runs around the living room pretending to be a pony.

She knocks on the door, Ray opens it, and they both go in.

I think they’re singing the ABC song now.


Well, not that anyone else is really going to care, but I’m proud of something I’ve figured out recently. Took me ten years to do it.

There’s this story by the sci-fi writer Greg Egan called “The Caress” that I read in one of the Year’s Best Science Fiction collections edited by Gardner Dozois. I loved it — I was fascinated by it — but I didn’t get it. I even gave it to a playwriting teacher to read. He said, “What does this mean?” I told him I didn’t know. “What’s it about?” — He asked me that after he read it.


The story’s set in the future in an immense metropolitan area. A cop, someone who had hormone injections to become a cop since he was eleven, who had to go on drugs every time he went on shift just to do his job, finds a murdered woman and a barely living chimera — a half-human, half-cougar genetic experiment that looks like a sphinx — in a house. He saves the chimera three times over the course of the next few days. The cop and the chimera are kidnapped by the son of a famous philanthropist and made to recreate an obscure surrealist painting called “The Caress.” After they recreate the painting, the son of the philanthopist lets the cop go. The cop tries to figure out what’s going on, and doesn’t really. The end.

Selected details:

The police use something like a lie-detector machine hooked up to the phones to track incoming calls about publicized crimes. The machine assigns each call a validity score and averages out the calls to come up with the most valid scenarios — accusations, confessions, trivial information, etc.

The son of the philanthropist is actually the philanthropist; the philanthropist had himself cloned and has had all of his brain tissue injected into the kid. The kid believes himself to be the philanthropist as well.

The chimera rescued by the cop wasn’t the only one. A number of chimerae, engineered by different scientists at the behest of the philanthropist, were put in the same situation as that of the one the cop found. The others weren’t viable in the first place, died before the other cops found them, or didn’t have the same kind of relationship after being found and so were killed off by the philanthropist.

The philanthropist had the cop surgically altered to resemble the man in the painting.

Ten years. Closer to twelve. What the hell is the damn story about?

After Greg Egan wrote “The Caress,” he wrote a lot of other stuff. I finished Schild’s Ladder last week (I’d read others of his books years ago).

Greg Egan has some ideas that run through most of his work:

Every time something either does or does not happen, it both does and does not happen.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people’s brains were replaced with a crystal matrix? Or computer chips? So they could a) be immortal, and b) back up their selves in case of accident and really be immortal. On the other hand, once people aren’t connected to hormones and neurons and things, it’s possible for them to become whatever and whoever they want to be — even if it isn’t anything related to who they are now, and possibly no way to ensure that the old you would like the new you or be able to force the new you to change back.

The philanthropist believes in personal immortality and tried to give it to himself with biology, like a precursor to the crystal matrices. Side note: in another of his books, after the main character succeeds in uploading his personality to a computer, he kills himself — his mortal body is extraneous.

The police phone system, the multiple chimerae that were engineered — these are precursors to the tricks that the charaters in later books can do with alternate universes. In Schild’s Ladder, some of the characters use it to come up with a solution to the apocolypse. It only half-works, but there you go. It didn’t matter that in innumerable alternates they failed; becuase of the setup, because one of the alternates succeeded, they all did. There’s more explanation in the story I won’t go into, and hell if maybe I didn’t understand what was going on in the first place.

The cop’s use of drugs and hormone therapy, the genetic engineering of the chimera, and other details in the story point toward escaping the natural self in order to accomplish some purpose. The cop has chosen to become a cop; he can’t stop now, or he’ll die from withdrawal, and he’s not physically suited to anything else.

So that all made sense now — it’s like the story is the hint of what Greg Egan’s going to be working on for at least the next decade or so.

The recreation of a surrealist painting, the emotions and the physical reality of it, makes the universe different than it was without that recreation. What’s the point? Well, without the other stuff in the way to confuse me, it was easy: it’s art. What does art do? What does art ever do? Is art able to do what it does whether or not you understand it? I think the philanthropist was trying to make the world into the place that, in the later books, it would become. In another of his books, Quarantine, aliens have shut off the solar system from the rest of the universe, because the observations that humans were making were destroying entire cultures that depended on existing on all possible states (that second idea I gave above) at once, instead of the either/or that humans perceive. By recreatoing the painting using the techniques he did, the philanthropist was found out. The idea was found out. People said, “Can’t I live forever, too?” And other things.

Anyway, it all makes sense to me now. And having picked apart what went into the story finally, I can still say I like it.

–About Greg Egan, I guess I’d say he’s the heir of Arthur C. Clark more than anybody else.

Ten years. Maybe twelve. Watch me in another decade, I’ll have world peace going on. Yah.


During the last hour or so of actually moving everything back into the house, I ran out of juice. What do you have when you’re out of juice? Spit — meanness, stubbornness, pride, anger, that kind of thing.

A couple of days ago, I figured out I was still running on pure spit. Very grumpy for the last week. Well, that same day, Lee’s mom and brother Dale showed up on the doorstep while I was out.

I don’t know why it helped, but it did. I sat around and talked, and as I BS’d, I let go of being pissed off and grumpy. I feel much better — recovered from moving, anyway.


Ray’s birthday is coming up on Sunday. Good thing I got over the crappy mood first.

By the way, I think I’m going to love my job. Not as much as I love writing, but there you go. For the first time in my life, I work with smart people. Not an idiot in the bunch. People I disagree with, sure, but no dipshits.



We have moved. Everything that was going to make it made it.

Still tired.

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